Temples, trains, buses and A-holes to Bangalore

It took the strength of Hercules, or in India, Ram to wrench myself away from Goa and get on the road again, but i did it with the very untraveller aid of a taxi to get me to the train station for an early morning start into the historical heart of Karnataka, Hampi.A lush train journey from palm fringed beach, travelling under waterfalls in the mountains to the flat farming plains of Karnataka.
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Hampi, described as magical, must-go and fascinating have been ruputed to keep many a traveller here for weeks instead of days…. Whilst it was a nice place, I struggle to be that effusive…The ruins are pretty interesting but I’m a tough cookie to please and they just didn’t have that wow factor I’d been sold by just about everybody else. Everywhere you turn there’s signs telling foreigners to be careful of themselves and their belongings, making you feel non-too safe, despite it apparently being the work of one man many years ago…

I did however ride a bicycle for the first time in about 15 years, 3km’s each way doesn’t seem that far but it is when you’re wobbling all over the place on a rickety bike with one gear and a slack chain. Follow that with a 600 stair climb at almost midday and you’re pretty red in the face. I also tried driving a moped, but I couldn’t turn it… non too useful, so back seat driving it is for me!

The higlight of Hampi for me was watching Lakshmi have a bath, don’t worry I haven’t turned voyeur, Lakshmi is the temple’s resident elephant, handing blessing out to the cheesemakers for the price of a banana or the ubiquitos 1 rupee. The blessing in the river gets super charged into a shower, to the delight of the devout adult and shock of the offered child.

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Feeling like a nicer environment and a nicer town I headed to Badami… which is actually pretty much a town surrounding a big bus station with some cave temples tacked on the side.

Visited the pretty impressive cave temples in the afternoon, amazing statues and carvings and a scramble up the side of a mountain with some kids to find an un-lonely-planet discovered temple and sit on top of the mountain overlooking Badami town. Feeling slightly tainted by the by the turn to money by the kids and each asking for more than what I already said I wasn’t going to give, I had a powernap, ate an all you can eat veg Thali for 15 pence and had a beer in my room.

Vishnu booting out a demon and carrying an awful lot of artillery

The following day I spent some time in Aihole, nope that’s not pronounced A-hole but ayeholay. Along with Pattadakal, visited later that day, a testing bed for Southern-Indian architecture and some pretty fine temples and carvings.

Nearly stranded there for 5 hours I jumped in the back of a private taxi, going nowhere for half an hour until I agreed to pay 50 rupees instead of the standard 7 and travelled up front with the driver. Worth all 40 pence of
it as he slowed for me to take photographs of the local farmers harvesting their corn crops. They use the road, it being a conveniently flat expansive surface in close proximity to their land, seperating the cobs from the stalks, the corn from the cobs, drying the corn, grinding it and then drying the corn-less husks – animal feed?

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Onto Pattadakal, a world heritage site and I’m therefore exthorted 250 rupees! But it’s admittedly pretty amazing, so what the hell.

Feeling a little templed out but with just a couple left to go I hike up to the hill fort and temples of Badami for some lush views where the noise of the city travels up eerily to the top of the mountain.

Almost stranded again I’m misinformed by the guest house that there’s a bus every half hour to Gadag where I catch my pre-reserved night train to Bangalore. Instead helped along by Bhagya, my guardian angel of gadag, i spend 4 hours going cross country and screeching into Gadag 5 mins before the train leaves.

Relax on the train with a nice family, bemoaning my request for bottom berth has transformed into the top one, and then being blessedly thankful when the drunks come out of the wood work trying to paw the foreign whore. Bags chained up for peace of mind I try and ipod it to sleep but am disturbed by the commuters who can only speak to each other at shouting level next to my head.

But the morning brings with it Bangalore, civilisation! A firm and even mattress and pillow, coffee latte, ATM’s, Internet, shops and friendly faces from home!

Felt kinda wrong sitting in oh so posh holiday-in-the-med restaurant eating pizza, but damn it was good. Enjoyed the splurge, although we weren’t so keen about having to drink Fosters by their refusal to acknowledge they’re in India and stock kingfisher. Good chatting to Zoe, sharing India stories and not having to do the whole ‘where do you come from’, ‘how long have you been in india’, ‘where have you been’ routine for a while.

And then I’ve been sat in an internet cafe for most of the day, interspersed with latte, idly, somosas and parota.

But having fulfilled my duty to update all those people pining for me back home…. I am now going to have some more coffee, check out a bollywood movie at the cinema and get ready for my night bus to Madurai.

No access to Internet and therefore, shock, horror, facebook until I emerge re-purified from the Ashram and head up to Pondicherry.

So my preciousisses, text me, i’m charged up and should go the distance without running out!

Love to you all

Em x

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