Hampi leaves you feeling like you’ve discovered a designer dress amongst the moth-eaten jumpers in a charity shop. It is just beautiful; with stunning temples built amongst stacks of boulders which are described as “the Gods’ marbles”. It has a river running through the middle and has two separate towns, and you take a cruise in a very overfilled ferry to make it to the other side. If you and your Instagram followers like a good sunset, Hampi is the place for you.
First on our agenda was a good old snooze after our treacherous bus journey there. As soon as we stepped out of the hostel we stumbled into a restaurant, where we met a few American travellers and swapped stories (mainly rants about Trump and the state of the world. Luckily, they weren’t republicans). There are a few really nice places to eat, where you feel like a princess stretching out on cushions on the floor picking at 4 curries in an amazing Tali – essentially a platter of fabulous Indian foods – which is served on a banana leaf. The prices are slashed from the expensive meals we got used to in Goa, and the food is a million miles better. In particular, The Mango Tree was amazing as well as somewhere with a name along the lines of “1989”.
Next up we went to the stunning Virupaksha Temple. Outside you’re bombarded with more tuk tuk drivers or children trying to sell you maps, and boy, are they persistent. Obviously, some tourists must say no ten times and then change their minds, as this was clearly expected of us. We stayed strong and made it inside. We had to take off our shoes but we have been strongly advised to keep them with us; apparently locals can spot a “western shoe” a mile off and take them just to mess with you, so we always keep ours in our bag. My pink sandals are my pride and joy so I’d kick off if they were stolen. Inside, we were swarmed with school children who all said “namaste” or “hello sister!” and were just utterly adorable, making us feel really welcome. There is an elephant inside which can bless you by tapping you on the head, but we avoided this as it has obviously been mistreated to learn to do this. When we stood there, barely anyone surrounded the elephant but I had 50 people around me, taking photos and shaking my hands. Apparently a very white, blonde woman with curly hair is a rare spot here. Needless to say I’m basking in my 15 minutes of fame, and may start charging ten rupees for a photo.
We bumped into Reuban and Faith who we had met on the bus, and we went off for the day to explore as a group. The whole town is made up of gigantic boulders and rocks, which have ruins hidden all around them. The heat here is like a smack in the face, especially when you’re trekking up the rocks! Thinking we had spotted a party, we invited ourselves in – only to find that it was a political rally. We were shooed out of a little temple near there as Reuban accidentally put his foot onto a step leading up to it when he still had his sandals on. Leaving with our tails between our legs, a little boy shouted “SLIPPER! SLIPPER!” after us, referring to Sandal Gate. We also found a big cage which we were getting pretty close to until we managed to understand a mute man gesturing to the snake signs around it, and scarpered away. The sunset on these boulders made us realise exactly why we spent 6 months slaving away to come here. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, with tall temples draped in a pink and purple candy floss sky.
On our second day we crossed the river and hired dodgy old motorbikes, on which I decided I had found my destiny as a cut-throat biker gal. In reality I was my ditsy self wobbling around and narrowly missing pot-holes, but on the inside I was sure no one would mess with me. We biked along to our hostel which was pretty far out of town and set up camp in our room – which was basically a mud hut with a straw roof, and a shared bathroom outside in a shed. Pretty simple but cute (until Ollie told me there were snakes around and I was up all night, paranoid about the burrowing sounds coming from the roof). We spent the whole day biking around the huge lake, which had me gasping for a swim until we saw the crocodile warnings. As you go out of Hampi you can ride from villiage to village, seeing women scrubbing clothes and an old man carrying heaps of straw on the back of his tiny moped. It was so peaceful, until a burst of anger started up from me when a group of young men finally drove off after pulling in a tuk tuk and being really creepy and starey. I totally take my hat off to any woman who travels alone; you must deal incredibly well with intimidation!
We went to a “monkey temple” which was right at the top of a hill, 575 very steep steps up. People took photos of us the whole way up, so I’ll look out online for pictures of “sweating unfit white couple try to walk up some stairs”, as we weren’t looking out finest. Everywhere we went we were stopped for pictures, with cars pulling over and the people inside piling out for a group picture with the token whites! Luckily, Faith and Reuban were staying at the same hostel, so we went for delicious pancakes. Unfortunately these pancakes took half an hour before turning up burnt, as well as missing the sugar part of the lemon and sugar. Not so delicious. We left and had an amazing dinner. A fabulous couple from Hyderabad were also staying and were the most artistic and intelligent people on the face of the earth. Aadi showed us his amazing cartoons and his wife Gitanjai is doing a PhD in sociology so we learnt everything there is to know about Indian culture and the cast systems. I offered very little to the conversation apart from a lot of nodding and some sweets I’d bought along.
The next day was blisteringly hot so we basically did nothing. A festival was going on in the next town and we heard that women were being groped so we avoided this at all costs, and basically went and lay on the boulders for a few hours and had a browse around the stalls. When we headed back we had an amazing night at our hostel. About 12 people were staying and we all got on really well, despite our different upbringings and origins. We got some amazing tips on places to go and heard fabulous Scottish fairy tales from Niall, who has the best accent around. The hostel owner loved us all and we had a big camp fire, singing Oasis badly and playing games – most of which Ollie suggested and was then terrible at. Rambo’s Homestay served us well, other than the toilet which no one could flush.
It rained on our last day and we all chilled out, inventing stupid games and laughing our heads off all day. Vani and Sanymi from Delhi shared a tuk tuk with us, and we all accidentally missed the last ferry to the mainland. 8 of us had to cram into a little coconut boat and row our way to shore, which was hilarious. We hopped on the local bus and were laughed at by the locals as I was carrying my sandals. They didn’t understand when I tried to explain that I am the worst bag packer in the world. The local people were generally so welcoming and lovely, and I feel so lucky for the experience we had in Hampi. It’s a hidden gem and I couldn’t recommend it any more.
Ollie’s vlogs of Hampi: