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IN SEARCH OF OUR SOULS AMIDST THE RUINS - HAMPI

January 31, 2011

This was a story long due. A plan made during one of those innumerous coffee sessions on idyllic evenings and the journey experience as beautiful as a tale in itself, it was asking to be shared. But like everyone, the ways of world caught up with me and it was the ending of my MBA and joining my chocolate venture.

 The trip to Hampi was memorable in more than one ways. To begin with, it was the sheer magic of the place. There is something about Hampi that one cannot, however much intended, sum in words. The place is to experience for. Every place in Hampi has a story to tell, a piece of rich history to reveal.

 

So in this quest we left, 7 of us on 6 bikes. Chiranth and Shruti were riding together on one bike and the rest of us, Kaushik, Chetan, Pops, Satvik and me on our bulls. As scheduled, the start was lateJ. Satvik and Chetan were to join us on Tumkur road coffee day as they had some work to finish. We were leaving on Friday afternoon and our route map was to reach Sira on NH4, turn right towards Bellary and reach Hampi. We had a roaring start, all bulls serviced and all riders excited about the journey.

 It was a peaceful ride and we rode in tandem, with the sun setting and the skies displaying all hues of red and orange. We left the NH4 road and got on to the state highway that was to lead us to Bellary. The temperature was dipping and the air getting chillier as we rode on. None of us were prepared for this as we knew that Hampi was hot and we were just wearing our riding jackets. We took a few stops for chai and some real spicy bajji’s that we found on our way to keep ourselves warm and awake.

 

Thanks to the cold and a slight exhaustion due to the single lane riding, the inevitable happened. A slight error of judgment and aided by the ever helpful Indian villagers, we were asked to take the next right to go to Hampi. Now, we did not exactly go off course, but definitely we were not on the path we had decided upon when we left Bangalore. So began our great midnight adventure.

 We crossed through many villages, on pothole ridden roads. It being night did not really help our journey. At one point we even crossed a small reserve forest. Satvik and Chetan claimed that they saw something from the Cat family cross the road. The whole group itself had split itself into smaller groups with Kaushik, Chetan and Satvik ahead and Pops, Chiranth and me at the back. Finally we had our last chai stop sometime bang in the middle of the night. We stopped, sipped some hot chai, relaxed our nerves and with renewed vigor were ready to take on the last 80 kms to Hampi.

 

It was a true test after that. We crossed through some mining area, and the constant movement of trucks and lorries and the mountain of dust that suddenly descended upon was extremely testing considering the time of the night but our grit and determination to reach Hampi (if it sounds filmy, it probably is J) finally brought us to Tungabhadra Dam circle.

 But then there is something about the bullet that makes any journey a ride to love. The constant thump, the ride experience rises above all, drowning the road conditions, the tiredness et al.

 

It was another 50 kms or so of off roading and riding through country roads before we reached Virupapura Gadde or Hippies Island (I know the name sounds trippy) on the other side of the Tungabhadra river. Not many words were spoken upon reaching our resort, Mowgli’s resort – Satvik’s choice. We retired into our respective cottages, nursing sore derrieres from what was a long off roading track.

 

Hampi was the culture capital during Vijayanagara Empires. There is something truly fascinating about the place which has to be experienced. This became evident the moment we got up and came out to the common area of our resorts for our morning cup of coffee. The resort overlooked green paddy fields and at some distance was Tungabhadra River. All around us were small hillocks and one could see the ruins and the temples at a distance on the other side of the river.

 To give you a perspective, Hampi city with its main temple and the ruins is located right next to the Tungabhadra River. It’s a small busting place with all activities centered on the main Virupaksha temple that stood majestically tall. On the other side of the river is Virupapura Gadde or hippies island which can be accessed either through a 5 minute coracle ride across the river or a 1 hr long round about ride on land.

 

We were in no particular hurry to get anywhere. The delicious breakfast at the resort was a welcome sight. We had a wide array of choices ranging from North Indian parathas to European and continental menu to choose from. Each of us tucked in large portions of whatever delicacies that were available and got ready to explore the city on the other side.

 We crossed the river in a small boat which was filled to the brim. The flow of the river next to the town was moderate and it was easier to cross on the boat without much circus. On the other side of the river, a huge crowd welcomed us. Large number of people from neighboring villages and towns and some from far had congregated to celebrate and take part in the famous Hampi festival. Hampi festival, a practice that dates backs to the king’s times is an event to celebrate the culture and the art of the land. The famous stone chariot is paraded and special puja done at the Virupaksha temple. There is a cultural show in the night where music and dance take centre stage, enthralling the crowds in the backdrop of the timeless ruins.

 

We had lunch at a place called Mango Tree. This place needs a special mention because of the ambience it had to offer. Set in a small banana plantation, it’s an eating joint around a huge mango tree. With stone benches and jute mats, it offers a unique dining experience overlooking the river. After a heavy lunch, we set out to experience and explore the ruins of Hampi.

