“...when you give yourself to
places, they give you yourself back …new places offer up new thoughts, new
possibilities. Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the
mind and walking travels both terrains.”
Those words by Rebecca Solnit aptly describe my experience while
travelling through Hampi and Chikmagalur in January earlier this year!
Karnataka as it turns out has scored a hat trick on the do-nothing
scoreboard for me. My first solo trip was to an obscure beach called Trasi
109 km from Mangalore – in October 2012. My last do-nothing trip was to Gokarna
in October 2014 and I returned to the state with somewhat of a similar agenda
in January 2016!
That I hadn’t struck Hampi off my travel bucket-list yet has continued
to raise many a proverbial eyebrow - indicative of my travel style I would like
to think! So for the first time, I was learning and taking in from people who’d
already been there than being the one doling suggestions out. And yet, not the
kind to put together a day-to-day itinerary, I only booked my accommodation as
well bus and train tickets prior to setting off.
|Waiting to take a tiny motorized boat (no, not a coracle) to the other side, onward to the ruins | Hampi, Karnataka (India)|
I chose The White Elephant
as my abode for the 5 days I would spend in boulder-land. The place is run by an
enterprising and enthusiastic, Moin who will keep you enraptured with his stories.
A repeated and disappointing theme that emerged from my conversations with him
was about the difficult-ness of Indian tourists! It was saddening because I’d heard
this one too often.
|Anegundi town | Karnataka, India|
|The restaurant sit-out at The White Elephant | Hampi, Karnataka (India)|
Located on the Anegundi side of the River Tungabhadra, it’s far away
from the maddening crowds and the mosquitoes! The restaurant sit out is perfect
to simply read, write or drift with your thoughts – which is all of what I did.
The magic of boulder-land is that you can pick any corner – be it across the
field, the river herself or the many boulders – and find yourself at home with
Now Hampi is incomplete without you zooming around on a bicycle – so I had ‘Leher’ to keep me company, in spite of the blistering heat. Because there’s something beautiful about feeling the wind in your face in a carbon-footprint-free manner!
I cannot have a post about Hampi without any reference to the ruins. I
did visit the ruins – much of the adventure was in walking close to 10
kilometers simply because I love to walk. And though I love losing myself
time-traveling through history whilst visiting monuments, I barely spent more
than 2 hours exploring the nooks and crannies of temple land! It was a bit too crowded for my liking.
I, as it would
seem, evidently chose to marvel at the rocks over the ruins. Because there’s something
for everyone at Hampi!
|At the ruins - Monolithic Bull (top), view from the Matunga Hills side (bottom left) and the Virupaksha Temple (bottom right) | Hampi, Karnataka (India)|
I’d like to believe that I upped my adventure quotient with this trip.
Because the day I departed Hampi for Chikmagalur, I was taking a bus at 23:00
hours – this is stuff that I otherwise would have categorised under ‘daredevilry’.
And it wasn’t anything of that sort because KSRTC has excellent physical
infrastructure and in spite of the language barrier, the staff at the bus stand were
Chikmagalur is the kind of place you retreat to, to refuel your soul. And
if you thought I’d had my fair share of that in Hampi, realise that Chikmagalur
only made me greedier! Known as the coffee-land of Karnataka, my arrival that
morning threw my brain off in a tizzy as it tried to acclimatise the rest of my
body from the 30 degree C of Hampi to the 15 degree C of Chikmagalur! Empty
stomached, barely prepared to be swaddled up and dirty from the overnight
journey, I arrived in the presence of mist covered landscapes and the
twitterati of real birds at Gonakal
– a 400 year old home in the midst of nature’s abundance.
|The entrance to Gonakal Homestay | Chikmagalur, Karnataka (India)|
|What's not to love about a view like this in the Nilgiris? | Chikmagalur, Karnataka (India)|
From chatting up with my hosts learning among other things how the
temperature even at the peak of summer is barely more than 25 degree C to
enjoying my time soaking it up in Nature’s company, Chikmagalur was the balm
for my soul!
I’d had quite the internal journey in the months leading up to this
trip making a modest yet honest attempt at figuring out the place I wanted to
occupy in the world – especially in the light of having quit my job a year ago.
I now had the luxury of charting my own course because some of the more
difficult steps had been taken. And yet it wasn’t as easy as that. Sometimes to
truly break the old cycle, you have to deep dive into the recesses of your own
being (more on this journey in a later post)! And having been through some of that, in
Chikmagalur I found something stable. In hindsight, because that deep diving
only continued in the weeks after Chikmagalur, the epiphanies I’d penned back
then served as an anchor on the days (and nights) when the waters seemed tempestuous
At Gonakal, I was blessed with some good company in the form of other guests
at the property (this was a different kind of new for me) and with whom it was an excellent exchange of
ideas, thoughts, opinions and feelings about places, people and culture in a
country like India.
Upping my adventure quotient continued through the trip with my bus
out of Chikmagalur departing at 00:45 hours and where somewhere closer to 1 AM I
had this comical scenario pan itself out with a bus driver, bus conductor, bus
depot in-charge and a few others roped in into this conversation about whether
or not theirs was the bus I was supposed to be seated on. You see, KSRTC had sent me an SMS with the supposed the details - except that the Bus Conductor’s
phone number was nothing but ten zeroes (which the bus conductor took real
offence to. I mean, come to think of it he was reduced to a non-entity. Or so
he thought! Internet booking is a sham, he concluded) and the bus’s
registration number on the text was incorrect. Long story short, instead of
being the slightest bit paranoid at almost being left deserted in the dead of
the night in small and quiet Chikmagalur, I was amazed at just how calm I felt.
And that has also begun to be my overall disposition towards life!
|...Just like that, calmness ensued | Chikmagalur, Karnataka (India)|
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P.P.S: This is my attempt to move away from writing about places but more about the effect places have had on me. For the former, there are guide-books I reckon! But I'd love to hear what you think about this shift. More personal or more factual - what's your preference?