We arrived in Hospet on an overnight train from Bangalore, and then took a rikshaw to Hampi. We were going to take the local bus, but got chatting to a rikshaw driver and decided we'd splurge on a rikshaw - it was R100 (AUD 1.83). He asked us if we had a place to stay and we said we didn't so he suggested a guesthouse and we decided to take a look. The room was nice, clean, and we managed to bargain to a really good price (R350 AUD6.41). We got settled in and had a quick look around the town - it's extremely tourist friendly and easy to get around on foot. After stopping for a quick breakfast we headed to the police station to report our arrival (all foreign visitors have to) and had a wander around the ruins that surround the town.
The landscape is incredible - a mix of dry, earthy desert with giant boulders,ruins, and lush green palms. We hiked to the top of a huge boulder, and climbed up onto one of the ruins and plonked ourselves down - and we sat for ages taking in the landscape. But you could sit there for hours and still not believe that this incredible place exists. We then wandered to the other side of town to explore the ghats before heading back to town for dinner. A couple that we met in The Andaman Islands recommended The Mango Tree, and headed off to find it. After wandering along the ghats, and through a banana plantation we bumped into a local woman who explained to us that the government shut down the restaurant because it was built on government land and the owners couldn't afford to pay the bakeesh (bribe) to keep it open. India! They'd re-located into the town so we headed back and found it. If you're going to try it (and you should because it's great food!) try to go there when it's quiet. We tended to head to restaurants that were busy (because it's less likely you'll end up with a tummy bug if they're serving freshly cooked food) but this one was just too busy. The kind of too busy that just makes you not enjoy it. After dinner we headed back to our room to relax, write postcards, and because we were told that it wasn't safe to be out too long after dark by locals.
We'd arranged with Anja (the rikshaw driver) to do a tour of Hampi, so the next morning he picked us up and we took off in his rikshaw to explore the ruins, temples and incredible landscape. It was one of my favourite days in India. He took us to every ruin in Hampi (we literally saw everything on the map!) and let us wander around until our hearts were content. We explored old temples, royal baths, and clambered over boulder after boulder stopping to pick frangapani flowers and drink fresh sugar cane juice (amazing!) with lemon (even more amazing!). At the end of the day Anja took us to sunset point, and incredible temple built on top of one of the highest boulders in Hampi. When we arrived there was a couple of travellers feeding bananas to monkeys (as suggested by their guide - thumbs up!) and they handed us a couple of bananas to give to the cheeky little monkeys. We ran out of bananas so headed inside the temple - where religious song rings out twenty four hours a day - and out over some boulders to what felt like the edge of a cliff. The guides quickly scrambled over the boulders, but it took us a little longer (I was wearing havianas too - highly impractical for boulder climbing!) but we managed eventually. And then we watched the sun go down on this incredible landscape, and the moon rise behind us. If you're ever in Hampi I'd look up Anja and ask him if he's free to zoom you around the ruins. He's a friendly, fun local who, having grown up in Hampi, knows alot about the area, knows alot of the local street kids and their tricks, and speaks a bunch of different languages - and is always happy to be taught more. He's a fair guy too - for a full day tour we paid R800 (AUD 14.64). You'll find him (or his uncle or one of his friends) at the internet cafe.
We headed back to town to our favourite restaurant - we ate at one restaurant the whole three days we were there because the food was great and the juices and smoothies were super refreshing - for a lazy dinner, before a quick cold shower and bed.
The next morning we were up early and headed down to the ghats to see the temple elephant - Lakshmi - take her morning bath. She plodded her way down the steps to the river, and spent a couple of minutes splashing around playing with stray pieces of laundry. I avoided the temple elephants as it made me angry and upset to see the elephants - standing in a cramped temple, taking money and bonking people on the head, feet in chains, all day. It was nice to know that Lakshmi got a little time in the morning to enjoy herself in the river - and she looked as if she was actually smiling.
We headed back to our room to pack up and check out. We headed to our favourite restaurant for breakfast, and spent the rest of our day lazing around, reading, and sipping on fresh juice until it was time to hop on a sleeper bus (a bus with beds instead of seats) to Goa.