 The ruins in Hampi have a story to tell. In their own silent way, they transport you into a different time and space. Nothing here is too much in the face. The stone ruins stand, majestic in their outlook. One takes time, but it slowly starts sinking in and you start appreciating the beauty of it. In its own subtle way, it’s a reference of the grandeur once this place boasted of.

 

The huge crowds which were unruly to the point of being rude was a bit of a damp for us, but then it no where took away the whole experience Hampi had to offer. However banal the whole routine seems like about visiting places of archeological interests such as Hampi, one will not miss the story that these ruins here in Hampi have to offer.

 All this exploring and being lost in the beauty and grandeur of the place got us to the evening of the day. That we had to walk back another 3-4 kms back to the city to catch a boat ride back to our resorts was not comforting. We walked in a hurried fashion to reach back soon, but the inevitable happened. Upon reaching the place we were told that the boat rides stop at 6 in the evening and it was already around 8. We were told that the only way to get to the other side now is to take a public road transport that goes around another 40kms to reach the place. It was at this time that “The Great Indian illegal coracle ride” was planned. Like all bikers around the world, we knew that there is always a way around these kind of things. It just needs a bit of hearing around to do, making the right noises at right places. Going in public transport was out of question. So off went Pops and Chiranth in hope of searching for an alternative arrangement. And in no time, we had struck gold. A small coracle owner had agreed to take the 7 of us in his coracle across the river at a certain distance away in an isolated spot. We were joined by another traveler who was left stranded just like us.

 

 So with 10-12 people in that small coracle began our small but adventurous coracle ride. We had to keep a low profile in order not to attract much attention. The coracle itself moves in a very funny way. Unlike a boat which cuts the river and moves straight, the coracle makes its way by going in circular motions. So one does not get the feel of going in the direction that one is supposed to, and feels much longer than what is on a boat. Nevertheless it was a memorable experience that would go down in my book in the unforgettable section.

 

Tired and exhausted by our entire exploring we retired into the night, sharing and trading stories about each other’s lives.

The ride back is usually uneventful as the destination indicates the return to the routine life that we all are always ready to escape. However, our ride to Bangalore from Hampi was anything but uneventful. We started out early in the morning the next day towards our journey back. Again missing out on the road we had planned to take, we ended up riding on nonexistent roads for more than 2-3 hours. The scorching sun provided no respite making it even harder. It was truly a test of nerves. After a lot of negotiating with the bad roads, we finally hit the good stretch of roads. It was already afternoon and the sun was in all its glory.

 By evening, we had reached the place where we were to join back NH4 and head towards Tumkur and then Bangalore. At the crossing where we took at left to join NH4, we realized that Kaushik was left behind. We stopped at the next chai shop and waited for him. 30 mins and we still did not see him anywhere. Our constant calling him yielded no results. Finally we got a call and got to know that he had taken a wrong turn at the junction and had proceeded towards Tumkur on the main road, while we were waiting for him on the service road. It was decided that he would reach the coffee day near Tumkur and wait for us. So we started again and hit the high way, hoping to make it to Bangalore before night.

 

A little distance and Pops’ bike had a puncture. We lost some more time in taking the tyre to the nearest puncture place to get it repaired. We called Kaushik and updated him with the situation. He decided to ride on to Bangalore from there. Chiranth and Shruti also left for Bangalore as it was getting late for them. So Satvik and I waited for Pops and Chetan to get back and start our journey back home. Once they came we left for Bangalore and it was almost 8 in the night and it had slowly started getting cold.

 Just before Tumkur, Chetan and Satvik who were riding ahead started going faster. I was right behind them and started to increase my speed too, in the knowledge that Pops was right behind me. Suddenly I found out that I had lost Chetan and Satvik in the traffic much ahead of me and Pops was not exactly behind me. This was one of the most testing times for me on the ride. The test itself came not from the road, or the traffic or the ride related difficulties but from the fellow beings on the road.


Since the time I have started riding the bull, I have been receiving lot of encouragement from lot of them. But then there are also a certain section of men on roads, who for some reason feel challenged by a woman riding a bike, especially a bullet. And in their bid to ascertain ill perceived supremacy, they resort to all kinds of monkey business on roads.

 The bit of lone riding with the challenged section of drivers on NH4, and the cold had started to take a bit of toll on me. The increasing traffic as we approached Bangalore was not a help at all. However, again, it was the sheer resolve to complete the journey on a high note that egged me going. Satvik and Chetan had stopped at some distance ahead and together we waited for Pops also to join us. From them on, we rode back together, taking the NECE road to reach our respective homes for a happy ending.

 Hampi trip was a memorable experience for a lot of reasons. Other than the spiritual experience Hampi has to offer, the ride itself was a challenge. The lost ways, the bad roads, not knowing where we were going, and that sometimes bang in the middle of the night, riders losing their way, and my encounter with the certain section of ill informed drivers on the ride back – all of these make the perfect recipe for a unforgettable experience. What stood out and still does is the sheer determination of every rider not to let any obstacle or difficulty hamper our joy of riding and in that our bulls stood with us the most.

 

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