Hampi Part Two: Boulders, bikes and big-ass bugs

After two full days exploring the temples and ruins (read about it in Hampi Part 1!), we decided to give ourselves a break and take some time to find out what else Hampi had to offer.

First on the list – bouldering! Climbing is most definitely Jamie’s forte, so over to him for this bit…

We’re now staying at the One Love Guesthouse which is separated from the hectic parts of town by paddy fields (filled with croaking frogs at night) and situated a few minutes’ walk from climbing paradise. This was a very pleasant surprise before the trip when a casual Google search revealed that one of our first stops of the trip happened to be a world-famous bouldering haven.

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As we have now learnt, Hampi wasn’t on the climbing map until relatively recently when the 2003 film Pilgrimage was released, drawing attention to the incredible climbing potential on offer whilst capturing the spiritual nature of place. As a result it’s most definitely popular now and the three guesthouses in this corner are packed with climbing fanatics, many of whom are staying for weeks or months to dedicate their time to the sport. Luckily, on the first evening here we bumped into Mike, a German guy who it turns out is the nicest guy ever, who gave us some tips, offered to lend me one of his three (!) pairs of climbing shoes for the next few days and gave me someone to explore with.

It’s too hot to climb in the day here so the first sunrise gave the opportunity to file out with the other groups of crashpad-laden turtles making their way through the morning haze to one of the many spots in the vicinity. Getting up early definitely came as a shock on the first morning, but it was totally worth it for the views of sunrise over the temples and the days since have had me jumping out of bed. Well, kind of…

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Each morning we have been greeted by two young local boys selling chai tea before school who, almost before you even realise you have said yes, race each other at top speed to be the one to pour for you. They turned out to be great salesmen with a work around for every possible response, including coming to the guesthouse later if you had no money, and will surely be a force to be reckoned with in the future!

The climbing itself is like nothing you can experience at home. Whilst the rounded boulders may look beautiful from a distance, the super hard granite hand holds are more like the teeth of a saw and take every opportunity to rip your skin to shreds, especially when your hands are more used to the shape of a beer bottle… The few climbs we were able to finish felt great but it wasn’t long before hands were too sore to continue and we had to call it for the morning. Strange to finish before the rest of you is tired but it clearly takes some time and dedication to climb Hampi.

After Jamie’s first sunrise climb, we set out on foot to explore beyond the main street in Virapapur.

Looking at the map, it looked like it was around 5km to the next village, Sanapur, and the Sanapur lake (which Jeelan had enthusiastically told us looked just like the ocean).

A lovely stroll through the local villages and the astonishingly green rice paddies, always with the formidable boulders as a backdrop.

Lots of happy, smiley greetings as we walked and plenty of kids who were excited to see us hilarious looking goras. At one point we managed to acquire a couple of young siblings who started running after us chanting a sing-song cry in unison that sounded something like ‘Helolololo den rupiss, helolololo den rupiss’. After a few minutes of waving at them awkwardly and trying to figure out what on earth they were talking about, we realised they were actually saying ‘Hello, ten rupees?’. All credit to them, they kept it up for an impressive length of time before running home in fits of laughter. Apparently we are quite amusing to Indian children!

We were the only people who seemed to be walking to Sanapur and we were passed by lots of others on motorbikes. After 7km with tired legs in the very hot midday sun, we were just starting to think they had the right idea when we made it to the start of the lake. The ‘lake’ is actually a reservoir formed by a huge dam – but Jeelan was right, it is very beautiful.

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Unfortunately everyone had advised us against swimming in the lake so we didn’t fancy risking it. There’s also a mysterious crocodile around here – some people say it exists, others say not to be silly and of course there’s no crocodile. Personally I think it might just be a tactic to keep tourists out of the water.

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Another very hot 7km back and we were feeling slightly light headed and ready for food! Some delicious spinach and paneer paratha at the Laughing Buddha and Jamie had to get his legs ready for another sunset climb.

More of a spectator sport this time as a group of us headed up to the ‘Cosmic Cave’, a cave up on a cliff around 15 minutes’ walk into the boulder field, to find that it was pretty hectic and much more suited to the seasoned climbing pros. Awesome to watch nonetheless.

We’d planned to meet up on top of the rocks for sunset, which was not quite as easy at it sounds given just how many bloody boulders there are. Luckily, we found each other just in time for the incredible views all the way across to the Virupaxsha Temple.

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So atmospheric up on top of the highest boulders, with the chai kids back in full swing and massive dragonflies swooping around us.

Sadly as soon as the sun goes down, the massive mozzies come out. No escaping them here so we’re constantly covered in DEET and getting tangled in our mosquito net.

Back to the next door hostel (even more of a climbing mecca than One Love) and a very early night after a tasty veg biriyani and veg masala. Because Hampi is so religious, there’s no alcohol allowed in the area and meat is supposed to be off the menu. In reality, we’ve been offered a whispered beer in a few places and there’s definitely chicken to be found, but we decided to keep it authentic and enjoy a dry and (almost entirely) vegetarian week here.

Jamie was back up at the crack of dawn for another sunrise climb, after which we headed off to explore the area on the north side of the river. Deciding that our legs deserved a break after three full days of walking, we rented a scooter and headed out on the road towards Anegundi, a nearby village which actually predates Hampi.

We stopped off at the main Hanuman temple on the way. An extremely long 575 steps to climb in the midday heat, albeit with the encouragement of lots of friendly faces shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram!’ to us on the way up.

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We made the fatal mistake of stopping in the shade half way up and, before we had time to catch our breath, we heard the distant rumble of hundreds of excited school children.

‘Hello!’, ‘Hi!’, ‘Namaste!’, ‘What’s your name?’, ‘What’s your country?’ ‘Just one selfie, please sir?!’ And repeat…

One selfie led to thousands, but it’s just so hard to say no when people are so lovely and excited! One lady gave me a big hug and a small piece of coconut to say thank you.

Five minutes later, we finally escaped and made our way to the temple. Beautiful views (the haze ruins the pictures but it’s beautiful in real life!) and we were given some kind of sugar to eat inside. We’re assuming this is a blessing and not a curse.

And even a temple puppy!

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Another lovely drive through the rice paddies and a stop at the Durga Temple where we bumped into another school group … you guessed it, more selfies!

This temple was amazing and just so full of colour. Bright painted walls, lots of beautiful saris and colourful pieces of cloth tied to the tree as offerings. No pictures allowed but it was worth the extra ten minutes of selfies to get through.

On to the road once more and down through the charming Anegundi village. No pictures but we did manage a (very bumpy – Indian roads!) GoPro video.

Back over to Sanapur to make our way further down the lake and track down somewhere shady to chill out, before heading back to the hostel for some chill time before sunset on the rocks.

The cravings have been building slowly, so we decided to treat ourselves and splurge on western food at the Laughing Buddha last night. Chips have never tasted so good!

We’re taking it easy today and having a life admin/chill day after an early checkout and one last sunrise climb. Probably a good thing given the state of Jamie’s fingers but he came back with a big smile on his face this time so all must be well.

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On the night bus to Bangalore tonight which we’re praying will be as smooth as the last one. No idea what to expect from Bangalore – we’ve heard everything from ‘don’t go, it’s a dump’, to ‘it’s chaotic but has great food’ to ‘it’s the best place to experience crazy Indian nightlife.’

Either way, we wanted to give a modern Indian city a go and, after a very wholesome week, we’re ready for a nice cold beer and some tandoori chicken!


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