4/6/2008 to 4/10/2008 | India , Karnataka

Return to Hampi

On my first trip to India, having seen my father’s pictures of Hampi, I immediately wanted to go there myself.  The 16th century ruined capital of the Vijayanagar empire, set in a fabulous landscape strewn with boulders appeared to be a perfect place to live out my “Indiana Jones” fantasy.  As soon as I got a bit of free time, I left my parents and sister in Madras and made the arduous journey to Hampi.  It was really the first time I had traveled on my own, and the rather poor transport connections as well as the general difficulties of India made this trip a “baptism by fire” in independent traveling.  I enjoyed the place as much as I had anticipated and thoroughly enjoyed wandering the countryside and poking my head in bat infested ruined temples.

I often try to avoid going back to places that I really liked for fear of ruining the memories of that first visit and being disappointed with the inevitable changes of passing time.  I knew that Hampi had deservedly become one of the star attractions of southern India, and while I had seen just two other tourists during the three days of my first visit in 1994, I knew the place was overrun with tourists now.  The increased popularity is not all bad, and a string of cheap guesthouses now line the river bank, where it’s easy to pass the days idly talking with other travelers and tourists.  So armed with a better camera and the same sense of, albeit muted adventure, I headed back to Hampi for my second attempt at a revisit on this trip.  The first, you may recall, was thwarted by a presidential visit.  Despite the increase in popularity of Hampi, it still requires a long journey to get there as there is really nothing of much interest in the vicinity to break the journey.  My journey from Hassan was delayed a further couple hours when an overturned petrol taker caught fire near the road, located too close to a bridge to detour around the flames.  The added delay turned an already long 10 hour bus ride into a 12 hour one.

Back in Hampi I found I enjoyed it nearly as much as my first trip, it was still possible to wander away from the main sights through the maze of rocks, fields, and smaller ruins regaining that feel of exploration and solitude I experienced on my first visit.  I spent four days wondering the ruins and relaxing at my riverside guesthouse.  I probably would have spent longer had I not already booked my onward train tickets for my very long journey north.  A self set deadline that helped me avoid a two week extended stay in Hampi and return to the Himalayas for the spring trekking season.

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