Monday, February 16, 2009

THE HAMPI EXPEDITION

The trip to Hampi was in no way civilized enough to be called a ‘trip.’ Hence, I decided to call it an expedition. Hampi is 464 km from Hyderabad and is accessible by train from Hyderabad. The closest station is Hospet. The Kacheguda-Yeshwantpur Express goes via Hospet. My roommates and me decided to visit Hampi for an extended weekend ie. leave Hyd by Friday night and return on Tuesday morning. We took the 8.20 pm cab from office (which is in Kondapur) to Kacheguda (for all those who are not familiar with Hyd, the distance between my office and the station is 18-20 km and cuts along the heart of the city, so you can all imagine the traffic!) With great anxiety we reached the station at 9.10 pm when the scheduled departure time was 9.15 pm. To add to all this was the fact that our tickets were on a wait list. My roommate, Sruthi has a brilliant track record of convincing the TTR even when she has a waitlist of 200 still gets berth to sleep. But, when we reach the station we get the news that the train has been delayed by 2 hours due to the derailing of the Corommandel Express. Great! What a way to begin the trip. Sruthi kept saying all the way that it was Friday the thirteenth which is supposed to be extremely inauspicious. And trust me it lived up to Sruthi’s expectations. We went to a nearby restaurant and had dinner then Sruthi went and begged the TTR for berths. Guess what the TT gave us 4 berths till Guntakal which was supposed to come at 5 am in the morning. He said that when the train reaches Guntakal we need to go to the compartment S10 or S11 as these were the only compartments heading towards Hospet. The other part of the train was going to Bangalore. We slept well at night and get up at 5.15 am when the train was already at Guntakal and announcement was being made for its departure. We took our baggage ASAP and started running, trust me, it was at the other end of the train and the four of us were running with baggage and all, like mad people. We reached S10 when the train started to move. Then we waited near the loo as there were no seats available. Luckily a guy came and offered us his seat and we readily complied. We also took a small cat nap. Hospet, according to the fellow passengers was supposed to come by 10 am, so Sruthi and Saranya set off to brush their teeth by 9 in the morning. When Sandhya the least observant of all of us declared that a station had come and it was Hospet. We were like ha! It is only 9… and it happened to be the actual station. Again we took our bags, toothbrush paste and all and ran out. From Hospet, Hampi is around 13 Km. By rick it took us about 100 bucks for 4 people. When we reached Hampi we figured that auto can go only upto a certain point. We had already made bookings at the Shanti Guest House (reference was the internet and our colleagues at work.) Shanti Guest House is situated at the other bank of the Tungabhadra river. We needed to walk a kilometre to reach the river bank and then take a boat to reach the other end of the river. FYI, I am being too generous in calling it a river. It is just a stream with water 30 feet deep, yet swimming is prohibited. After crossing the river, our guest house happened to be the laaaaast in the row of a lot of guest houses. Luckily, the guest house did not disappoint. We got clean and pretty cottages. The highlight being, a hammock outside every hut, swinging in the hammock was bliss. There is close to 16 hours of power cut every day at Hampi. We immediately took a shower and set off as we needed to get back on this side of the river by 6 pm in the evening, as boats do not ‘legally’ ply after this time. But if we give like 50 bucks per person (for Indians) then they might consider ferrying us.

We took a rickshaw for local sightseeing as most of the bikes were already rented and we were very late. The rickshaw guy took 500 rupees for 5 hours and showed us all the places around Hampi.

a. Our first stop was the Ganesha temple set on top of a rock. The architecture is beautiful, but temples are in ruins, so do not expect pujaris and aarti etc.

b. Second stop was a twin rock where 2 sisters were cursed for speaking ill of Hampi and its hilly terrains.

c. We then went to the underground Siva temple. Which was exciting, as we had to waddle across in knee deep water.

d. Our next stop was the Lotus Mahal, the Clock Tower and the Elephant’s Stables.

e. On the way we also saw a Madhwa temple in ruins. It is extremely heart breaking to see such beautiful architecture being destructed this way.

f. We then visited the Hazar Rama temple. This was one of the most beautiful and well maintained temples at Hampi with very intricate architecture.

g. Our next halt was at the Mahanaavami Bidda (which looked like a huge top surface, at a great altitude, where we can get a view of the entire Hampi. )

h. After this we headed towards the Queens bath which was massive, but nothing really great about the place, except the pic of my 3 roomates pretending to be queens themselves J

i. Our final stop was at the Vittala temple which is around 7-8 Km from the main city and is extremely beautiful. It has the famous musical pillars. This temple has magnificent architecture and is well maintained. Here we could also see the ruins of the then bazaars.

