Peek of a Peak: Kang Yatse 2

On our way from Thochungtse to Nimaling valley

After finalising on Kang Yatse 2, I had my travel arrangements in place and waited eagerly for Jul 12. I had stopped my cross fit training a couple of days before leaving to give my body the required rest before starting the expedition. Plus, I started experiencing lower back pain which would turn out to be a slipped disc case just after a month. Ignoring such rarest possibility emerging out of a lower back pain, I started visualising the summit day and my excitement to be on the top of the world. Having said that, I was also prepared for possibility of being barred from attempting the summit by the trek leader.

Clouds hovering over Kang Yatse
Unpredictable weather on the peak

On 22nd of July at around 12:15 AM, I could sense some bustle going on around the tent. I was unable to sleep due to anxiety over the summit chase we were attempting this night. Last afternoon, we could spot some trekkers coming down the glacier after their summit who looked so minuscule on this mighty creation of nature. I woke up Suresh and Siddharth and we packed our bags with crampons, ice axe, water and food. It was pitch dark and cold. Also, it was a lucky day for us as the weather was calm, both at the base camp and on the peak. Geared with a layer of breathable thermals, quick dry t-shirts and down jackets, we started climbing towards the glacier. I must say it was pretty steep. We couldn’t climb more than 15 steps at a time. The oxygen getting diminished gradually could be felt. After 3 hours of climb, we reached a point at around 5700m where actual glacier trek would begin. After adorning ourselves with harnesses, gaiters, crampons, helmets and ice axe, the guide called upon us to come one by one so that he could tie us by the rope. And then, we continued towards the silent dark.

All 8 of us were in-line secured by a rope. It was a good slope: some 45 degrees. We had to dig our crampon-ed feet in the snow to stay still. One step at a time without wasting much energy. Anyone barely spoke, except the guide. We just treaded through the way, in the dark. Dawn broke over the mountain at around 05:30. With slight light to guide our way, we could see the whitewashed arena. So sacred it felt! Not a single speck of dust, not a single change in colour: Just White! And what’s down there on right hand side? Vast emptiness. It was such a huge glacier! With this kind of slope, anyone would be afraid to slide down. After some 20 minutes of sluggish walking, I asked my friend to look right. He got equally horrified as I because what we were looking at was a whole mass of black cloud approaching us from a distance. I have never seen such a huge black vapour ball so close in my entire lifetime. ‘It must be normal‘, I convinced myself, as the guide was not bothered about it coming towards us like a storm.

Moving ahead, the light got stronger and the views got more astounding. Even though the atmosphere was harsh, the ultimate landscapes paid for it. The clouds disappeared for some time. It gave us a scope to greet other mountains surrounding Kang Yatse which were relatively smaller. The sole fact that no other mountain in my farthest sight was higher than the one I was standing on right then made me feel contended and proud. The patterns formed by the snow-topped Himalayas were breathtakingly fantastic. It seemed like the mountains had draped white rugs to beautify themselves. Some beautiful things come at a good cost and I am glad I paid that cost. (Don’t think in terms of money!)

Also READ: A nature trek at Bir, Himachal Pradesh

Time was an illusion there; so was space. When your mind and body both start playing games with you, you might not know how to react. That’s why rigorous physical and mental training is required. My body weight suddenly felt doubled to me. Each walking step was a mourning gut. Crampons can be blamed as equally as should be thanked. Without them, you are nowhere on a glacier. Wind gushed through us from all the directions. What we wore: The scientific layering of clothing, seemed useless suddenly. Never had I ever felt so dry from inside, constantly in a need of a sip of water which, given our task, was pretty much limited. Even to reach my water bottle strapped in my backpack, I couldn’t garner enough courage to remove the double-layered gloves. We were so exhausted that after every 4 steps, we would need a break. But no one is ever rich enough in terms of time when we do an expedition. There’s a turnaround time and there’s a protocol. Mountains should never be underestimated.

We were gaining height with every step. With every other climbing step, the air became thinner. To survive in this beautiful abode was a test of our ability and will. It’s also important in such conditions how supporting your partners are. Fortunately, I had great motivators in my gang. I remember when one of us at the end of the rope felt disgustingly frightened and was shouting at this height because one of our climbing guides, the only person behind him, took a short break to fix the rope, all of us energy-deprived guys motivated him till the guide returned. Anyone among us in his place would have got terrified. Loads of love for this group!

After some time, we encountered a steep slope to climb to save some time. It required strong use of ice axe. This half a kilogram tool could support more than five times my body weight if properly affixed by the pick. The quality of technical equipments and the expertise of guide matter a lot on the mountains. We encountered a minor crevasse on our way up the slope which we had to jump through by fixing our axe above the crevasse and bouncing our bodies with the push of our legs with full power to get to the other side. It was a daunting task at that altitude for us. Strength training came to help during this moment.

