I had a dream, I am not sure how long ago, where I was sitting on the ground and was surrounded by greenery. In the distance was a mound with a tree and there was a structure under the tree that resembled someone meditating.
When I got to Hampi at 5am, a rickshaw driver approached me, as they do, with a planned itinerary including starting with sunrise over one of the many temples in the area. I begrudgingly accepted his three day proposal; there was something about him that made me feel taken care of which would turn out to be important in Hampi.
Manju, a slight and quick 26 year old, grabbed my backpack and off we went climbing up to an exclusive spot near a temple to watch the sun rise. It was a wonderful way to be welcomed into the city of boulders and temples. I explained that I had little interest in doing overly packed tourist activities and would like to do local, off the beaten path activities and food options. He immediately took me to a very touristy and expensive restaurant for breakfast. I looked over the menu. 200 Rupees for breakfast! (I was used to paying more like 60 for a nice breakfast) Red flags went up. “MJ, we just had a conversation about how I am on a budget and also not into eating at tourist places. I want to eat food where locals are eating and I am not paying 200 Rupees for breakfast.” We got up and left. Just around the corner was a very busy cafe full of Indian people enjoying breakfast. I ordered really well executed idly and these little tiny ball shaped green onion flavored rice dough balls cooked in a special cast iron pan. It resembled griddled corn bread, perfect for sopping up potato masala and coconut chutney. I also ordered chai, a fantastic meal for…60 rupees. After this exchange, there was no more messing around with tourist spots.
Belly full, time to get future train and bus tickets. It is nearly impossible to book tickets online which is annoying. Back on the road to my Airbnb stay across the river from the main side of Hampi. Approaching the river crossing there was an orphaned baby temple elephant coming down for his daily bath time to the excitement of locals and bystanders. Several kids were getting sprayed by the elephant’s trunk, probably a holy experience. I boarded the ferry with MJ and it was a short walk to the accommodation once we got to the other side.
Up some stairs to a second floor platform with low tables and cushions, a good crowd of young tourists and locals, reggae music and a joint or two being passed around…Evergreen Cafe…works on a couple of levels. Looking out to the horizon it was boulders in the distance and bright green rice fields, what a beautiful haven. I asked about my room and a few minutes later got settled in really quick so that MJ and I could head out.
We went to the Patabirama temple where there were a few care takers but no other people. It was absolutely beautiful with a lot of carvings and nooks and crannies to explore. My favorite temple we went to. We also went to the 1000 Ramas temple and the Queen’s Bath.
Had to make it back to the ferry by 5:30 last boat. I said goodbye to MJ for the day and headed back to my place. I did some meditation and then went came out of my room to see about socializing a bit. I met a mixture of locals and travelers, most everyone drinking and smoking. It wasn’t long before some talented musicians began a drum/instrumental/vocal circle of any volunteers. I happened to be right in the middle of it. I grabbed a tambourine and began playing and trying to sing along. It was really fun, great group of people and ambiance. I went to bed early so I could get up and practice yoga and meditation before heading out for another day of templing with MJ.
After visiting some more beautiful temples including Hanuman’s birthplace on a hill and an excursion to a river teaming with boulders and good swim spots, MJ took me to his friend’s place for the sunset. We pulled up to some buildings made exclusively of dried palm frond walls. A cement platform with low tables and cushions and a thatched roof. It had a 180 degree view of a sea of bright green rice fields. In the distance of the fields was a mound with a tree and underneath was a wooden log sticking up, the top of which looked like a figure meditating, just like my dream! “Now, it’s time to chill” MJ said in his matter of fact tour guide tone.
I ordered some aloo palak (potato with spinach sauce), plain rice and chapati. It was some of the best food I have had since travels began. I relished the experience with the sun going down and the awesome view. The owner of the place came over with a beautifully rolled joint and offered me which I thought would enhance the experience in a positive way. What a day. The place was on the same side of the river as my accommodation so no need to worry about making the last ferry. Again I headed for bed early.
Hampi is a place you have to see and be in to really appreciate. The energy there reminds me of how I felt when I was in Sedona. It is heaven for a small restaurant business. It seems like anyone can just open a place with a veneer of regulations but really no regulations. I had some of the best Indian food I have had in India so far. Maybe it is a sign that I had a dream that made a real life appearance in Hampi.