How I spent my time in Hampi, India

Half way into my 1 month tour of India, my partner had to leave Bombay and return to working life back in England. The 2 weeks we spent traveling around Rajasthan had been an adventure, one that greatly deepened our bond.  Suddenly being alone felt intimidating, especially in Bombay.  I’ve travelled alone many times previously and knew I had to quickly snap out of my mood. I decided to leave Bombay that night by taking a night bus to Hampi.

Most Indian cities don’t seem to offer bus stations and Mumbai was no exception. Buses pick up passengers where they deem convenient for themselves, which I often found to be some random roadside café on the city’s outskirts. For example, in Agra I booked a night bus to Varanasi, the pick-up point turned out to be 1 hour out of the city by rickshaw. What I learned here is to always research this before booking any bus ticket in India.

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They played ‘Airlift’ on TV, my favourite Bollywood movie featuring Akshay Kumar. Google it!

I then discovered ‘Make my trip’, an Indian travel booking website that also offers a great android app. It allows you to choose where you want to be picked up, based on the locations offered by the bus operator. You can then use Google maps to determine which pick-up stop is convenient for you. I went with ‘VRL Travels’ a great bus company that took me to Hospet for just 1,500rp (£18, $22). They pick passengers up outside a small travel agency called ‘Vinayaka Travels’ at 5pm. It’s a 20 minute walk from ‘Western Express Highway’ metro station, close to the airport. Ask a friendly stranger to point out when your bus arrives, unless you speak Hindi in which case you will be fine. It takes a few hours to crawl out of the Bombay traffic and you can expect to arrive in Hospet at about 8am. Upon arrival I paid the closest rickshaw driver to take me straight to my guesthouse in Hampi, he charged me 300rp (£3.60, $4.50) for the 20 minute journey.

I was in absolute Awe! I had never seen such beautiful and unique landscapes in my life. I actually thought I was in Bedrock City for a moment.

Below are some of the many reasons I believe you need to visit Hampi.

^ 1.

^ Without any doubt, my most favourite activity was cycling. I rented this fairly decent mountain bike for a whole day at just 100rp (£1.20, $1.50). Having the freedom to explore the further out ruins at my own pace was amazing. Nothing quite like getting stuck behind a farmer and his herd of goats. If you do just one thing in Hampi, hire a bicycle.

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^ Nearly looks like an optical illusion. This public bath comes complete with an aqueduct. With so much well preserved architecture you may want to buy a guidebook to fully understand the importance of everything you see.

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^ Go boulder climbing! It’s so much fun finding your own unique view point.

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^ Explore the rice paddy fields. Cross the river over to “Hippy Island” by taking the small local ferry for 10rp (£0.12, $0.15). A great place to just sit and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

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^ Go hiking on Hippy Island. I didn’t see another person for hours, I had all this to myself. Keep an eye out for reptiles and don’t miss the last boat back across the river, Hampi has no bridges so you could get stranded.

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^Centuries-old art in virtually every ruin. I found this stone carving in particular quite fascinating, not sure why..

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^ Climb Matanga Hill to experience a truly spectacular sunset. Be extremely careful when climbing up, it’s really quite dangerous. I witnessed one women of questionable fitness having a panic attack half way up, you’ve been warned. If you’re like me you will go anyway!

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^ Photographic evidence that the climb up Maranga Hill will be worth your effort. Speaks for itself. Don’t wait too long to climb back down.

 

Scammer alert:

I fell for such a silly little scam in Hampi. In hindsight it’s really embarrassing, but I’ll tell you anyway. Whilst riding my bicycle not far from the guesthouse a man signaled to me that a wasp was near my ear, so naturally I flinched just in case. He then approached me and said he meant I have soap in my ear. I knew that was just silly and went to pedal off when he assaulted me with a metal stick. He was cleaning my ear with it whilst assuring me his a doctor and that it’s safe. I wish I had punched this fool in the face at this point.

He then proceeded to show me just how dirty my ear was. I have never seen so much filth in my life, it was disgusting!  I let him continue thinking I did perhaps need this after all. Then he went too far, the dirt started getting ridiculous and he even found small metallic balls. Apparently, these balls build up inside your ears over many years. He then went on to tell me how they cost loads of money to remove in Europe, but not to worry as he can do me a good deal.

Payment time arrives and like clockwork a mate of his appeared from nowhere. For pretending to clean my ears (the wax he “found” was never in my ear, it’s a sad magic trick of sorts where he applies it out of sight) he demanded 2,000rp (£24, $30). After much arguing, during which he got very aggressive I ended up giving him 500rp (£6, $7.50). He even had the nerve to yell at me as I cycled off!

Beware of these odd “ear cleaners”, usually seen with dorky leatherette belt pouches. I guess you haven’t been to India if you don’t get scammed. It’s a rite of passage.

 

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