We kept climbing the mountain until we came to a small plain area. Well, it looked relatively plainer. Resting our backs on an elevated, tilted portion of a huge rock, we took out our food supplies. After 10 mins of breather, our guide called to continue. With huge spirits, we all got up on our metal feet. Our trembling legs just had some 200m left to climb for the summit. My breathing frequency had escalated to 5 times the normal. My limbs felt numb. My chest expanded and mouth wide open in search of oxygen. The two sides of the brain started debating with each other whether to continue or not. The side which suggested to continue won. But merely after 20m further, the other side reclaimed its victory. Yes, I stopped there. It seems like a difficult decision but believe me, at that altitude, in those conditions, it was so simple, so relieving! The others continued, apart from us two.

The trek was a much required experience. It officially started on 16th July after two initial days reserved for acclimatisation at Leh during which we strolled down the main roads and small streets of the city and had local cuisines serve our guts.

Chilling (3200m): some 55 km from Leh, served as our starting point as it does for some real good treks including Chadar trek. From Chilling, we had a small trek of around 3-4 hours towards Skiu (3400m). The terrain was monotonously barren on the first day. Skiu was relatively greener and had a river by the camp side. To our excitement, we spotted a double rainbow carving its way between the mountains and forming a canopy over the river. Day 2 showed us a long trek from Skiu to Markha (3700m). Markha valley is so beautiful that in the arid deserts of Ladakh, you cannot imagine such a green place. Thochungtse (4200m) was our next destination which again proved to be an exhausting trek of 7 hours. The locals we met on the way and the journey itself was so beautiful that all our exhaustion melted away. On day 4, we camped at Nimaling (4720m) which was a pretty exposed plain green area resting between Kongmaru-la on the left and Kang Yatse base camp towards the right. The last camping site would be the base camp at 5150m. From here, we could see our goal: KY2. The hide and seek between the clouds and the mountains didn’t allow us to get a clearer picture of Kang Yatse twin peaks till the next day. It looked beautiful and dreadful at the same time.

I would never say I would regret the decision to stop before the summit. The mountain will always be there and I can always come back provided I am alive, fit and fine. It is really important to know our limits and stop whenever required to. It is not about proving our mental fitness but it is about being wise in a calculated manner during such situations. You can map such situations to real life and see the results for yourselves.

This blog comes in relevance to one of my previous blogs on preparing for high altitude treks. Also, if you are planning to build up stamina and endurance, running is a great exercise. Visit my blog on running to know more.

A day out in and around Lepakshi​

Open area outside Lepakshi main temple

I had just one day off last weekend. Although Bangalore is quite self-sufficient when it comes to visiting local attractions, going for a shopping or hanging out for a quick beer, it still lags behind the other metropolis across the country if a day outing is being looked for. With such a small list of places to plan a day travel, there are a few gems which actually need to get a push in the tourism sector. One such place is Lepakshi, which I believe many of us haven’t heard of. Just for a brief introduction, Lepakshi is a small temple town in Ananthpur district of Andhra Pradesh known for its 16th-century architectural marvel in the form of Veerabhadra temple.

This place got my attention when I looked for places near Bangalore, rich in history and architecture, after my trip to Hampi. I found Badami and Lepakshi worth visiting. You can easily drive your way to this religious place called Lepakshi as it is well connected to National Highways. Just follow the NH-44 till Kodikonda where you need to take a sharp left towards Lepakshi road. It takes around 2-3 hours to cover this 130 km stretch and submit yourself to the marvelous art and get lost within the temple premises. Other options are buses, cabs and trains. Hindupur is the nearest railway station located around 15 km from Lepakshi.

Entry gate of Lepakshi temple
Entry gate of Lepakshi temple

As soon as you enter the town, you are welcomed by a huge monolithic Nandi, a 4.5m high sculpture of a bull. The Nandi directly faces the Shiva-Linga which is inside the main temple.

Beautiful carvings on the entry gate of Veerabhadra temple
Beautiful carvings on the entry gate of Veerabhadra temple

The wonderful carvings on the stones starting right from the entry gate to every other pillar, each having its own story, is a jackpot for art-lovers. Not only the pillars but the colorfully painted ceilings tell many tales. You just have to look up. It is said that the 24 by 14 ft. fresco of Veerabhadra on the ceiling before the main sanctum sanctorum is the largest in India of any single figure. There is a Shiva-Linga, a Hanuman-Linga, a Rama-Linga and a Padmavati statue inside the main temple.

