Saturday, April 09, 2011

India part 30a: Hampi and Viru

Stone bridge

In Hampi, with a tear in my eye, I said goodbye to my battered and torn Ganesh manbag, which, in a strange twist of fate, I had actually originally bought eight years ago in Hampi. They don't make 'em like this any more - they genuinely don't, I checked. Goodnight sweet prince.

My Ganesh bag bites the dust

After a couple of nights in Hampi, we decided to move across the river to Virupapuragadda, something we hadn't been able to do on our November visit, because the river had been too high to cross. Leaving our guest house, a shack huddle called Garden Paradise, some people on the street shouted an offer of a room. We said no; they asked if we were going to "Other Side of River". Yes. A woman tutted and said, with foreboding: "Danger place."

Well, you can get beer and meat in Viru, and frequent wafts of smoke while you're eating indicate that not everyone is taking those "NO DRUGS" signs seriously - but it is also taking a good chunk of business away from the cluttered Hampi bazaar area, so for the people who work on that side, yes, it must seem like Danger Place. And to be fair, some of the restaurants - they all have floor cushions and shin-high tables - do have the atmosphere of opium dens.

Or perhaps she was referring to the nearby reservoir at Sholapur. Hippy types had told us it was a great place to swim, but it took us ages to find it - we nearly ended up walking down this road...

The long road

When we eventually did locate it, however, any thoughts of a dip were abruptly aborted: Sarah in particular seemed put off by the sign about crocodiles, for some reason. "I was told they're friendly crocodiles," an Irish woman who wanted directions informed us the next day.

On another occasion, we took an epic walk to the town of Anegundi, doing 5km before breakfast, which turned out to be couscous with pickle and peanut powder. I didn't think they'd even heard of couscous in India, but there it was. An hour later, we were squelching through mud towards a surreal river-edge temple complex and lying silently on the stone floor like bits of rubble.

Row of sculptures by the river

The oddest thing about Anegundi, though, was how incredibly well-signposted it was, with brightly-painted directions to everything everywhere (though fortunately not Everything Everywhere). It made getting lost a real challenge. On the way home, some guys gave us a lift in the back of their truck. "That's one way to do it," said a man passing on a bicycle.

The rest of our two weeks passed in a slow motion whirlwind of writing, yoga, evening movies, long long walks in the baking heat, rocky sunsets, World Cup cricket games and numerous glasses of milk tea. I also spent quite a lot of time being distracted by a paving stone that stood next to the patio staring at me menacingly while I was trying to write.

Angry slab

Looking the other way, though, there were the paddy fields and I spent long periods staring at them. Mmmmmm, green.

Our back garden (Mowgli guest house)

Speaking of green, on the way out of Hampi to Hospet, where we stayed overnight, we stopped for lunch. Here's what you get if you order a cucumber salad in India.

'Cucumber salad'

And in case you're wowed by the chef's garnishing efforts, I should point out that Sarah added the pepper herself.

No comments: