This January, amidst a college reunion, catching up with family, photo walks and lunches with friends in different cities, a cousin’s wedding, I found a tiny window of opportunity to make a road trip to Hampi, Karnataka, with my dad.
For our accommodation, I booked the very promising Hampis Boulders Resort, which does not have a street address simply because it is located over and around boulders, along the river Tungabhadra, about 20km from the town of Hampi with all its monuments. It’s best to download google map directions and trust them to take you to the right place, coz there’s no signage on the nearest street either. We had an 8-hour drive from Kolhapur, including a short lunch break. Our last 500m took us through rice paddies and unmarked rocks to the main gate of the resort, that had Baba reaching for his sketchbook and pen even before we could check in.
One of the staff at the resort kindly offered to take me on a hike to see the landscape at sunset, while Baba enjoyed his cup of tea.
A 20-minute skipping over and crouching under rocks of all forms and sizes, I clambered onto a vantage point for my reward.
Boulders, rocks and pebbles as far as the eye could see.
The legend of Ramayana has it that the landscape is “bouldered” as a result of the intense fighting between Vali and Sugreeva for the monkey kingdom of Kishkinda, in which the two hurled these rocks at each other. A nice nugget that connects myth with present-day reality.
Then I caught a glimpse of the ancient Virupaksha Temple in the distance, catching the rays of the setting sun.
I had great plans for golden hour photography, little knowing that this was the last of the sun that we would get during our visit.
Baba tried his best to talk me out of a pre-dawn climb of the Anjanadri Betta, the birthplace of Hanuman, for a sunrise view of Hampi. Our driver, Mr Himmat, was convinced I was crazy, the main gate was locked, with the watchman missing, but after a bit of anxious honking and a prayer, it all came together, and we were on our way to the hill, a short ride away, before 5am.
I was the first person that morning to get to the hill, and started climbing the steps in darkness, with a little help from the phone flashlight. 600 steps is not a sprint for me, and I would pause every 50-60 steps, but squeals from the blackness would spur me on. I did NOT want to encounter rats, or snakes, or even humans at that point, because some locations are sacred and cursing or swearing is not recommended at all.
The temple at the top of the hill was floodlit, and inhabited by a large family of monkeys that I did not want to disturb. So I found a large rocky spot to set up the tripod and waited for the sun. A number of people came up over the next hour, all eager sun-worshippers.
We were all in for a colossal disappointment, because as the day dawned, we saw the overcast sky, with no hope for sunshine.
As a consolation, the kind folks at the resort had kept my breakfast warm, and I feasted on idlis and upma before setting out for a tour of the monuments.