The array of magical musical pillars
The array of magical musical pillars

The quaint miraculous structures like the hanging pillar and the musical pillars are heart-throbs. Many people who visit this temple aren’t aware of the hanging pillar. When I was there, I saw a person resting with its support without any knowledge of what he is resting on. I asked this person to move a little off the pillar. Then I took out a piece of paper from my bag to slide it beneath the hanging structure. People opened up their eyes in awe and started clicking pictures.  When you get outside the main temple, you will see that the temple is surrounded by 70 pillars. By looking at its drum-like, grooved structure, I reckoned they must be similar to the musical pillars at Vishnu temple at Hampi. I tried to play this stone with my fingers, and yes, it produced an enchanting sound. Every other pillar has its own pitch. I really wonder what these 16th-century people might have done in unison with these musical pillars.

Intricate carvings on the temple walls
Intricate carvings on the temple walls

Also at the temple’s outer enclosure, you will see a mammoth Ganesha statue hewn in stone and leaning against a rock. Perpendicular to it is a massive Naga with three coils and seven hoods. There is this Kalyana Mandapam, which was never completely built. It’s quite photogenic and people, as usual, had their selfies and group clicks shot. There’s also this huge foot engraved on the ground, which is supposed to be Hanuman’s foot. It was nearly 10 times as bigger as mine. This puts a question to my inquisitive mind- “Are we shrinking?”

The incomplete Kalyana Mantapa
The incomplete Kalyana Mantapa

The thing I liked about this temple is not only its features but also the kind of peace and tranquillity we look for in a religious place. This place is hot all year-round and thus, morning time is the best time to explore this place.

Also READ: Why to travel solo?

Wonderful structures at the back of the temple
Wonderful structures at the back of the temple

Nearby places of interest:

If you happen to visit Lepakshi, you can also visit Dharmavaram (around 90 km) for its famous silk sarees and Veerapuram (around 40 km) for the painted storks all around the village (Dec till June). If you have spare time and would like to visit a model village, don’t miss this beautiful Proto Village near Tekalodu, which is on the way to Bangalore. The exact location of this village is: Proto Village location

Why to travel solo?

Why to travel solo

A lot of people have been asking me this one simple question which has a lot of answers. Why go Solo? It always adheres to one notion – “Security and boredom of being alone have to be compromised”. But believe me, it’s not true and even if it is, you will get over it. Here are a few reasons why you should try it.

1. Meet new people

meet new people

People say they are social and extrovert. Are you gregarious enough to meet new and varied people every other day? And are you willing to listen to the different stories of people from different corners of the world? Stories about their lives, stories about their adventures. Also, in turn, are you interested in telling them stories about your life, your adventures? I say, go solo! 

2. Earn respect

Earn respect

Traveling alone also gains a lot of attention and respect from other fellow travelers or the locals you encounter. You will always find help wherever you step your foot at. You will not just find an easy assistance, but may be a company along whom you can tag up with and save costs and efforts during your travel. You will make friends with the locals which might help you on your next trip there. And then you start respecting yourself more.

3. Gain benefits

gain benefits

Land up at a decent hotel or a restaurant. Tell them you are traveling solo. And may be you will get a discount on the services, better facilities or a complimentary drink! Plus, as locals who know the place better than anyone, they will definitely guide you for your next day travel in the best possible way. If you drop by at a hostel and the dorms are getting filled up fast, you as a solo traveler will get priority. Effortless logistics! Being a single person, you can be accommodated anywhere, whether it’s a hostel or a shared cab service.

4. Do what you want to do and do nothing of what you don’t want to do

Be yourself

Do you want the independence of choice of your stay, your cuisines, your itinerary and your way of travel without compromising? You may want to taste the local cuisines every day, drink the local wines every night. Or let’s just say, do you want to make the things abrupt, surprising as they come? Do you want not to stick to a plan or not make any? You may also not want to visit crowded tourist places and just want to sit under the canopies along a beach or read books staying in your homestay all day. Group travels seldom entertain such fancies.

5. Be a smarter person

Be a smarter person

Do you want to actually learn some of the life skills which include time and resources management and communication skills? Most of the life hacks were not developed by a group, but by a single person. These skills will not only help you while you travel but also at various other stages of your life. Stay in a hut wearing rugs with minimal equipment and you will get to know the reality of life.

6. Know yourself

Know yourself

Finally, at some or the other stage of your life, you will want to explore yourself within. You want to know your limits, your strengths, and your weaknesses. You want to know your aspirations and your true nature. Even if that time hasn’t come, why not try going solo to get awareness on such precious things? Ignorance is not always a bliss!