It was 5 pm by then, so we decided to return back to the city as we had to cross the river before 6 pm. We crossed the river and decided to have an early dinner and call it a day as we had not had anything decent to eat. The food at this side sucked big time. Never ever eat this side is a statutory warning that I would like to issue. After an equally sad dinner we decided to call it a day and headed to the guest house. Hampi is the breeding ground for killer mosquitoes. I have gotten close to 30 mosquito bites all over me. DO NOT forget to carry a mosquito repellent.

The next day we got up 9 am and set off to do a little shopping on across the river. We sampled the food at the highly recommended Mango Tree Restaurant which is again civilizations away but the ambience and the food is worth the struggle. Trust me this is the only decent restaurant at Hampi. After a leisurely brunch, we did a little shopping, visited the Virupaksha temple which is situated on the banks of the river. Then we made a trip to Mango Tree for some tea and to pack dinner. We took the boat by 6 pm and came back to the guest house. I went to take a shower and came out, while searching for my comb, I saw my wallet and took out our return tickets and then came the mother of all shocks!! The ticket was booked by my office concierge for the same evening instead of Monday evening (the next day.) I came out of the cottage shouting like a mad woman. My roommates and I decided to pack and leave as we had no other go. Our bus to Hyd was at 8 pm from Hospet and it was already 6.30 pm. We rushed, packed all our stuff in 15 mins, checked out of the guest house and figured that the boat service had legally stopped by 6 pm. We pleaded with the owner and convinced her to ferry us for 50 bucks per person which at normal times was 10 rupees. We ran across the town to catch an auto. We convinced an auto guy to take us to Hospet for 100 bucks, it was pitch dark. But we made it to the travel agency with 15 minutes to spare. We had out dinner (packed at Mango Tree) while waiting for the bus. The bus journey was uneventful but not very comfortable. The roads are really bad and there were a lot of mosquitoes yet again, in spite of the air conditioning. Finally, we reached Hyd by 6 am in the morning, got home and ready for work. Thus, our 3 days long extended weekend trip got shortened to a 2 days weekend trip as luck would have it… As my roommates said, Hampi couldn’ t take us for another day and we too, wished too hard to get away too soon. As we say, all is well that ends well.

A few tips, opinions and suggestions that I would like to give are:

1. Take accommodation at the main side of the river and do not take the trouble of crossing the river as the timings are very limiting and even the food is pathetic on the other side.

2. I found Hampi extremely Foreign tourism centric (it is in the lines of Agra.) The locals only cater to their needs and have no interest in entertaining Indian tourists. Even the food is prepared to suit their tastes. We felt like strangers in our own house. Also, too much tourism development has made this place lose its mystic charm, which would have been unique.

3. Please carry enough Sunscreen lotion, carry hats (as the prices that they quote for low quality hats are humungously high.)

4. Carry an extremely comfortable pair of footwear as there is only one means to explore this place and that is through foot.

5. Wear cotton clothes as it tends to get very hot in the day even in the month of February.

6. Do not experiment too much with food as it boomerangs big time. Personal advice would be to stick to Mango tree itself.

7. Book your tickets well in advance. Also, you get rooms in most of the guest houses then and there so, there is no need to book rooms in advance.

ToTo sum it up… I loved this trip for the awesome pics that I took, the company and the adventures.. I can hate it for many reasons too…BUT will never be able to forget it!! After all it is the memories that matter at the end of the day :-)

6 comments:

sandhya shankaran said...

Thanks Aku for the 'most least observant' comment for me!

believe me if I would not have seen it, we would have been no wher!

I was the only one who observed. J

AkShAyA said...

Yea Sandhya.. this once for a change you were observant... thats what I wanted to convey.. You see. Don't allow me to open my mouth about how you travel to Chennai eachtime, and how a nice aunty wakes you up from slumber when your station comes and you run out of the train. But this time, I got to give it to you... :-)

Shru said...

Hate it for many reasons???????U havn mentioned abt that here........neways.....good to see u guys havin so much fun.......Rock On!!!!!Happy Travellin.......:)

Sruthi Menon said...

i have never had so much adventure in one trip :)

Recipes said...

Oh my! I loved this trip... Tried to defend saying that Friday, the 13th was not gonna be bad after all, but I give up :| Sruthi wins!!! I hate to even think of it

akshata said...

Hey it was fun reading abt ur trip... oops sry ur expedition as u call it. U knw i shall take all of ur advice whn i go visiting Hampi. Its sad 2 c tht such a beautiful place is ruined so much... But i liked all da pics u hav taken.

Hope u guys take many more such trips n keep entertaining me with ur blog :)
Have fun