Hubballi—> Koppal. 122km. 5 Feb.
So after a spicy couscous-like breakfast with Vivitt we said our goodbyes and were on the road by 8am.
I can’t really say that it was a boring day as no cycling day in India is ever boring. But there was nothing much to report other than it was a fairly dull straight road with some hills, which were made a lot tougher by a headwind for the entire 122km.
Koppal was the only place with accommodation after Hubbali, which is why we had to do such a long day and we didn’t reach base until 5.15 – tired, sweaty and a bit sunburned as temperatures reached 34 degrees today and I missed a few bits of my legs with the sun cream ! Koppal itself was busy and smelly with quite a few open sewers in the main area so it was a quick dinner and bed early for us. It is obviously a drinking town though as it had the highest concentration of beer shops that we have seen in a long time!
Koppal —> Hampi. 39km. 6 Feb – 8 Feb.
I was pretty exhausted when the alarm went off at 7.30 but as it was a short hop into Hampi it felt manageable so I dragged myself onto the bike and we were off by 8am. The first couple of hours were thoroughly unpleasant – bad single-lane roads full of trucks with lots of dusty roadworks that took us through some very poor areas, and we had kids trying to jump on the bikes as well as lots of people begging for money as we rode past. We did shout at a group of kids when one of them tried to jump on the back of Nigel’s bike and on reflection afterwards we both felt a bit ashamed of ourselves. We were both scared we would get knocked off our bikes which is why we shouted, but they were only kids who were probably excited to see westerners on bikes so shouting was probably not the best thing to do. Mind you about 20 minutes later a boy around 10 shouted “I f**k you” at me, so you just never can tell what the best course of action should be (I didn’t even acknowledge him!).
We turned off the crappy main road and as well as the road miraculously improving so did the scenery. We passed lots of lovely lush paddy fields with rocky backdrops that looked like man-made hills. Our first experience of paddy fields on our trip.
We were heading towards a Couchsurfing host on the outskirts of Hampi and during our morning chai stop we realised we were further than we realised and almost there.
We are generally very grateful for people who are willing to host us on our travels but when we got there before midday we realised it wasn’t for us. The guy runs a cafe with a couple of rooms on the side but basically it was a chill out tent with a few Indian guys lying around smoking dope. Each to their own but it wasn’t for us – especially as it was also on the wrong side of Hampi, which we wanted to explore over a day or so. We made our excuses and left to head to the “ferry” to take us to central Hampi. The ferry turned out to be a small motor boat that can fit 20 people. Our bikes were allowed and thankfully we met a couple of frirmdly travellers to help us haul the bikes on and off and then push up a steep hill on the other side. (Thank you Auriel, Sam, Simon and Abow!)
Abow, the Indian guy at the back of the bike in the photo got chatting to Nigel before we got on the boat and turns out he is a WarmShowers host in northern India where we will pass through on our way to Myanmar – and he invited us to stay. How fortuitous was that?!
We had found accommodation quite easily online so we headed there, unloaded bikes and headed out for lunch before returning for the obligatory afternoon snooze. We were definitely exhausted from yesterday because we slept through to 5.30! Then it was off to explore the magic of Hampi.
Coming into Hampi we had seen lots more westerners than we have seen on our entire trip in India so we were a bit concerned that it was going to be backpacker-central and very touristy, especially having experienced the hippy element across the water. But I have to say it is honestly my favourite place in India to date – in fact would go as far as saying it’s my favourite place of entire our trip so far – it’s absolutely AMAZING!
It’s a temple-tastic UNESCO world heritage site with 3500+ temples (mainly Hindu), stone. ARvings and archeological ruins spread over 16 square miles. It’s set in rocky terrain along the banks of a river with the village built amongst the rocks and boulders. With all the temples there is a lovely energy to the whole place and even if you stayed here for a year we reckon you would still not be able to visit them all – never mind understand their differences!
It is divided into 3 very different zones…the main village area which has lots of temples and ruins in and around, which makes for some great exploring.
About 3 km out there is the Royal Centre, which is huge complex of residencies, ceremony/festival areas, elephant stables and baths.
Then there is the area across the river that we cycled through to get here, which also has temples, a lake and lush fields.
By 1500 AD, Hampi was the world’s second largest medieval-era trading centre after Beijing and a prosperous and wealthy city and neither of us hadn’t even heard of it until Margo mentioned it to us while in Pune – thank you Margo! The city was conquered and destroyed by Muslims in 1565, after which it has remained in ruins.
Despite being quite touristy, the sites are spread out, so it doesn’t feel crowded at all and accommodation and food is surprisingly cheap, but very good. For anyone visiting India we would definitely recommend it – and it’s very accessible from Goa, Bangalore and Hyderabad!