7. Don’t delay

Don't delay

How many times has it happened to you that you plan a travel with your friends and one of them is not able to manage leaves at that time or may be two sides are formed with different opinions about places to travel, places to stay, etc.? Ahh! Annoying, I know. That’s all.

Also READ: Hampi: A voyage into the past

Amritsar: A backpacker’s outlook

amritsar

If you had ever wanted to experience a blend of spirituality and urbanization, culture and trend, painful history and yet, delightful souls, I bet Amritsar is the place to be. Even the most demanding gourmets can settle right here, satiated to the next level. Indian revolutionaries or freedom fighters once had a hold of the political situation at this place. Patriots also find their pleasure here as Punjab is a border state and Wagah border is not so far from Amritsar.

I went backpacking to this Golden city with one of my friends, Shivam, at the end of October 2016. Planning for a travel in any city was never in my set of interests as I am a man who likes to keep away from the hustles and bustles of city life. But then I had to see it for myself and today, I consider it as one of my best travels.

Amritsar is around 450 km from Delhi and around 230 km from Chandigarh. Regular flight services are available from major Indian cities. If you happen to start from Delhi, Chandigarh, Dharamsala, Shimla or Jammu, there are several state as well as private run buses. Additionally, there are a few trains from Delhi, which takes just 6-7 hours to reach Amritsar. Also, if you happen to visit Amritsar, do so between the months of October and February, as it is the best season. As a general tip, avoid traveling during summers as the temperatures can rise well above 45 deg Celsius.

Daal Makhani and Roti at Amritsar

I met Shivam at Chandigarh from where we caught a local bus to Amritsar at around 10 PM. There is a huge frequency of buses to Amritsar. The bus was more than full till Jalandhar. We had a good amount of luggage with us so we purchased 2 extra seats just to keep our bags. It felt bad to see people standing while our bags were resting on cushion seats. But then, we had no option. The bus came to a halt at a small Dhaba on the way. I need not mention how awesome the Dhabas are in Punjab, which is supposedly the mother of all Dhabas. After we were done stuffing the unbelievably excellent Dal Makhani with Rotis, the bus started again. We reached Amritsar at around 3 AM.

Also READ: Hampi: A voyage into the past

Just a couple of hours before boarding this bus, I found this really cool backpackers’ hostel at Amritsar on the Internet called Jugaadus’ Eco Hostel. It is situated at Ajit Nagar and hardly takes around 15 mins from main bus stand. As soon as we reached the premises, we could see a neatly trimmed, electric-blue turbaned, handsome man waiting for us. His name was Prabhat. He greeted us and asked us to follow him up towards his small den. It’s a 2-storeyed building. I still remember the narrow red-lit stairway leading us to their first floor. Initially, it seemed like, ‘Did we make a mistake by booking this hostel?’. And it was obvious on our part. They haven’t done any publicity of this place unlike Zostel or any other chain of hostels across India. The only basis on which we could trust was- ‘Go and check for yourself!’. So, we entered this common area after removing the shoes outside. Even at this dark and quiet hours, it felt lively. It was an inventory of arts with a pile of graffitis and loads of innovation. Prabhat guided us to our dorms where we fell down immediately and slept.

Mornings are never early for us. It was 10 AM when we woke up. Now, Jugaadus have a neat day planner board hanging right in the common area. This is the best concept I loved about this place. You can see it in the image above. So basically, they have 7 different types of activities which you can opt for during your stay at Jugaadus. It includes Heritage walk, Golden temple tour, Border tour, Village tour, Food walk, Morning cycling and Cooking classes. You can sign in a day before for any activities you want to do. If they find they have at least 3 members for any activity mentioned above, they will arrange that activity in their specified time frame. We opted for Golden temple tour, Border tour and Food walk for our next couple of days stay. There were many solo travelers from outside India who joined us on our tours.

Aloo kulcha Chhole
Aloo kulcha and Chhole

After getting ready, we had a nice breakfast of Chhola Kulchha nearby. You will love the Kulchas anywhere you end up at Amritsar, I bet. Today, we have planned to take up the border tour. The Wagah border is around 28 km from Amritsar. There you can see Indian and Pakistani troops engaged in artful and aggressive rivalries showcasing their respective talents, hatred and yet respect for their opponents. The Wagah Border security restricts any entry after 2:30 PM, so make sure you reach the place well before 1:30 PM as the queue is quite huge, especially on weekends and holidays.

