December 18, 2004
We departed Goa yesterday after a terrific visit with Julie and the other visiting yogies, where nice friendships were forged. Our last day was spent on the beach with a delicious lunch, pres de la mer. Seafood is plentiful here: calamari, shimp, and kingfish are so fresh and so cheap and all within the travel budget.
Plans were reworked and Hampi is now our next destination. Kerla would follow thereafter.
To travel to Hampi, there is an overnight, direct bus from Mapusa - a large commercial city situated near Anjuna. Before the long ride, we wanted to visit the local (and very chaotic) street market to fetch some oranges and other snacks for the trip.
The bazaar is an example of rubust economic commerce in India, where endless rows of merchants hawking spices, automobile parts, to the latest, fashionable Sari, sell directly to the hordes of shoppers.
We decided to pay the extra surcharge for sleeping "berths", which were situated in the back of the bus, just over the rear wheels. We thought it would be a cozy spot, where we could relax in comfort, sleep, read, and chat for the 14 hour trek. There was even a curtain on each berth for privacy!
Unfortunately, as soon as we left Mapusa, our bus accomodations became a bad nightmare. India's country roads are poorly maintained and due to our position over the rear axle, our bodies became projectiles. Everytime we hit a deep pothole, our bodies levated. They were numerous and endless. Laughter errupted.
There was no sleep on our journey, except for when the driver pulled over to nap for an extended period. When sunlight began to creep its way up the horizon, I made my way forward to the "seating" area of the bus. Exhausted, I located a vacant seat and sat down. I was immediately surprised to see what was outside my window.
There was an endless row of brightly colored and heavily ornamented trucks parked bumper-to-bumper on the side of the road I was so fasinated to see all the shimmering glitter, flowers, and religious dieties hanging inside the front driver's cab. I wanted the bus to stop, so I could take a closer look and savor this special moment.
Inside these trucks were the statuesque faces of India's working class: men with brown, weathered skin who were sleeping contently. Some were awake and they smiled as we passed by.
As the sun rose higher in the horizon, we finally arrived at our destination, after 14 long sleepless hours.
Established in 1300, Hampi is a bustling tourist town and home to the most number of Hindu temples in all of India.
We managed to hire an excellent guide named Ragu, along with his tuk-tuk, showed us all the must-see sites, including many of the stone formations, which made you consistently think - how did they do that?
A visit to the temple of the Monkee god was a perfect place to watch the spectacular sunset. We made offers to the chanting monks, who placed red stripes upon our foreheads - sending us on our way with their safe blessings. How humbling this felt.
Our hotel is only $7.00 per night and is located on a small pennisula across from the Central Hampi Bazaar. The rudimentary accomodation is a straw hut located along the river and although it lacks a running shower - hot water buckets are provided. Primative as it may sound, it was a great experience!
Each hut has a porch and a nice hammock to fall asleep and dream about the experiences of the day. The room is clean and functional. To access the hotel, we had to take a 3 minute ride across the river in a reed barge shaped like a saucer, paddled by a very experienced captain. They were excellent in packing everyone inside the small disk - including bikes and suitcases.
Tomorrow we will visit the remainder of Hampi and then head back to Goa via bus. (No berths this time!) We will meet our friend Rachel in Mapusa and catch the overnight train to Kerala in Southern India. Our journey will in 2nd Class AirCon and I look forward to this journey, as India's train system is one of the largest in the world.
After several days in Kerala, I plan to head to Mumbai to explore the overpopulated urban sprawl, and then make my way back to Bangkok for my return home next week.
Tonight, our guide is taking us to a local place for dinner. Food in India is so delicious and eating with the locals allows for a truely authentic experience.
What I appreciate about travel is to put yourself outside of your comfort zone. Never would I have imagined these experiences, until I was here and they will be eternally etched in my heart and soul.