Friday, June 27, 2008
'allo, friend! What your name? What country??
We are chillaxin' here in Hampi. And don't say "Hampi" American-style, so that it rhymes with "camp-y," as no one will have the slightest idea what you are talking about. It's pronounced more like "Humpi," only Indians don't really pronounce the "h" at the beginning of words. So, let's try that again:
We are chillaxin' here in 'Umpi, having arrived on the morning of the 24th. After our first experience with Indian "sleeper class" on the overnight train, we hopped a ricky from Hospet and found ourselves here. This could not be a more different country than Mysore/Bangalore. We had been itching for some wide-open spaces, and we have found them here. Rolling hills, stacked three or four deep toward the horizon in all directions, everywhere boulders and rock formations of all shapes and sizes. One remarkable Garden of the Gods.
Hampi was originally home to an enormous kingdom in the 15th century, and the ruins that still stand here are the main attraction. Well over 2000 temples,
we're told, plus palaces, bazaars and the like. It is all very integrated, the natural rock formations and the man-made engravings, so that you come to expect intricate Shiva-bulls cut into the rock faces as much as oddly balanced boulders over your head.
It is much as any protected, revered location is in the States - that is, dependent on the tourist trade for commerce. Staggeringly beautiful country, deeply sacred sites, and all of it thickly lacquered with tourist opportunism. This is currently the low season, so about 75% of businesses are not even open and the 25% that are have nothing better to do than solicit our rupees.
We have taken a ricky tour of the major sites and watched the sun set over the boulders. Certainly the latter was more our speed. After a few days staying in the heart of the Hampi bazaar, we moved across the river. Picture a scraggly Florida resort down, closed and empty in the off-season. Now imagine that one of those little resorts stayed open. That's where we are staying, in a small thatch-roof bungalow overlooking rice paddies and banana plantations as far as the rocky hills will allow. It is a joy, nearly deserted and so quiet. We have watched women work the rice paddies all afternoon, singing/chanting, laughing, and talking.
Some other highlights:
- K being nearly attacked by a hungry monkey (it was bound to happen sooner or later). One helpful Indian fellow offered a suggestion: "Big monkey coming! Run!!"
- A four-foot snake just outside our bungalow door.
- Being caught in a Candid Camera-style India TV show in Hampi bazaar.
- Deciding to "ford the river" when the usual "ferry" (a leaky motorboat not fit even for fishing) was not running. The water's only knee-deep. Unless you fall. A couple of times.
While we had planned to spend two weeks here, this is turning out to be the kind of place that one passes through. And so we will do so, and move on for the coast, eventually heading south.