The place was filled up with patriotism, for different countries on different sides of the gate. I really feel perturbed by the thought that all these people were a part of one country before Independence, and everyone was called ‘Indian’. That glory is lost after the historical partition of 1947. Looking at the people sitting on another side of the gate, it seems like they are like us, in every aspect. I believe people sitting on another side of the gate feel the same. I and Shivam were sitting among the bunch of foreigner friends we made back at Jugaadus. It felt really great looking at the pride and respect Indians hold for their motherland.

India Pakistan Border
India Pakistan Border so near!

It would be around 5:30 PM when you will finally leave the place, taking another hour to reach the city, depending on the traffic. Back to the hostel at 6:30, we took some rest and got ready for the Golden temple tour. We had an instructor named Diljeet who told us incredible stories and facts about this marvelous wonder.

The Golden Temple during night hours
The Golden Temple during night hours

The Golden temple, as also called Sri Harmandir Sahib, is the most important shrine of Sikh religion. The temple has entrances from all the four directions. It stands in all its glory in the middle of a holy tank called the Amrit Sarovar, which is a man made tank. Pilgrims usually take a dip in the holy water which is believed to bear special healing powers. The main hall of the Golden temple houses the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scripture of the Sikh religion. This place also holds the largest Langar every day, where around 100,000 people a day are fed for free by temple volunteers and the number doubles during special occasions! Around 12,000 kg of flour, 1,800 kg of rice, 13,000 kg of lentils and up to 2,000 kg of vegetables are consumed every day. Most importantly, the langar caters to people of all castes and creeds. Such a kind fact.

At 10 PM, we observed the departure of Palki Sahib from Harmandir Sahib, carrying Sri Guru Granth Sahib to The Akal Takhat Sahib. It is an interesting ceremony that happens every night. We sat for a while around the lake, observing the golden beauty getting reflected brilliantly in the waters of Amrit Sarovar. I experienced tranquility. The positive atmosphere here will never let you want to leave this place.

Next day, we went for a food walk around Amritsar. And believe me, every single place listed here is a must try and anyone visiting this city should never miss these food joints.

paneer bhurji
The special Paneer Bhurji full of delicious Butter

It was mostly a try and taste tour. We needed to keep some space in our tummies for the next landing place. We started off with Tara Chand Special Paneer Bhurji wala. The delicious Paneer Bhurji completely soaked and fried in heaps of butter! I already started feeling heavy after eating this! Then we moved ahead towards Bhai Kulwant Singh Kulchha wale. We all had nearly half a Kulchha with the tasty Chholas.

Next one on the list was Kesar da Dhaba. Now, this place is quite old with no branches. It was established in 1916 and still retains its old ambiance and delectable recipes of its forefathers. You crush and squash its Kulchha in your hand and by the time you leave it, it would have regained its original shape without falling to bits. And the Paneer Butter Masala- it never tasted this awesome till date. We tried Lassi and Ferni as well. This place is so economical that you can feed 10 people in just around 800 bucks, with desserts!

Next was Gian di Lassi. Believe me, this is the freshest lassi you can get in the whole of Amritsar. They had various flavors of it. This place was, fortunately, the last one because this Lassi will try its best to fill your stomach well above its normal size. So satisfying the meal, so exciting the tour. We had a great time with our host named Sanjay for this food walk who is apparently the founding director of Jugaadus.

Jallianwala Bagh
The historic Jallianwala Bagh

After this walk, I and my friend went to Jallianwala Bagh where hundreds of innocent lives were lost due to the cruelty of a British officer named Colonel Reginald Dyer. We paid our respects to the mighty souls who had a generous and non-violent intention to get India independent.

 

Finally, I and my friend went to The Golden Temple again to glimpse it in broad day light. During day time, it has a different flavor and showcased its true colors. I loved this place to the core.

Amritsar is a place where your heart connects! With its typical Punjabi demonstration, this city has won my heart in all the parameters. I will surely opt to offer services in the kitchen of The Golden Temple the next time I visit.

Also READ: Why to travel solo?

Hampi: A voyage into the past

Sunset at Hampi

How often do we connect with history? A straight vibrant echo of our forefather’s voices engulfs us as we embark on our quest to visit historical places. And Hampi is no exception.

This time, I decided to visit this ancient “Kishkinda” of the Ramayana times. Hampi is a temple town in Hospet taluk of Bellary district in the Karnataka state of India, recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located within the ruins of the city of Vijayanagara. Given a quite sociable and outgoing nature of this place, many Indian and foreign travelers are attracted here and it is one of the biggest backpackers’ havens in India.

