Hampi consists mainly of granite boulders which Michael pretty much couldn’t get over. Granite is proper expensive in Europe and here they just use roughly cut slabs as make shift fences like it was cheap plywood or some shit. Granite boulders are also good for climbing up. I’ve only ever been climbing indoors before, we have a really good climbing gym in Brighton called Boulder Brighton and I used to go there once or twice a week to climb nice, colour coded problems in a lovely, safe environment with massive crash mats everywhere. I’m not very good at it. I also have a problem with actually getting down once I’m up there, probably because I’m inherently scared of heights. If there isn’t a really easy route just next to the one I’ve climbed to get back down on I end up clinging to the wall whimpering, “Guys? Where do I put my feet? Guys? Guys?!” Outdoor climbing is completely different with no obvious bright yellow or green holds, so me and Tarrant booked ourselves in a for a two hour lesson with Tom And Jerry.
That night I was woken up by the unmistakable sound of liquefied stomach contents leaving the human body via the nearest available orifice. Tarrant was really, really sick, bless her, and she didn’t stop vomiting for about 5 hours. There was literally nothing I could do but thrust various pharmaceuticals I had lying around in her direction and keep making her re-hydration drinks that were meant to taste like blackcurrant but more resembled a fruit salad someone had chucked a load of salt on. Eventually day broke and she told me to go climbing without her because there was no point in both of us staying in so off I trotted to learn how to monkey up boulders, preferably without having a minor breakdown and wanting my mum.
I think it was Tom who took me up the boulders. We started with an easy one then worked our way up and this is where even more indoor/outdoor differences became apparent. Dear sweet lord, my poor fucking hands! It took about twenty minutes to do most of the damage, the majority of which occurred from my claw-like grip at the top of the boulders as I tried to work out how to get down without crying. There’s also the matter of the crash mats. At the climbing gym you have a foot of mat aaaaall around the centre so if you fall you are going to hit the mat. Outdoors you have to trust that your buddy is shuffling the mat where it needs to be and that he’s concentrating on spotting you so he can guide you onto the mat if you did fall. I was shitting bricks.
Tom was really cool though, if he was losing patience with me he didn’t show it and he really encouraged me to go for holds I was struggling with. We took breaks, chatted with other climbers, just took it pretty easy but everything seems to move pretty slowly on the boulders, mainly because everyone is so fucking stoned. It’s just a really nice place to hang out. But I pretty much begged to cut my two hour lesson short. We were up there less than an hour before I decided on flesh damage limitation, I’d already lost half of my palms, I wanted to try and retain the rest. I had a hole in my finger. An actual hole, people!
Tarrant was feeling well enough to sit up in a hammock by the time I got home so I attempted to force feed her some plain rice because that’s the done thing in India. She still wasn’t up for doing much else though, she was still too weak which was sad but I guess you can’t say you’ve been to India unless you’ve projectiled fluid from one end or the other.
Another one of those Hampi must-sees is the monkey temple, preferably for sunset. With Tarrant still not trusting any of her internal organs not to betray her and still being unable to eat properly, me and Michael decided to cycle up there which is another lovely ride, but I don’t think you can get a bad one in Hampi. A metric fuck tonne of people climb up the million steps to watch the sunset from the temple which they say is the birthplace of Lord Hanuman, the monkey god. Ok fine, there aren’t a million steps, I counted about 550 on the way back down, give or take one account of losing count to take time out to coo over monkey families. I also may have gotten a bit obsessed with the frangipani tree up there. It’s a really pretty tree. I mean, as trees go. I don’t want to take it for dinner or anything. The general view from up there is astounding too, you just can’t get enough of it and not a single photo I took did it any manner of justice. You probably need one of them DSLRs that you’d need to sell a lung to afford in order to come anywhere near capturing it properly.
It’s also a good idea to start making your way back down before the sun completely sets so you don’t end up cycling through a tiny Indian town in the dark. Y’know, on account of the fact your bike probably won’t have lights on it and the whole country seems to have a general aversion to using headlights until it becomes pitch black.
