Don’t Worry, be Hampi

You know that feeling when you’re in a less than sanitary situation and your better judgement is telling you to check under the toilet seat before sitting down?

In that situation do you

A.) check the seat just to calm your anxiety or
B.) convince yourself that you’re just being silly and there’s obviously nothing lurking in the shadows of that not-so-golden throne?

In some places you may lift the lid to find a snake, spider or some other creepy crawly. Thankfully, I lifted the seat only to find a small green frog had made his home under the lip of the porcelain seat.  If anything describes our endeavor to  “be happy in Hampi,” it’s the caricature of that little frog.  Let’s call him Kappe, the Kannada term for ‘frog’ (original, I know)

We’ll come back to Kappe in just a little bit.  But first, I want to begin my story at the beginning of our trip to Hampi.

We step off of our overnight bus at 5 am, still wiping the sleep from our eyes.  My braid had come loose and my chaco’s were fitting just a little too tight as my feet returned to their normal non-swollen state.  The sun hadn’t yet risen and our sleep deprived group were hopelessly trying to haggle with the auto-rickshaw men.  After ten minutes of confused mutterings we finally agreed to pay them way too much money to take us to see the sun rise at one of the most beautiful, otherworldly places I’ve ever seen.

From our post on top of an old crumbling building we could see for miles.  Ancient looking ruins had been tucked delicately here and there among the hills, almost completely covered by the giant boulders dotting the landscape.  The sky sleepily moved with pale blues, yellows and pinks.  An iridescent fog scattered the light in a way that surround everything in a mystical halo.  For a moment I wondered if I had fallen off of my bunk in the sleeper bus and hit my head.  There’s no way that a view this ethereal could really exist.

Hampi is often described in travel blogs as the lovechild between the Flintstones and Jurassic Park.  I hate to be that person, but I gotta say it:  That description is horribly inaccurate.  I don’t think you could compare such an ethereal place to anywhere else.  Hampi is Hampi, and Hampi is pure magic.

People travel from the world over to see the magic that lives in the boulders and ruins that decorate the town.  Hampi is designed around tourism, with plenty of tourist-friendly restaurants and guesthouses to choose from.  For that very reason, we set off from Bangalore with no guesthouse booked and no plans made for when we got there. *I should add that USAC offers a guided tour to Hampi that is included in your program fees. 

After crossing the cute little river that split the town in two, we ran into a group of young men who offered to put us up in their hotel for this absurdly cheap price.  They swore that the place was the perfect distance from town and overlooked a beautiful lake with a swimming hole.  Us being the adventurers that we are almost immediately said okay and hopped in their jeep (Dad, stop cringing) for what turned out to be an almost thirty minute ride out of town.

The Tree-House hotel was an admittedly cute concrete building with a massive tree that overlooked fields of beautiful rice patties – but no lake.  In fact, we had passed the lake ten minutes ago, with signs that warned of crocodile infested waters.  So far, so good.

The rooms were a beautiful symphony of irony and hilarity.  Honestly, I almost expected a director to jump out and yell “cut!” it was such a horribly cliche setup.  Spiders adorned the corners of the room, a pink hand-print had been smeared against the freshly painted wall, and water dripped so quickly from the ceiling that relieving yourself felt more like taking a shower.

And of course we can’t forget Kappe, the poor little frog jumping desperately around the toilet bowl.  Kappe, the reason I didn’t step foot in that bathroom for the entire two days because if a little frog can survive in the depths of that room, who knew what else was in there?

Other than the general, and sort of funny, dingy-ness of the hotel, the place was honestly sort of.. quaint.  The hotel was home to a restaurant that served really bad fries (that may or may not have later given me food poisoning), a giant tree adorned with swings out front, and the cutest dog you ever did see (who also tried to steal my $110 chaco’s).

As for Hampi itself, the weather was hot, the food was okay and the ruins were absolutely jaw dropping.

We spent the first afternoon trekking to see a waterfall.  A few tips for those who love being outdoors when they travel:

1.) Don’t go for a trek at 1 in the afternoon- you’re literally starting your hike at one of the hottest parts of the day.
2.) Don’t go looking for a waterfall during the Indian Summer – they probably don’t exist right now.
3.) Water and electrolytes are your best friend.  Also sunscreen.

The second day was filled with your typical touristy activities (Yeah, I’m basic.  Sue me).  Opting to spend another overwhelmingly hot day without any shade, we explored the Vitala Ruins, the Lotus Mahal and the Elephant Stables (all for the foreigners price of 400 inr, or the local price of 20 rupees).  Honestly, the ticket was so worth it, and I so recommend this part of the trip to anyone who visits this amazing place.

The ancient architecture is completely mind-blowing and absolutely stunning.  My friend and I spent almost 3 hours wandering around looking at the carvings.  Luckily, a guide-in-training had offered to show us around for free so he could practice his English pronunciations and we got the behind the scenes low-down on everything about the temple ranging from the musical pillars, to the horse trade, to the engravings.

I’ll sum up this weekend with a list of things I learned over the course of my two days in Hampi.

1.) you’re not really sweating until you look like you just stepped out of a shower.  Also, always carry a scarf – they’re great as towels and sun protection.

2.) If you plan to hike to waterfall during the Indian summer, know that it probably won’t be there and you’ll end up lost on a bunch of hot boulders for a few hours instead.

3.) There’s a really high chance that the hotel attendants won’t understand your perfectly placed sarcasm and actually will leave you to set up the spider-web covered cot on your own.  They’ll also likely laugh at you when you swear there’s a frog living in your toilet.

4.) The hotel attendants will also hit on you.  They will probably even try to take photo’s of you while you sit in the communal area.  Best to get used to it and arm yourself with some flippant remarks.

5.) The bus ride may be cold, but don’t wear a sweater unless you plan on checking into the hotel right away.  Hiking through a bunch of boulders dressed head to toe in fabric isn’t as fun as it sounds.

6.) Don’t feed the stray dog, it will inevitably adopt you and keep barging into your room.

7.) Always pack your Polaroid – you never know when the random cave temple priest you meet will want you to take his picture two or six or ten times.

Briauna Derry studied abroad in Bengaluru, India. You can read more about her time abroad on her blog, from Idaho to India.