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I started off solo this time at the end of January. The weather, though hot, is the optimum season for visitors. All the shacks and cafes are full of business. Hampi is off-season from March till September. My travel started from Bangalore city which is roughly at a distance of 500 km from Hampi. Hospet is connected from Bangalore via trains and buses. I went for the latter option as it provided me the time flexibility. Starting off at 11 PM, I reached Hospet at 6 in the morning. It was a good road with minimal bumps. Hampi is around 12 km from Hospet. You can find buses for Hampi in the posh KSRTC bus stand plying every 15-20 mins from Platform no. 12. The journey takes around half an hour and charged me just 16 bucks. Don’t expect an easy seat as buses are generally crowded. Autos are also readily available outside bus stand to Hampi which may charge you some 200-300 bucks.

Also READ: Why to travel solo?

On the way, you will notice a beautiful vast Kamlapur lake on the right. After some time, the much-awaited ruins appear, which is spread till the horizon. As you reach Hampi, the first thing you will notice is a huge artistic Virupaksha temple. I decided not to enter the temple premises before taking a bath. So, had some decent clicks and moved ahead.

 

Hampi town is divided into two parts by the mighty Tungabhadra river. The temple side contains all the ruins including the much-hyped Vitthala temple. By the way, I am on this side till now. The other side is popularly known as Hippie island and contains a relatively lesser number of historical monuments and more number of shacks to stay. So, backpacker’s paradise would be the other side. I had done my initial research on this place. You have to cross this river by boat. They charge you Rs.50 before 10 AM and after 6 PM when it gets dark. Otherwise, you have to pay a nominal fee of Rs.10 for the ride. I saw many people carrying their bikes and bicycles on the boat to the other side. I was reluctant to pay Rs.50 for this not-even-a-minute ride. Fortunately, the water levels were low this month and you have a path to the other side by jumping over the rocks plus a minute of walking down the river.

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Boats carrying people from one side of the river to the other

As I reached there, I saw many local shops selling hats, scarfs, shawls, chunnis, sunglasses, etc. After 5 mins of window shopping, I asked for a way to Goan Corner, the place where I would stay for next couple of days. After nearly 200 meters of walk, I was already seeing the cool shacks and cafes. People were everywhere, in different colors, of different nationalities. On the way, there were lush green paddy fields on both the sides with mostly the majestic light brown boulders of Hampi in the background. I followed a sign board mentioning-‘That is THE GOAN CORNER–> ‘.

 

As soon as I reached this place, I could feel a different aura, a different vibe. It seemed like some party is going on with all the travelers either eating or drinking or chilling around. A good number of people were just waiting to get a confirmation on a bed at this little place to sleep. Now, I got worried. Can I manage a bed here for this night? I asked the owner lady at reception to provide me a single bed wherever it is, just to sleep. I need no room, no private toilet. She put me on the waiting list. Till then, I had a good breakfast of bread butter, Israeli salad, and a coffee at its in-house cafe. Finally, after an hour of chit chats with the fellow travelers, I got a confirmation. I went to see my bed which was on a rooftop. They have many mattresses properly lined up on the terrace with a mosquito net over every single mattress. I pulled up the neatly tucked net from one corner and entered my mattress. I rearranged my stuff and went for a shower.

It was just 11 o’clock. A long day to go and Hampi is no small. I found one guy from Bangalore who was traveling solo. We decided to explore the hippie side of Hampi for today. It’s always better to get a bicycle or a moped on rent at Hampi. You can find them on rent at any shack or even in the markets. But remember one thing: Mopeds taken on rent on hippie side of the river cannot be driven on the other side. It can attract you a good fine. We took bicycles on rent for Rs.100 a day. If you are opting for a moped, then you will have to shell out some 250-400 bucks depending on the model.

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We decided to visit Anjaneya temple popularly known as Monkey temple or Anjanadri. Before that, we had a satisfied Indian lunch at a local restaurant. After spending some time resting on their beds while looking at the lake and boulders, we decided to move ahead. Anjanadri is a sunset point and it seemed better to go there as late as possible. So we went ahead of Anjanadri for a km and found this place called Pampa Sarovara at Anegondi. It is a square water tank with a flight of steps along its borders. It holds the credit of one of the five sacred lakes in India.  There are quite a few temples here. In Hindu mythology, Pampa Sarovar is regarded as the place where Pampa, a form of Shiva’s consort Parvati, performed deep meditation with the sole intention of getting married to Lord Shiva. Footprints of  Lord Rama are also said to be inscribed on a rock here. Apart from that, we found a deep cave near the Rama temple which leads us directly to the Virupaksha temple on the other side of the river, as told to us. Amazing it is, right?