Hampi though, guys. We didn’t spend enough time here but to be fair I think I could have spent weeks here and not gotten bored. The Goan Corner is an awesome place to stay too, Sharmilla is brilliant and the staff make a point of remembering everyones names. There are four dogs who live here too including a grumpy pug who seems to resent the world, a scruffy looking dog who will roll onto its back as soon as you show it some attention and will look personally offended if you ever stop giving it belly rubs, a chilled out Labrador who spends its mornings wandering around with a piece of toast in its gob whilst the scruffy one tries to relieve it of its complex carbohydrate, and then there’s my personal favourite. The great dane, st bernard cross. With the shape of the former and the colouring of the latter, he’s fucking huge. His head is bigger than mine. He’ll come over for strokes and fusses and as soon as you stop, one massive paw will land on your lap to remind you that your petting duties aren’t quite done yet. It’s probably a good job I didn’t start my travels here or I don’t think I’d have done much else.
So on our last day we figured we might as well get an early start and go and watch the sunrise from the boulders. It’s peaceful up there at that time apart from one mangy but friendly dog who was way too keen to try and share his scabs with us. It’s worth sacrificing a few hours of drooling into your pillows and twitching a bit, even if you can’t see the actual sunrise which I’m pretty sure your retinas will thank you for. After breakfast we checked out and crossed the river to put some more shit into our eyeholes, namely the main temple, Virupaksha Temple, which actually functions as a temple and not just something broken for tourists to photograph from every angle. Ignore the blokes who’ll offer to take you in the back way to avoid the ₹300 entrance fee because there ain’t no such thing. It’s only ₹5 to get in, plus ₹50 if you want to take photos and if this tight arsed backpacker can stretch to that I’m sure you can too. They have a resident elephant who’ll do the standard belt-you-round-the-head thing for a coin but we didn’t bother with this. I’ve read some shit stuff about how temple elephants are treated and how crap their lives are. We watched her being lead through the complex and down to the river for her bath time, shuffled around for a bit taking lots of photos and being careful not to step on any thresholds, had a butchers at a few more ruins just outside the temple then buggered off to try and find a jewellry shop we’d seen on our first day here that had a couple of hippies sat outside learning how to make stuff with knots.
I’m not gonna lie to you, I’d never even heard of macrame before but it had looked like fun so we’d figured it’d be a cool way to kill time before we had to catch our bus to Mumbai. We opted to make little bracelets because we only had a few hours, chose our stones then Krishna showed how to start off the bit that goes around the stone. Dude, it’s so therapeutic! Once you get the hang of it you kind of fall into a meditative state, just looping knots and looping knots. I got so into it I ended up looping too many knots and Krishna had to undo some of it, but it was awesome. He started us off on the actual bracelet bit and again, I got so into it that when it came to an end I was sad. I wished humans had bigger wrists so I could have kept on going. I could quite happily sit there for hours doing macrame, not that I do it well, it was wonky as fuck but still, I really enjoyed it. Tarrant though? Not so much. She took longer than me to finish hers and she hates it when anyone beats her at anything. I asked her if she wanted anything from the shop and she glared at me like she was thinking of all the different ways she wanted to choke me with macrame knots. Not even the offering of spicy crisps could appease her so off I fucked to the other side of the river to fetch our bags before she tried to strangle me to death with waxed string.
And in other news, that awkward moment when you have to get out of the tuk tuk to push it up the hill. There’s a definite incline as you leave Hampi and the auto we were in just kept slowing… and slowing… and slowing… we asked if we should get out and push. The driver sheepishly asked if yes, could we please do that? Which resulted in us pushing then having to jog up a fucking hill to catch back up with it. Jog? ME? I’ve only just gotten the hang of bloody cycling, jogging was a step too far, Hampi. A step too far. By the time we got to Hospet though the autorickshaw had pretty much totally given up and he had to ask another bloke in a tuk tuk to push us the last kilometre. See? Even Hampi didn’t want us to leave. If I’m ever back in south India I’ll definitely come back to Hampi. There’s nowhere else like it that I’ve ever been. And also, Hampi? I appear to have left a small portion of my skin on your boulders. If you find it can you keep it safe for me? Because, well, I was kinda using it.
Hampi, Karnataka, India
Stayed at: The Goan Corner