temples and time warps


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welcome to Hampi.  a 26 square kilometer spread of temple ruins that date back to the 14th century – it was once the capital of the Vijayanagar empire.  i was pleasantly surprised to learn that there was a one-day-only temple festival happening in the Hampi Bazaar the day i arrived and that i would be staying in the middle of it.  in the center of the bazaar stands a giant ancient temple spire.  next to it stood two tall decorated wooden towers on wheels.  thousands of people gathered in the street.  many of them sold miniature bananas to be thrown at the wooden towers while elephants hauled them along.  squads of policemen marched along side to ensure no one got trampled to death.  there is nothing quite like seeing thousands of elated faces and bananas flying in every which direction.  it was a very joyous event.

once the festival ended the Hampi Bazaar was quiet.  too quiet in fact. sadly the bazaar today is half the bazaar it used to be.  now a UNESCO site, many of the buildings have been bulldozed in the recent years in an effort to preserve the holy land.

P1020758somehow i managed to find the one single-room guest house in town.  this was good for me.  after my authentic Bangalore experience i found myself shying away from other tourists once confronted with them again.

i rented a motorbike (“The Goat Slapper”) and toured all the temple ruins, some nearby towns and did some general traversing of the beautiful bolder strewn desert landscape.  some of the roads that didn’t lead to temples lead along side irrigation canals, many of which were filled with the local people.  i took one road less traveled that looped through a grassy mountain range.  this was a perfect opportunity to belt out the lyrics to Neil Diamond’s “I Am I Said” – a favourite karaoke tune of mine.

the next stop was Gokarna – a beach town 325 kilometers northwest of Hampi.  i decided to take one of those night buses i’ve heard so little about mostly because it was my only option.  the bus was nice enough.  it had a raised curtain covered bed for each passenger who opted for one.  i barely fit in mine.  between the jerkiness of the ride, the sounds of constant honking and the loud jabbering of Indians all around me, it became clear that the only chance i had of getting sleep would be through the use of good old trusty chemicals.  i popped a sleeping pill and cuddled up next to Escapo. luckily he has all the right curves in all the right places.  i focused on my foreign environment until it began to fuzz over.  next thing i know i am bludgeoned awake at 3AM by the sound of the bus driver’s voice yelling “Gokarna!” over and over again.  in less than a minute i am standing outside the bus with all my stuff not in Gokarna but at a bus transfer station 40 kilometers outside of Gokarna.  the driver tells me my new bus will arrive in 10 minutes, then goes inside the attached restaurant to have some tea.  30 minutes and 0 buses later he introduces me to the manager of the restaurant, gives him a wad of rupees then leaves.  ok, i guess i’m this guy’s problem now.  the restaurant manager explains to me in the raspiest voice known to man that my new bus driver didn’t feel like showing up.  since i was the only one transferring to Gokarna it just wasn’t worth his time.  he then offered to put me up in a guest room free of charge then drive me to the local bus stand at 7AM where i can get a local bus to Gokarna from there.  my first reaction was to protest…  pull the ‘i spent money on this, therefore i am entitled to blah’ card, but in reality my options were limited and what the hell was i going to do at my final destination at 4am anyway?  i thankfully took the cards i was dealt and slept a few hours more.  i awake at 9:30AM to a loud knocking on my door.  surprise!.. it’s raspy manager dude again, apologizing for over-sleeping and strongly urging me to “get up, we must go now!”.  without giving the matter any thought i am swiftly out the door and outside with all my stuff packed just in time to sit and stare at him while he washes his car.  doing so with pride and taking his time he used a pint-sized cup and bucket to carefully douse every inch of the surface of his car.  i watched as a servant girl refilled the bucket 3 separate times.  after his car was wet to his satisfaction, he THEN dried the car, THEN he moved onto the interior…  i didn’t want to say anything because A) i was curious how long the charade would continue and B) i knew there was nothing i could have said to change the course of reality.  instead i could only think to myself “that car better be spotless.  if i get in and there’s one speck of dirt i’m gonna be pissed!”

P102080517 hours after i embarked on my journey filled with unexpected delights i finally arrive at OM Beach (6 kilometers from Gokarna actual).  i have been told by many travelers to come to this beach in particular.  a few weeks prior it had been packed with hippies getting stoned and beating on drums around campfires, but when i arrived it was almost deserted.  OM is a one-kilometer stretch of white sand in a partial bay with several rock formations jutting out from it.  cows stroll casually along the beach during the day and chill out around campfires at night, giving it that Far Side comic vibe.  i knew immediately that if i stayed here too long time would start to stand still again.  then it took me the next 6 days to forget it and remember it again.  most of my time here was spent doing…. well… absolutely nothing… or maybe i just can’t remember.  OM will do that to you.  it’s like a quiet unassuming time acceleration bubble with a beach and some cows thrown in.  you pass through it and suddenly you are a year older and you don’t know why.  i am going to assume that my stay here was a splendid one.  while there i befriended several travelers to share the nothing with including a very animated German naturopathic doctor and an Austrian amateur novelist who had been raised by Nazi’s.  i also encountered my very first American since i’ve been in India.

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the next logical step for me at this point is to take the tourist path most traveled and take a short train ride north to Goa to enjoy several more days (or weeks) of time vacuumed beaches but instead i opt for the busy bustle of Mumbai.  a straight shot north covering a distance of 881 kilometers, this will be my longest Indian train ride yet.

i arrive at the tiny train station in Gokarna almost 5 hours early for reasons unknown.  here i am greeted by a cow and the usual amount of Indians giving me curious looks.  not much to do now but sip chai, watch the sun set and carefully study the travel scars that Escapo has sustained over the past weeks.  he is building character by the day.

 

  1. #1 by Diane on May 6, 2013 - 7:07 am

    Amazing adventure! Man, I am so glad the guy got you up so you could watch him wash his car:)

    Hope you love Mumbai and that your train ride is delightful. That frog is looking pretty forlorn.

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