 

After spending some 60-70 mins here, it was already 4. Now, we could comfortably visit the Anjanadri temple. We parked the cycle at a sweet little shop and requested the humble old man to keep a look on it. 570 steps to be climbed! And it was worth it. The awesome scenic beauty at the hill top made our day. It is believed that it is in this area, the kingdom of monkeys existed and Vali, Sugriva, and Hanuman lived. A Ram Setu Shila, i.e. a floating rock is also kept in the temple premises. We went to the other side of the hill to have a moment of peace and thereafter, spot the sunset. There were ruins, boulders, paddy fields, coconut trees everywhere down the hill. So serene it felt. We could hear just the sound of the winds. Everyone was desperately waiting for the sunset, but unfortunately, the day was cloudy enough to cover up the orange ball. We couldn’t watch the sunset, but we had a good moment here, with ourselves. We made a couple of friends afterward who were coincidentally staying at Goan corner itself. They also had their bicycles parked down the hill and thus, we left together.

 Also READ: A day out in and around Lepakshi

After returning the bicycles, we walked our way to the Goan corner. On the way, I spotted Gali’s music shop, which I had seen in the morning as well. People were jamming inside. It caught my interest and I asked my friends to move ahead and I shall be back after looking out for some instruments in this shop. I found out a Spanish guy playing guitar, an English woman playing Ditscheridu and a Finnish woman playing Djembe. I joined these guys on Conga drums in this free community jamming session. Music with unknown and diverse guys is always special. We feel connected even if we aren’t. This music shop is run by its owner Gali who is a great guy and plays nearly 30 instruments. If music interests you, you cannot afford to miss meeting this guy. His kid is equally talented. Just at 13 years of age, he can play nearly all the percussion instruments.

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Gali’s music shop

We put an end to the jamming session with Hotel California and went for dinner at this great place called ‘The Taste of Hampi’. In this dark, candle-lit ambiance, most of the crowd was non-Indian. People were sharing their travel stories with each other. Music was on, seating was on the ground. I ordered Al-fungi which was delicious. There were people playing Melodica, Djembes and other sorts of drums for entertainment. Gali asked me to play Melodica. I took the stage for some time. The crowd got crazy at Naagin. Wonderful evening it was!

I met this really cool guy from Hyderabad who accompanied me back to Goan corner as his car was parked there. He had a Spanish scotch with him and offered me the same. I called up the guys I met during the day to join us. Everyone started their stories. Scotch was going down the throats slowly and slowly while the moon shone more and more bright as the night grew.

If you come to Hampi and you don’t smoke the maal, then what did you do! As we didn’t have any sort of stuff with us, we tried to get hold of some from the foreigners, as they always have their pockets loaded. Our best bet was to offer them a drink and in return, collect stuff from them. Fortunately, we found a Russian guy who apparently turned out to be an expert in this matter. He had his own equipment like crusher, vaporizer, chillum and of course, loads of different kinds of stuff. This guy was literally an Einstein. He explained us the types of stuff he had, starting from Rs.100 a tola (10 gms) to Rs.8000 a tola. I never liked smoking but then, he convinced me that the best stuff he had is 92% pure, unlike the other common stuff Indians get which is only 10-12% pure. Contrasting difference! The high which you will get with this purest stuff is so balanced, so heavenly and so healthy. I actually got a kick, but in a good way. And I am not kidding. I didn’t just bash over at someone or puked for that matter. Everything seemed happy thereafter. The sleep I got that night was one of the best sleep in my whole lifetime. Ahh!!!

Day 1 turned out to be a heck of an experience. Hampi trip was already successful for me. The following couple of days would be busy as there are a lot of places to be explored.

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Hampi travel guide

As soon as I woke up at 9, I took a shower and had a breakfast at the same cafe downstairs. I loved the coffee here. Today, I had to travel to the other side of the river, to explore the ruins. I crossed the river in a boat and went straight towards the Virupaksha temple. The first thing you should do to explore Hampi is to purchase a nice guide book. You will get many guides on Hampi, but you can trust this book by Dr.C.S.Vasudevan which will cost you Rs.200. It apparently is certified by the Archaeological Survey of India. This book lists around 67 monuments and 16 other places of interests around Hampi along with their descriptions. Much to digest for a person with no history background! You will also find a detailed map on the last page for navigation.

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Map

I split my plan into two:
Day 2 – South East of Virupaksha temple (26 onwards on the map)
Day 3 – East of Virupaksha temple (1-25)

I wasn’t able to get a bicycle today as I was late. Bicycles are lent out by 8 o’clock in the morning. So, plan accordingly.

 

I started off with Virupaksha (Shiva) Temple (4). It’s such a majestic artwork of the 7th century and is considered the most sacred sanctuary over the centuries. Such a thoughtful and systematic architecture. Don’t forget to take blessings from the temple elephant, Lakshmi.

