I arrived in Hampi dazed after a very hot, all day train with some Brits and a big German. The German and I shared a rickshaw through the bumpy roads past the typical local temples, the low fields and occasional farmer; we were happy to be in the back shaded by the blazing afternoon sun. On the horizon, as we closed in on the small village, we could see the hills rising into mountains. Soon the small mountains, a palette of red mixed with purples and dark pinks, filled our vision. We approached a dusty and crowded one lane street the large pyramid shaped temple loomed over the locals selling everything from bananas on the palm to ankle bracelets. Our rickshaw driver stopped just above the steep decent down to the Tungabhadra river dotted with large stones and crumbling temples. Crossing the river was like going from Midtown Manhattan to Brooklyn – everything slowed down ten paces and the quiet surroundings took over. I stayed on this side of the river for a few days and found it to have an easy pace. There weren’t any cars on the slow side of the river only a small dirt road, occasionally painted with a variety of symbols, and about a dozen or so small guesthouses and places to eat. The view on the other side of the street was the red stone mountains in the distance and a lush rice paddy and palm trees sprouting high above. I found a hut that was tucked away off the road and overlooked the soft green field. From my deck I watched the hills turn a brilliant orange as the sun rose into the sky and later watched in the afternoon as the sun lit up the green carpet leaving only deep shadows from the palms.
On my second day the big German and I planned a rickshaw tour to see the highlight of Hampi; hundreds of stone temples built around the area. The temples are intricately carved, have large stone pillars and huge monolithic gods. We started our tour very early and even caught a glimpse of Lakshmi, the main temple elephant, being bathed in the river. We climbed around the rocks and temples for hours, eventually the heat of the day was overwhelming; after multiple liters of water we succumbed to the sun god and enjoyed a leisurely lunch overlooking the river.
I hiked through the rocky hills, visiting temples high above the villages and enjoyed yoga, reading and cool drinks in the shade. On my last evening I hiked with a new friend to the Monkey Temple just outside the village. The temple really does have monkeys lurking at every corner, some were a little scarier than others baring their teeth and screeching as we passed. As far as the eye could see the mountains, made of large and small boulders, spread throughout creating a magnetic vision. With the sounds of a didgeridoo we watched as the sun dipped below the rocks and the sky twirled in color.
The marvelous temples, the colors, the contrast of the red mountains and the green rice fields, the river, the musical pillars, the elephant blessings and the sunsets of Hampi will forever hold a special place in my heart.