Hectic Hampi and Going Slow in Goa

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.

The fondness of this monkey for the bottle may help further explain his cheeky behaviour.

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.

Sri Virupaksha temple from the hill.
Bath time!

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.

We arrived in Chaudi in the morning when it was still dark. We hoped to take a rickshaw to the beach huts in which we were staying, but there was only one driver around and he absolutely refused to budge from the high price he quoted. We reasoned to walk. The thirty minute walk was memorable, not least because of all the scary, stray dogs we encountered on our way. Luckily they didn’t seem to like our head torches much and even though they barked profusely, they kept their distance.

When we finally arrived at the beach huts it was just getting light. The owner showed us to our hit on the edge of the resort. The Hut was made of bamboo on a wooden frame. Perhaps it wouldn’t offer best protection from the rain, but it didn’t seem like it would rain anytime soon. It was already very hot. We turned on the ceiling fan and kipped for few hours.

Home sweet home in Goa.

We woke up hungry. As we didn’t feel like going on a long search for somewhere to eat we settled for some fish thalis at the small restaurant in our resort. They were very yummy. Satisfied after a nice meal we headed to the closest beach. Palolem beach is long and wide and has fine grained pale sand. It is also the beach where Jason Bourne hid from his persecutors. We played in the water and sunbathed.

Palolem beach is kept safe by its friendly cow-guard.

Late in the afternoon we returned to our hut and I worked on my Open University module. There are worse places to be learning about networks and how to convert normal numbers to binary and hexadecimal notation. Caramelised bananas and chairs definitely aid the thinking processes.

Next day was slow, long and relaxed. I worked a bit more on my module, we ventured into the local village in search of an ATM and then went to the beach again. There we finally found a bar serving the elusive Goan liquor fenny. We opted for a small glass of cashew fenny and a small glass of coconut fenny. The coconut one resembled malibu, while the cashew one didn’t taste of much but was smooth to drink, like good quality vodka. In the evening we had amazing crab curry and a seafood sizzler. We also ordered some Goan Port Wine, which was curiously cheaper than all the other wines on the menu. The Goan Port Wine turned out to be grape juice fortified with grain spirit – it wasn’t wine, but nonetheless tasted fine.

On our last day in Goa we headed for the other nearby beach. Patnem Beach was much similar to the more famous Palolem, but was much less crowded, which we liked. We rented some sit-on kayaks and headed for a paddle in the ocean. We had a go at standing on top of the kayaks (it almost worked) and took some pretty sweet photos in the process. Later we had an amazing lunch at one of the beach restaurants. It was lovely to enjoy our food while looking out on the ocean making it hard to finally get up to return to the huts to pick up our backpacks and head for the train station.

Aleks chilling.
Dave flying.

We walked to Chaudi train station where we caught the train to Madgaon. From there we took the rather delayed train to Kannur, Kerala.


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