Monday, January 22, 2007

Monkey Business in Hampi

This weekend we traveled to Hampi in Karnataka, about mid-way between Hyderabad and Bangalore. The site of Hampi is famous for its other-worldly topography and for its gorgeous temples and ancient ruins. The skyline in Hampi is a mix of Martian-red boulders littering the land, and the hazy tropical green foliage of banana and coconut palms that conjure Jurassic images. I half expected to see Taradactos.

When we arrived in Hospet, the gateway town to Hampi, it was 5 AM and the sun was not yet up. We piled into an autorickshaw and made our way, careening through the dark over bumps and jolts, riding a buzzing tin-can with axles, a giddy driver at the helm, far too enthusiastic for the hour. The journey was about 40 minutes, but time passed as in a dream, all at once and in slow motion, with gossamer figures in pale colors emerging from the dark, passing us in a whoosh of air. Through the clatter of bells on passing water buffalo, the barking of dogs, the buzz of other rickshaws humming their way toward Hospet, we made our way to Hampi and arrived before the sun had creasted the horizon.

When we arrived, sleep was only a contingency plan. We had to climb a pile of rocks to see the sunrise. Although weighed down by backpacks, and constrained by the darkness, with an agile, goat-like ability, we mounted the boulders by sunrise. The single headlamp was both our climbing necessity and our excuse for tresspassing, having scaled an 8-foot stone wall.

We rented bicycles and road the dirt paths through a banana plantation. We traversed a river and went bouldering for two hours, only to be rescued by a man in a giant basket after marooning ourselves on the far side of the creek. We received warnings of local crocodiles and bandits, but failed to heed warning in the marsh and were convinced that the only thieves were the monkeys that go after yellow bananas. And we survived. We saw old women shoot at pesky monkeys with sling-shots, and incited a James Brown dance party outside the Hospet trainstation with an iPod and speakers, and considered getting a jungle haircut until divine intervention showed itself in the form of a power blackout. After an exploding cup of yogurt on the inbound train sullied my evening, it was nice to know someone up above was on the lookout.

1 comment:

Jon said...

What is that monkey doing?