Monday, February 8, 2010

Hampi, India

Curious Monkey Checking Out His Reflection in Sashwa's Camera Lens
Ahhh Hampi. It deserves that big sigh of relief!

We’d been craving small villages, landscapes of endless boulders, sunrises filled with “epicness”, banana trees and the sound of bugs at night; a chilled out sort of place, and interesting backpackers to chatter with. We got all of this here in Hampi, a town full of ruins and mini temples tucked into unexpected places. We arrived to a bathing party in a glistening river. A small boat was waiting to take us to a series of bungalows overlooking rice paddies and the grandest boulder fields I’ve ever seen.

“Yep we’ll stay five days,” Sash and I said, both eager for a decent hammock.  

View From Hampi "Home"
 
We acquainted ourselves with two new friends from England who became our exploring partners all week. Durian is about to go to school for writing, and Heather is a free spirit traveling by herself and containing awesome stories about encounters with sharks – of course I liked them both immediately!

Hampi is a natural splendor. We caught both sunset and sunrise with our friends Durian and Heather. Every sandstone colored rock screamed “Climb me!”  

Sunset Pleasure
Goats and water buffalo were taking midday soaks. We walked for miles to a reservoir and through village after village being chased down by young kids. People are so friendly in the country; as curious about us as we are about them.

Hampi will make you feel famous. I was a bona fide Angelina Jolie just about everywhere I went. The kids here eagerly surround tourists in herds of 20+ wanting to be in a photo, and they are about as sweet and adorable as children come. With the exception of one teenage boy, who went in for a boob-grab while having his friend take a picture of us. I shrunk away in horror; my first lesson in fame – let the boys take a picture with me, but don’t let them put their arm around me! 

The little girls are my favorite - bright eyes and smiles. Ready to tell you how beautiful they think you are when it’s really them who are so stunning. The idea of beauty here is as twisted as it is in the States. It is the grass is always greener sort of mindset. The way we idealize too thin in the US, it seems, is the way women in India strive for light skin. Fairness Cream is a hot seller in the beauty shops. I’ve read that being “too dark” can inhibit a girl's chances for a decent arranged marriage. Yet it is the darkness of these girls skin and the beauty of their black eyes, the softness of their face without make-up that really makes them beautiful to me.  

And then there was Babaji.

Sometimes you meet sadhus trading pictures for rupees, and sometimes you meet the real thing. They say that in India you are supposed to look for guru’s in everyone, that they will surprise you and sometimes be the man sweeping the floors beneath your feet, or any number of gurus in unrecognizable or recognizable clothing. We found Babaji on the side of the road under the shade of a tree. Of course I asked him for his picture. Usually people here want to see themselves when you take their picture, but Babaji waved off my attempt like it was only a hassle. This made me curious, and when he caught up with us walking I took full opportunity of picking my new friend Babaji’s mind.

When he found out we were from America, he said, “I would like to go to the bottom of the Grand Canyon someday and dip in the river, because it is the deepest river on earth.”

We like the idea of running into Babaji at the base of the Grand Canyon someday.

As we walked Babaji spoke about the monkey god Hanuman. He described his next pilgrimage to Haridwar for the Kumba Mela, and talked about the full moon in March. Then a few stacked motorcycles road by (they let tourists rent motorcycles here – very scary), and one of the boys on the back gave an eager wave to Babaji and a thumbs up.

“Funny people come here,” he said with a laugh and a shake of his head.

Temple Ruins in Hampi 
 

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