The hippies paradise! After 2 weeks of beaching out in Goa and Gokarna we felt as ready as ever to hit the road again. The excitement of exploring somewhere new seemed greater than ever. We have come to appreciate the ‘on-the-move’ lifestyle of travelling and craved some new adventures. Hampi was sure to deliver with its extreme landscapes and laid back vibes.
Hampi is a bit ridiculous as landscapes go. Granite boulders are stacked on top of each other in impossible formations. Random, huuuuuge boulders will be sat precariously on a slant with nothing around them supporting them or explaining how they got there. Then you notice that, way up there on top of that hill which no human could possibly reach, is an ancient monument. How.. on earth…? Hampi is wonderfully unexplainable.
There are 2 sides to Hampi, split by a river which has managed to avoid being naturally bridged by boulders (much to the joy of the boat operators ferrying people across for 50 rupees each way). On one side you have the monuments and temples of an ancient, rich Indian civilisation. On the other you have the hippie’s community of travellers and adventurers.
Way way back in the 14th Century, Hampi was home to a Hindu empire! It was most likely the wealthiest place in India. Then a century and a half later, Muslim sultanates came along and destroyed everything. Hampi has remained unchanged since that point.
‘Defacing’ is sadly a practice you will see the results of across India. Where these groups have risen up against the Hindu religion and vandalised their religious temples. The faces or heads of many of the statues and carvings have been smashed off, leaving them faceless. Of course, in this case they went a step further.
The ruins cover a humongous range but most of the ones open to tourists are accessible from Hampi Bazaar. Hemakuta hill to the left of the main temple provides some spectacular views across the bizarre landscape and is a great spot for sunset. It’s a good place for just ambling around with no particular destination in mind. You’ll turn a corner and find a ruined temple or sit and watch someone attempt to climb one of the ginormous boulders.
The largest hill in Hampi is Matanga Hill which has an intact building sitting pretty on top. We climbed up this hill at 5am, an easy 15-20 minute climb up some ancient (but intact) steps. We joined a good number of people at the top waiting for sunrise. It was a moody, hazy morning with the banana plantations shrouded with fog and made for a spectacular view. You can see 360 degrees from the top (stood on the roof of the building). Definitely worth the early morning! Climbing down an alternative path on the East side of the hill takes you past the plantations and some of the more Eastern monuments, back to the bazaar.
We planned to cycle around the rest of the temples. However, we had met a lovely auto rickshaw driver at our hotel who had offered us good rates throughout our stay (his name was Basha), so he ended up driving us to the further away temples. In all honesty, though impressive and old, they get a bit ‘samey’. We’ve seen SO MANY Hindu temples and ruins that they don’t have the same impact anymore. That’s not to take away from the ones in Hampi, just because we have had enough of them doesn’t mean they aren’t pretty cool.
Over The River
We took the best part of the day to explore the ‘hippie’ side of Hampi. To be honest, it didn’t strike me as that hippy, it’s just more aimed at travellers! As I said to Brad, there are 4 main groups of travellers in India and all can be found here; Indian nationals, backpackers, hippies and adventure seekers. The usual bombardment of people trying to flog you all sorts occurs as soon as you get off the boat. In the end, we decided to take someone up on their offer of a moped so that we could explore a little further out than just the strip of cafés and clothes shops.
Following the road to the left takes you down towards Sanapur Lake. We decided to park up and take a little walk up the side of the lake (more like a reservoir). The views from the spot we stopped at were stunning. Hills and boulders way into the distance and a beautiful lake glistening below us. When travelling you’re on the go all the time, it’s important in these moments to just stop, breathe and take it all in.
When leaving the lake, cross directly over the main road and you’ll be taken down to a small river. This place was awesome, loads of travellers were just chilling out here. It’s safe to swim and you can (if you want) climb up the dodgy protruding rocks on the other side of the river to jump off them. The rocks are about 10-12 feet high and Brad did some impressive cannonballs from them. The local Indian man is selling beer, fags and whatever else you may want to the travellers hanging out here. We probably stayed for a couple of hours before our stomachs dragged us back to the cafés again.
There is a great, friendly vibe on this side of the river. We left feeling disappointed we hadn’t chose to stay here. The only reason we could think of was that we had wanted air con (which isn’t even needed anymore since the nights are much cooler now).
Back to the other side of Hampi, just as you step off the boat, is a sheltered stone building. Inside it were 6 glorious little puppies! Their Mummy was skinny and had stopped producing milk for them (a local Indian man told us, he was watching over them in his spare time). They were timid, but super friendly and we warmed to them. We brought milk for them and their mum the following day. I hope they grow up healthy and happy, maybe get adopted by a local as the lucky few do. We saw 3 dead dogs in just 2 days in Hampi (one was a puppy), the dog problem here is pretty bad and it’s kills me that we’re helpless to do anything to help them whilst we’re backpacking.
Daroji Bear Sanctuary
Forever seeking out nature, we decided to take an afternoon trip up to Daroji Bear Sanctuary. It opens 2-6pm and is only 100 rupee entry per person (equivalent of around £1). It’s nothing too impressive, there is one watch tower which gives a distant view into one part of the reserve. Unfortunately, we arrived a bit early for the bears who apparently tend to emerge at around 5:30pm. Though the bears are wild, they are baited with fruit hence why they can predict the time they will appear. There is supposedly a healthy population of bears and leopards in this area, so no complaints!
We weren’t too disappointed since we had a pretty awesome sighting of the sloth bear in Ranthambore. Plus it was incredibly peaceful just sitting looking out over this Jurassic Park like landscape.
On our last day in Hampi I decided to do a little research to answer some of our questions as to how this place exists. It turns out Hampi was formed by a collection of magma from eruptions that would have taken place near Bangalore. The granite rock then solidified and over time has been weathered by wind and rain to create these ridiculous boulders we see today. That means the rock in Hampi is between 2.5 – 4 BILLION years old. Forget ‘ancient’ monuments, they aren’t the miracle here – the rocks are! If they had been formed of anything other than granite, they would have eroded and vanished from existence a very long time ago. Pretty cool huh?
Hampi has been great to explore for a few days. It’s easy to see how people could spend a couple of weeks here. Especially if climbing is your thing! But for us, its on to the next adventure…