Seeing Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi go Dhatang Dhatang in Hampi had fascinated me and it was on my travel list for a very long time. The only trouble I faced in the past two years was that I couldn’t inspire anybody else to come with me. On a sudden whim I booked myself a seat in the bus to Hospet and pushed off to spend my Christmas eve in Hampi. The trip was really emancipating and it was the best experience till date.
I stay in Bangalore so Hampi is 335kms by road. I had a budget of INR 5000 but at the conclusion of the journey I found I had spent INR 2800 inclusive of food and transportation.
Christmas eve and Christmas is the worst possible time to visit Hampi. It was bleeding tourists from its eyes nose and ears. Anyway, it took some 8 hours to reach Hospet by the KSRTC Sarige bus. From Hospet there are frequent buses to Hampi and takes some 20 mins to 40 mins( depending on the bus you select, private buses are faster).
My first view of Hampi was pretty mesmerising… Huge rocky mountains, boulders, temples and of course the tourists… I didn’t have a booking for accommodation, so the first thing I did was search for a guest house. If you go towards the Virupaksha temple from the Hampi Bus stop, you will find n number of places to stay( not necessarily empty). Depending on what kind of accommodation you want the price of the rooms range from INR 500 to INR 1800. Since I was alone with only a small back pack I went for a cheap room in Shankar Guest house (INR 500 attached bathroom, double bed room). It was quite clean and unless you are aversive to bright coloured rooms, it works out fine. The check-in check- out time for all the hotels and guest houses are 9.30 am. But the people are quite helping, I reached at 7am and the room was yet to be vacated so they opened another room for me to get ready for the day. You can bargain for the tariff also, usually they give a discount of 100-200 INR ( depending on how persistent you are).
The first place I visited was the Virupaksha Temple. It is an active temple and the chants and mantra fill the air through out the day. From Virupaksha temple one can directly reach the Hemkunta Hills and then walk towards the Sasivekalu Ganesha (smaller monolithic idol) and the Kadalekalu Ganesha (larger ganesha idol). From the Hampi bus stand, the Krishna temple and the Lakshmi-Narasimha idol are walking distance.
If one continues down the road, the Royal Chambers, Elephant stables and the Lotus temple are some kilometres away. It was almost 10.30 so I turned back to my guest house, charged my phone and started the next lap. This time I rented a cycle to go to the Royal area… A biiiiiig mistake!!! Unless you are a regular mountain biker, don’t even think of cycling around…. The 7 kms are uphill and downhill, so at no point is there the relief of flying down the road. I was riding a cycle after some 8 years and that too my experience on hilly sand splattered roads are nil. So I ended up pushing my cycle for most of the way and it made me a bit less appreciative of the beauty of the Hampi ruins… I reached the Royal area at around 12 noon, the temperature was 35 ºC and I was panting like a dying fish…
There is a dirt road which goes left from the main road so it’s always a good idea to ask for directions. The royal area begins with the Mint. The other places of interest are the Hazara Rama temple, Mahanabami Dibba and Queen’s Bath. In the exact opposite direction there is the Zeneca which houses the Elephant Stables( must visit), Lotus temple and Watch tower. The Royal enclosure I felt suffered the most.. It looks more like flat land with some doors or rocks strewn across. But the Elephant stables, the Lotus temple have been restored by the ASI and they look beautiful in the bright sunlight.
Since I wanted to return the next day, I wanted to cover most of the areas. The greatest desire was to see the stone chariot in the Vittala Temple. A man in the Royal enclosure informed me that Vittala temple was some 10 kms straight ahead and open till 6pm. My map told me otherwise but one doesn’t argue with the ASI employee specially when the the concerned one can’t read a map. So I was off with my cycle to Vittala temple. The road was smooth downhill ride and I passed through forest and villages and barren land. After some hams, quads and gluts burning experience I finally reached the entrance of Vittala temple. There is an entry fees of INR 10 for indian citizens. The temple looked amazing against the setting sun (I had the good fortune of seeing Anil Kumble there). The place was the living proof of population explosion in India.. With a lot of difficulty I managed to get a photo clicked in front of the stone chariot. The temple compound has around 2-3 mantapams with beautiful and intricate designs. One of the mantapams has pillars which produce music. Even though it is not the sunset point, the setting sun looked beautiful from there and the colours of the evening made the view even more special.
Once back in Hampi, took a nice bath and went out for dinner. Had read a lot about Mango Tree restaurant, so tried it out. Since it’s a temple town you get only vegetarian food. The Mango Tree had a varied menu right from indian to continental and it’s quite pocket friendly. This concluded day 1 in Hampi…
The Matunga Hill is the sun rise point in Hampi… It is walking distance from Hampi bazar. At the entrance there is the huge monolithic bull, Nandi. Surprisingly I noticed the sign board for Vittala Temple there… Anyway since my reputation with sunrises are so well known, I ran up the steps (some kindly soul informed me there are 380 steps, thus damping my spirit a bit)… But lo! 20 steps later I found huge boulders in my way and I realised that the steps are mostly impressions on round smooth boulders. I don’t have spiked hiking shoes so with every forward and upward step I was sliding away and out. A guide on his way down told me scale the heights bare foot… I would also suggest not looking down. It felt like one slip and the bean would get knocked off its moorings ( as I say I am too young to die, psst not even married yet :P)
2/3rd way up I saw the sky all lighted up and understood that the chariot of Sun God is already doing it’s rounds… Which means I maintained my record with sunrises. (https://srijanibanerjee.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/sunrise/)
Now coming back to Matunga hill, after a lot of crawling and panting I finally scaled the peak and was informed that the sunrise could not be seen because it was cloudy… Like the setting sun, the rising sun also splashed Hampi and the surrounding areas with beautiful techno colours. Here I heard some people talking about the other side of Tungabhadra river which has cheaper accommodation and non-vegetarian food. In case you are pot smoking, beer drinking and marijuana loving Hippie, the other side of the river is ideal for you. In case you are a solo female traveller or the stay in your senses kind of person, I feel the hampi bazar area is ideal for you.
From the top of Matunga hill I could see the Vittala Temple and a guide told me that the temple is some 2kms walking distance from the base of Matunga hill… This reminded me of the difference between distance and displacement. I would strongly recommend hiking or walking to Vittala Temple from Matunga hill after the sunrise. It’s empty and quiet and saves you the trouble of going all the way around.
I said good bye to Hampi after a heavy breakfast at the Rocky or Rock on Cafe. It’s located in Hampi Bazar and is extremely cosy.
I almost felt sorry to leave the place… It was exhilarating, eye-opening and soul-awakening. I had never felt safer and not for a moment did I feel I was alone…
A photographer’s and solo traveller’s paradise, Hampi has so much to offer…You have to visit it to believe it…
Some things my trip taught me…
Royal enclosure should be best visited in the mornings as it gets extremely hot in the afternoon. The virupaksha temple and Hemkunta hill can be visited in the afternoon or evening ( hence you can enjoy the sunset there). Vittala Temple must be a walking or a hiking trip from Matunga hill. Hampi is scalding hot throughout the year so carry light cotton clothes. Carry a powerbank or ensure that the charging point in your room works. Most of the restaurants are equipped with free Wi-Fi.