How I almost did not make it to Hampi
While I was at the Narsapura CCD, halfway through my cycling trip, Mogit called me up and told me that he had booked tickets to and from Hampi. I later asked him about the schedule and he mentioned that the bus would depart from Anand Rao Circle at 11:15 pm. I left home at around 8:30 pm, hoping to reach at around 10:30 pm. My estimate was pretty close. After wading through Bangalore’s Saturday traffic, I reached there at around 10:35 pm. It took me a while to find out the travel agency’s office where we were supposed to report and asked the travel agent at the counter about our Hampi bus at 11:15 pm.
‘There is no bus at 11:15 pm,’ he said and followed it up with some sentences in Kannada that I did not fully comprehend.
I called Mogit up and explained the scenario. He checked the ticket and broke the news that he had misread the timings. It was scheduled at 10:30 pm! On explaining the scenario, the travel agent almost scolded me. He went on rambling about things like, ‘we should have reported at 10:15 pm’, etc. etc. Mogit was still at least 30 minutes away. And Bangalore traffic wasn’t being kind to him.
The travel agent told me various pick-up points that I could target in order to catch the bus. I realised that I had to let it go and not chase after the bus at various pick-up points. I would rather wait for Mogit. We could then take some collective decision.
Mogit made it at 11:13 pm. He would have barely made that hypothetical bus at 11:15 pm. We enquired at various travel agencies at Anand Rao Circle about buses leaving from Bangalore and realised that there wasn’t much chance of getting on a bus – any bus. We were ready to board any bus and get out of the city.
I remembered that there was one time we had travelled through the Western Ghats at odd hours on KSRTC buses. That gave me an idea. If we could walk to KSRTC bus stop at Majestic, we could practically go anywhere. Let’s say that the thought process payed off along with a generous dosage of coincidence from Lady Luck. Just as we were about to enter the bus stand, I spotted a bus with its board spelling Hosapete in Kannada. Hosapete is like 12 or 15 kms from Hampi.
By the time we reached Hosapete, it was 8:00 am the next morning. We got in an auto that dropped us at Hampi for 180 rupees.
Hampi island is just across the river
Hampi is an old town. It’s mostly the remains of the Vijayanagara Kingdom that draws the crowd. That’s only one half of the demographic that visits this place. Here is a good account of that half from one of my friends. The other pulse of Hampi is in its hippie culture that thrives on the other side (north) of the river. People call it Hampi island although the place is technically not an island.
Both of us were hungry. We entered the first restaurant that we spotted. It was either called Funky Monkey or Funky and Monkey. Little did we know that this would not be the last time that we would find establishments that weren’t sure of their own names. (Take for example, a restaurant called Ever Green Restaurant. They had Every Green Restaurant printed on their menu cards.)
I gulped down some expensive aloo parathas while Mogit satisfied himself with Funky Breakfast on the menu. After the long distance cycling last day, I was very hungry.
A lot of kids sell a standard Hampi guide book (map included) along with postcards. We did not buy any but were able to strike up a conversation with many of these kids. One of the kids misread Mogit’s book for a Urdu book (He was learning Urdu at his madarsa).
We used our greedy algorithm to get hold of a room at Funky Monkey itself for 250 rupees. It was a bamboo and clay house with thatched roof. These are the kind of houses I had back in my paternal village, while growing up. Nowadays, such houses aren’t visible.
A bike to roam around
One can rent a motorbike or a cycle to roam around Hampi island. The cycles are mostly BSOs. Since Mogit knew how to ride a motorbike, we hired one for 250 rupees. The guy also sold a litre of petrol for 95 rupees. (We later filled two more litres for just 65 rupees a litre.)
We went around and visited quite some places on this side of the river (Tungabhadra). Tourists are not allowed to take the motorbike on the otherside. This is because the local guides and auto rickshaw unions have banned rented bikes on the southern side of Tungabhadra river for their own economic benefit (monopoly).
I think it was me who did not wan’t to go around the ruins. We just drove around to interesting places. The great Hanuman temple with its sunset point was also on the way. We postponed it till sunset and decided to visit the Pampa Sarovar, Anegundi and Sanapur reservoir.
An afternoon interjected by sudden bursts of downpour
On our way to Sanapur, we encountered a sudden downpur. This was the first of many we would be encountering throughout the afternoon. We tried our best to stop at tea shops. We were successful only once!
We were headed towards Hosapete reservoir. It is one of the largest dams on Tungabhadra river. The distance was about 25 km from Sanapur. We rode first on a state highway and then on the National highway. Little did we know that we would eventually exit Hampi via this route the next day.
We walked quite a bit. The lack of vegetation or shelter along the shores was a concern since the rains interrupted our walk at least thrice. In the end, we took the same road back to Hampi island.
We had plans of trekking up the Hanuman mandir but the rains foiled our plans.
Food, beverages and weed
Hampi island fashions itself like a mini Kasol. The food is mostly geared towards foreigners. The menus for all of the restaurants look identical. The restaurants also use a floor based sitting arrangement – something that I had experienced at Jim Morrison’s Cafe at Kasol. However, unlike the awesome Israeli food back in Kasol, most places serve some derivative of Italian food. There are a few that excel though. One of them is Gouthami German Bakery. Their pizzas were especially good.
These places are frequented by people who want to spend hours making a joint and sharing that with their mates. I don’t think that Hampi offers such a wide array of cannabis by-products like its elder brother up North. Still, it’s a place that people can opt for in order to experience an extended period of hedonism.
Our 70th Independence Day
Mogit and me crossed the river with the intention to visit a few places in Hampi. Quickly, we discarded that idea. It was hot outside and we couldn’t find a way of renting a motorbike. The guides and the bicycle rentals were too expensive and we could not negotiate a good deal.Maybe that’s for another time. Mogit mentioned that when he had visited Hampi earlier, he had not set foot on Hampi island. He had explored the southern area on motorbike. He also mentioned that the restaurants that flanked the sides of the river had all been demolished and relocated.
Hampi had decorated itself in tri-colour – right from stickers, to badges, to full fledged flags. Almost all two wheelers had our National Flag mounted on it. Although I appreciated the intent, the guys riding these bikes were being reckless.
A guy at a teashop explained that these kids would go on creating a ruckus throughout the day, drink at night and create some more ruckus. Many would fall into some gutter and a few would die. He said all of this in a very serious tone and then asked us if we needed some cannabis.
A Catalanian guy, who was staying at Funky Monkey, had earlier asked us about various routes to Kerala. We found him taking photographs of bikers while they were busy dancing and creating a ruckus in general. The idea of their photos being taken by a foreign photographer added fuel to their fire.
Our intention was to take the same road we had ridden the last day and reach Hosapete – only this time on a bus. I was ready to waste a few hours at Hosapete than miss our reserved bus a second time. Our luck was on our side. We had to switch buses at a place called Huligi and there was no delay. As a result, we reached Hosapet at 4:00 pm. We had 7 hours to spare!
Wasting time in Hosapete
On our way to the KSRTC bus stand in Hosapete, I had seen a banner advertising IBACO ice creams. We already had so much tea and coffee that Mogit thought it was an excellent idea. While eating the ice creams, Mogit asked if we could watch a movie.
As luck would have it, we had 30 mins before the show started and the theatre was 15 mins away. It was after a long time that I watched a movie on a single screen. The whistles and hooting all formed an integral part of the Dolby 7.1 surround sound.
After some heavy meal at an upmarket restaurant, we walked around the town. I clicked quite a few low-light, long exposure shots.
The SRE Travels route 333 bus from Hosapete to Bangalore left exactly at 11:15 pm. We did not miss it this time.