At just after 5am we were rudely awakened by the shouts of tuk-tuk drivers and the bus conductor telling us that we had arrived in Hampi and this was the last stop. In fact it felt like we had barely slept after a shaky night on the rough roads of Karnataka state. Bleary eyed we fought off the touts and headed to the main guesthouse area of Hampi Bazaar.
Having lingered further north at the beginning of our trip we had decided to try and see the delights of Hampi’s historic ruins in a single day, using the night bus to get in and out. Standing on the rooftop of the Vicky’s Guesthouse, who had kindly agreed to look after our bags for the day, this didn’t feel like such a smart idea. After breakfasting at the same guesthouse, where Aleks inadvertently shared her banana pancake with one of the local monkeys, we headed in to the streets. As the ruins of Hampi are spread over a vast area we would need transport. So to work off some of those delicious curries of the last couple of weeks we rented two bikes.
The postcard image of Hampi is the Sri Virapaksha temple, and as the closest site to the Bazaar we decided to start here. The best view of this however came not from going in to the temple itself but by exploring the hill to the south, littered with shrines and small temples. This gave us a beautiful view of the strange pyramid type gate to the temple as well as some peace and quiet from the already busy crowds at the temple. Despite it being early morning, it was already getting extremely hot, and it was initially with envy we looked at the people bathing in the river to the north of the temple. This quickly changed with the arrival of the temple elephant for her daily bath, which doubled as a toilet break, just upriver from the unfortunate swimmers.
We cycled onwards to the next group of temples, barely managing the steep hill with our single-gear bikes. Recovering at the top with fresh coconut and sugar cane juice we began a tour of the various temples and palace remnants in earnest. After a few initial sites we cycled a few kilometres to the royal area, where mostly ruins remain, but a few structures such as the stepped pool survive as impressive monuments. Here we discovered that the price gouging common at India’s tourist sites had actually doubled the cost of entry from our research and we were left with the choice of dinner or seeing the elephant stables up close. We chose the former, however thanks to a clever choice of bike route which drew the ire of one security guard we were able to appreciate the restricted sites from a moderate distance.
After an exhausting day’s cycling, fuelled only by an early breakfast and a lunch of over-priced and under-ripe fruit we found ourself at the final group of temples. As impressive as these were we were flagging from the days labours, and the sun was beginning to sink lower in the sky. We dragged our bikes over the rocky terrain that we had to traverse in order to complete the circuit and rode back into Hampi Bazaar. A delicious supper in the wonderfully named “Chill Out in Bomboo Restuarant” awaited us, followed by a short tuk-tuk ride to the Hospet bus stand, where another rocky sleeper bus would pick us up to take us to the south of Goa. While the experience may have been exhausting, visiting Hampi in a day is still a memorable occasion.