A Hampi Christmas and off to Sri Lanka…

After spending a month in Goa, travelling by sleeper bus to Hampi and waking up (I am not actually sure I went to sleep though to be honest) was like a arriving in a completely different country! The landscape was like something out of the Flintstones, and the local people (who were actually Indian, unlike in Goa where every other person was Russian) were completely amazed by this gaggle of white people getting off the bus looking lost, confused and generally shattered from the luxury travel experience on board the Paolo Travels shit box!

After arriving we were in need of finding somewhere to call home for the 4 nights we had in Hampi, so, after a bit of deliberation based on recommendations and talking to other people on the bus, we decided to head to the other side of the river to a guesthouse / hostel called Goan Corner (we obviously weren’t up for leaving Goa behind just yet!).

To get there we needed to cross the river by ferry (small, very crowded boat with a spluttering outboard motor), which, being India, was not running, so we were offered a lift across in a dodgy looking ‘half coconut’ style boat which the guys at the river claimed could hold 10 people with luggage – bullshit, I thought – but low and behold it did and we made it to the other side safely, and after a 10 minute walk – seemilngly stalking an American girl who mentioned she was going there (some Americans frustrate me – especially when I am tired – so better to slink along behind than attempt awkward conversation) – we made it to Goan Corner!

Our first day in Hampi was a bit hazy due to a severe lack of sleep from the ‘sleeper’ bus, but I am pretty sure we just crossed the river again and checked out the epic temples that lay just on the other side. Whilst exploring Hampi the local people, and Indians who have travelled for holidays in Hampi, make you feel like a bit of a celebrity – asking for photos with them, coming to welcome you and shake your hand, and in some instances asking for autographs.

After a good nights sleep, on day 2 (Christmas Eve) we woke up feeling slightly more real and decided to rent a couple of moped style bikes to go exploring. The bikes we rented, and the bikes everyone drives in Hampi (TVS Heavy Duty), are utter shite. The guy claimed they were 80cc, I called bullshit again, when I got it running it was more like 20cc, but oh well, less likely to crash if you can’t go anywhere fast I suppose. The 20cc beast made light work of the rugged, hilly landscape (I wish), often not making it up the slightest of inclines, so in true Flintstones style, using your feet to push the bike along whilst revving as hard os possible was the only way. They felt like they would conk out at any moment, or just fall apart, and coupled with not starting back up again after reaching somewhere (this is when the locals came in very handy), the bikes were hilariously shit and well worth the rental price of 250 rupees (extortionate Christmas prices!).

Christmas Day was great. In the morning we decided to go up to Hanuman (Hindu monkey god) temple, which was a short drive away. Em’s bike wouldn’t start (shock) so 3 of us piled onto my little piece of shit and trundled off up the bumpy road, climbed the 580 steps and waited for sunrise – which unfortunately never came due to clouds, but the monkeys provided plenty of entertainment. In order to not break tradition too much, afterward getting back to Goan Corner I had a big fry up, and after giving and receiving a few presents with Soph and Em, we headed out to the lake with an Argentinian couple (Santiago and Paula), where you can sunbathe, swim and get stared at by local Indian men – this didn’t bother me, but definitely made the experience a bit more awkward for the girls – especially when a fat Indian man came over with some rice and started to feed and trying to kiss Em! Excellent… The evening was the general drinking and eating affair that Christmas should be, but just sweatier and less family.

On Boxing day we went temple hunting again and ended up getting chauffeured round in a Tuc Tuc by one of the local drivers / touts, who for a few £s each took us to a few different temples on the other (Holy) side of the river. I got a bit templed out by the end of it, to be honest, and there is only so many photos you can have with random Indian people (kids, families, babies – you name it, they all love it) before you just want to go home.

Hampi was stunning. When I thought about what India was like before coming out here, Hampi epitomised those thoughts. Dirt track roads, super friendly people, shit transport, beautiful temples, and pesky wildlife! It was a completely different experience to Goa and one that I would highly recommend.

After another sleeper bus ride from Hampi down to Bangalore (where if it was possible, sleep was even harder to come by than the first bus), we spend the day lingering around Bangalore from 7:30am until 9pm when we had our flight from Bangalore down to Colombo Airport in Sri Lanka. Bangalore was pretty skanky to be honest, lots of shit (literally n most cases) across the roads, too much traffic, and being tired I was in no mood for it all to be honest. We walked around, went to a ‘fun’ science museum – because the national museum was closed – it was a Monday after all! Finally, after saying goodbye to Em who was off to Vietnam, and our flight being delayed for almost an hour were boarded our extremely plush Sri Lankan Airlines flight and kicked back for an hour and a half.

I am now sat in Colombo train station, sitting and waiting to get the train down the coast to Hikkaduwa where we will be spending New Year. So far, after renting a scooter and driving around for hours, Sri Lanka looks incredible. Welcoming people – one restaurant owner sat down with us for half an hour and showed us a map of Sri Lanka and told us all the best places to go – top guy! And the scenery is amazing. It is a like being in India, but slightly more advanced and ever so slightly more expensive – everything is just a bit less budget!

Photos of Hampi and the start of Sri Lanka will come a bit later today…