iExperience | Courting Solitude in Hampi and Chikmagalur

“...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 yourself.

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!

Okay, so I have met and made these new friends but I don't know their names :-/ Any help will be much much appreciated. TIA! Photo: Hampi, Karnataka (India) | January 2016 #birds #birdsofinstagram #Hampi #karnataka #solotravel #indiapictures #india #indiatravel #ig_karnataka #indiaphotosociety #travelwithnikon #nikonindiaofficial #nikonforever #nikonp610 #travelstoke #bbctravel #lonelyplanetindia #nature #getoutside #see #incredibleindia #_soi #photooftheday #picoftheday #featherfriends #HaveFeetWillTravel
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And somedays when you're allowed to spoil yourself, you multitask! Or at least that's what I did today. Read, wrote, let idle thoughts take over, stayed distracted by the Internet and of course gazed at the boulders ...none of which required me to move one bit. That's the good life, I say! Photo: Hampi, Karnataka (India) | January 2016 #Hampi #karnataka #india #indiatravel #solotravel #photooftheday #picoftheday #donothing #be #travelgram #instatravel #instagood #instamood #ig_karnataka #wanderlust #getoutside #boulder #reading #bookstagram #writing #writersofinstagram #writesofig #whyiwander #nikonindiaofficial #travelwithnikon #nikonp610 #nikonphotography #thinking #indiapictures #HaveFeetWillTravel
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Because when in Hampi, you cycle... . I had 'Leher' for company yesterday. Makes me want to look forward to the next couple of days as I idle about between my thoughts, some writing and some more cycling! . This is my kind of start to 2016 ;) . . Photo: Hampi, Karnataka (India) | January 2016 . . #Hampi #karnataka #ig_karnataka #India #indiatravel #travelgram #instatravel #wanderlust #solotravel #cycle #cycling #ruins #temples #architecture #ig_captures #india_gram #indiaphotosociety #travelstoke #lonelyplanetindia #bbctravel #nikonphotography #nikonindia #nikonp610 #donothing #getoutside #dream #write #amwriting #writersofinstagram #HaveFeetWillTravel
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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 quite helpful.

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 Homestay – 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!

"Instead of sitting and reading, you should have taken the local bus to some of the local sights!" Meet Mr. Gowda My homestay host in Chikamagalur. His is a 350 year old heritage home on a 40 acre property of coffee bean and spice plantations. At a little over 60 years, he is far more fit and agile than folks less than half his age. He is a man content with his family (which includes 4 dogs). And while he was most curious about me disappearing into the nearby thicket when not reading (instead of taking that bus to check out temples and what-not in the vicinity), he didn't let that limit the scope of our conversations. We had somewhat similar interests: he despises cities and pigeons with intense fervour! It was naturally then quite heartwarming to eavesdrop as he spoke to his wife and neighbour about me in Kannada; for in spite of the language barrier I caught one word: धैर्य (Hindi for guts, nerve). It's a word he repeatedly used to describe whatever he understood of my life as a solo traveller! Photo: Chikamagalur (Karnataka, India) | January 2016 #chikamagalur #Karnataka #India #travel #ig_karnataka #homestay #coffeeplantation #spicegarden #solotravel #solotraveler #conversations #wanderlust #freelance #freelancewriter #freelancer #writersofig #writersofinstagram #iwanderwhy #guts #travelgram #bbctravel #lonelyplanetindia #travelstoke #instatravel #blogger #travelblogger #nikonforever #travelwithnikon #HGwanderlust #HaveFeetWillTravel
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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 again.  

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? 

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