I continued to Hemakuta group of temples (3) which is quite spread out and took around an hour. There are around 30 beautiful temples on this hillock. The view of Virupaksha temple from this hillock takes another dimension.

 

After covering two Ganesh temples (1 &2), I decided to take a small meal in the nearby mess named Geetha Restaurant, as I knew after this point I won’t be getting any food. After lunch, I went ahead to Krishna temple (23). It is one of the most majestic temples built by Krishnadevaraya in 1513 AD. There’s this Krishna bazaar in front of this temple which is again quite huge. I continued further to other points of interest. The way is a simple-straight road! And you will find all the monuments or at least some people going to those monuments. You don’t need any guide if you have a guide book. The most amazing and beautiful monuments according to me in this part were Elephants stable, Queens bath, Lotus Mahal and the whole Royal Enclosure which includes Stepped Tank.

 

It was around 6 PM and I had mostly covered this part. Took an auto as Hampi town was around 4 km from the last point and I was barely left with any stamina to walk.

Back in the town, it was already dark. Boats weren’t operating. I found a group of people crossing the river and tagged alongside them. Don’t forget to carry your torch (preferably head torch) for such situations.

The other side of the town is as lively as it gets. Music is on everywhere and roads are rushed till 10. I went to Gali’s music shop to find out it was closed. So, I called up my guys and got to know they had reached Goan corner already. So I headed for it. I had a dinner at Goan corner and it was good. Made new friends from Norway there who turned out to be contemporary dancers. I always have good and thorough conversation with artists. Here as well, I made talks for around a couple of hours with them regarding their art after which I had a silent walk with one of them in the quiet long paddy fields. Hampi grows really silent as it grows dark. The sky lit up with more and more number of stars as the time passed. We came back to our haven and I went straight to my bed, watching the sky again. This time, through the mosquito net.

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Sunrise from Matanga hilltop

I woke up at 5 AM just because I wanted to see the sunrise from Matanga Hill (6). I took a bath and got ready in 30 mins, walked the still-dark paddy fields towards the river to get to the other side. It took me another 15 mins to reach the other side. The eastern part of Virupaksha temple is mostly a trip around the hilly part alongside the river Tungabhadra, where you can’t drive. So, I caught an auto in a hurry as there was barely any time left for sunrise. I climbed and reached Matunga hilltop in dot 15 mins and noticed a lot of people already waiting there for sunrise. I reserved a location there and patiently waited for the sunrise to happen. After 10 mins when the sunrise was yet to happen, I met a couple of Marathi guys from Pune. I had a good chat with them for 5 mins may be. As the skies were already lit, we concluded that the sunrise had happened and due to clouds we couldn’t spot it. But we were wrong in our assumption. Sunrise happened but after 10 more minutes. It was a pleasant and divine experience. I am not a morning person so I can claim this sunrise to be the best in my life!

 

Someone suggested me to cover the east part of Virupaksha temple before afternoon as it will be less hot plus less crowded. I went down the hill and continued my pending journey of the eastern side, which supposedly is more beautiful.

 

The first monument I hit was Achyutaraya temple (7) which is at the foothill of the Matunga hillock. There is this Achyutaraya bazaar (8) in front of it which measures around 361 meters in length and 40 meters in width. Afterwards, according to the map, I followed the directions and covered all the places of interest. Vitthala temple (15) is inarguably one of the most beautiful temples I have ever seen. It marks the highest workmanship indicating the mature Vijayanagara phase of architecture. It has this popular Stone Chariot at the center of its premises, which is a prototype of wooden Ratha. I loved this place to the core and spent around an hour discovering its in-depth art. Met another solo backpacker from Mumbai here. He accompanied me for the next couple of monuments post which we parted.

 

I went straight to the town and had a lunch at Mango tree, a popular restaurant at Hampi. No alcohol and non-veg served here. Shared the table with a couple of Chinese women who were curious to know the Indian dishes. I helped them in their mission. After lunch, I headed back to the Goan corner at around 3 PM to chill out. Met some of the friends there and took some rest in their cafe. The dancer girl was still there and asked me to join her for the sunset from the boulders. The sunset was awesome and this time, not cloudy. People played their guitars on the hill and sang to the tunes of nature. I wish I could have joined them but had to leave as I had to catch the bus back to Bangalore. So, descended the hilltop and left for Hospet bus stand at 8.

The journey was great and the people I met were fabulous. Stories I heard were exceptional and the places I visited were marvelous. I loved the way Hampi is. People from all over the world travel here just to see some part of the great history associated with India. They enjoy the culture at this place and I am proud to be a part of it.

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Majestic view of Hampi from the top on a boulder