Yesterday I hired a scooter to get around the immense boulder strewn landscape of Hampi. I've never driven a motorbike or scooter before, but with the immense scale of the site, the quite roads, a little encouragement and the exhaustion of cycling around in 30°C the day before, I decided to hire one... with hindsight, two wheels was a must as Hampi is simply massive, with many archeological sites several miles apart.
So I visited one of the many shops in Hampi hiring scooters and was met by a nice chap who, on my enquiry, replied; No problems sir, no license, no helmet, no paperwork, no problem sir ! Only 100 rupees for the day (thats about £1.30). I asked about a helmet ? "If you want, you must buy yourself sir! " I asked about the Police ? "No police will stop tourists sir, you can be sure". I can only assume there is a element of tolerance to provide this trade in Hampi, or ever Backsheesh from the shopkeepers ? I met Andrea's who from Cape Town and had previously hired a scooter in Goa. In Goa, he was regularly stopped by the police to check that his license was covered for scooters (which it isn't), each time the cop was looking for Backsheesh ... apparently the cops even use backsheesh to get posted to Goa as they will make plenty more from checking up on the tourists.
In its heyday Hampi must have been impressive. A passing Portuguese chronicler was astonished by its size, wealth, markets full of silk & gems, ornate palaces and fanatical festivals. Hampi was abandoned about 450 years ago when a confederacy of muslim force from surrounding states were drawn into battle. I wondered around the various sites and the place felt very special. While the stonework used for construction is not as impressive as the Inca's (The Inca's at Machu Pichu used much greater tolerances and fitted stones on all fours sides), the amount of stonework and the intricate carvings in the temples was impressive to see. This place is a hidden gem, not nearly as famous as Ankor Wat or Machu Picchu, but it should be !
One evening, I climbed up to the Hanuman Temple, for a sunset. It was a great place to watch the sunset over Hampi while listening to Brahman chanting in the background. Hanuman being the monkey god, there were allot of Monkeys about, which expect to be fed as for Hindu's its an auspicious thing to do. The monkeys came a little to close for my liking. I'm glad to have had my Rabies inoculation.
I stayed in Virupapuragadda, which is a river crossing by boat or coracle from Hampi Bazaar. Its great to see coracles still in use and being used to carry all sorts of stuff including motorbikes. Viru was a great chill-out place, and with it being so close to Goa it sees allot of backpackers traffic. I would have really liked to spend a much longer time relaxing in Hampi, however I needed to head for Goa to visit a couple of old friends before they return to the UK for the summer. The only thing I won't miss is the Rickshaw drivers, who run a cartel in Hampi. A journey from Hospet to Hampi is 70 rupees, however the journey from Hampi to Hospet is a 200+ Rupee journey. I tried to negotiate a way round the cartel, but it holds.
I've now been on the road for three weeks and I feel that i've finally got into the swing of traveling and have adjusted to this new way of life. Its good to be away from any semblance of work, instead just sitting back and observing the world around me. I really enjoy watching the world go by on Trains and Buses. Its Sarah's Birthday on Tuesday ... make sure to send her best wishes in Dahab - I am looking forward to Sarah joining me in Beijing
I may return to Hampi on this trip. Its a special place.