Hampi Birthday Nicola and Many Bangalore Returns
In my last we had just arrived in Hampi after a night bus… quite a horrid experience. I am now writing soon to arrive in Cochin after another night bus. Another airborne experience but perhaps not as bad. It is a long story why we took another night bus to get here but nonetheless we did.
When we arrived in Hampi, we had booked ourselves at the Ever Green Guesthouse. It had the second highest TripAdvisor reviews. We usually rely on TA for ‘good direction. in this case however, it was only based on 16 reviews. we were less than impressed. the bed was rock hard, the staff seemed more interested in ppartying than working, there was no hot water,… i could go on but you get the picture. we stayed there one night but during the day scoped out another more comfortable place. sai plaza guesthouse was better… but not perfect. it was good enough. the restaurant was decent and comfortable and they showed movies at night.
on our first day in hampi, we rented a scooter and explored our side of the river. the trrainarround Hampi is perhaps one of the most beautiful things about it. a combination of volcanic rock and erosion have left the area looking like boulders that are impossibly balanced upon on another. it is quite amazing.
there are many temples in the area 9we were told there are about 2500 of them0. we drove first to the mMonkey temple. after climbing about 700 steps in scorching heat, we arrived at the temple that was nothing really spectacular. i had however bought a bunch of bananas that made me very popular with the monkeys on the way up. it is always a little scary giving bananas to monkeys because they are impatient and grab and run. and as soon as you give one others come running. if you ever tease them be prepared for hissing and intimidating gestures. nevertheless, it is fun.
we then drove around to a couple of other temples that were quite unimpressive. at one of them, a temple man started following us around and talking to us. before we knew it we were on a tour. we had left our shoes at the bottom of the hill when some lady started gesturing at us to take them off which is quite common at temples. The tour with the temple man lasted about an hour. the problem was without shoes, he took us up into the rocks and climbing around. we saw some of the things we had read about such as the singing rock columns. when you hit them with rocks in different areas they are almost musical. our feet were not made for climbing in the rocks barefoot and Nic had a particularly difficult time with it. at the end of the tour we gave the temple man about 200 rupees and he started arguing that it is 600. nicola started arguing back that he should have told us that before he forced us into a tour. in the end she gave him 100 more and he stormed away.
perhaps the most fun for me that day was driving the scooter. nicola was petrified and was clutching not just my shirt but my skin as well. she was willing me to go different directions with the impalement of her nails in my skin. she did relax a bit in the end but she was not a huge fan. i on the other hand enjoyed driving around in india, albeit a very much quieter par of india. for the day with the scooter including gas was less than $6.
The next day we took the boat across the river. Across the river from where we stayed is an area called Hampi Bazaar. This is the area that is the World Heritage Site. the remains of a very old city mark the area. the mist impressive is the viznayeth temple right across the river from our guesthouse. We wandered in and were immediately asked to come into a government tourist office for a free map. this guy was an official guide and he started describing how we could walk around on our own to see many of the temples. he also talked about some of the other sites that were a little further away. He was organizing a bike tour for the next day which would last four hours and hit all of the main sites. For about $14 for the two of us that included our bike rental and tour. We also mentioned that it was Nicola’s birthday the next day and he offered to pick up a cake.
So, we followed the walking route that he laid out for us. It took us to several places and walking about 3km. We saw the giant bull statue plus several temples and ruins. Some of the temples actually look like they could be in Machu Pichu. At the end of that walking tour was the Vittalla Temple. We had to pay to get into that one but it was the only one. After all of our tour, we took an auto rickshaw back to the main temple. We decided not to go in this time because we still had a couple of days left in Hampi.
January 5th was the next day. It was Nicola’s birthday and we went on a bicycle tour for her birthday. The tour was fun. There was about 16 people on the tour. We were late though and held everyone up. Our guesthouse was incredibly slow in the restaurant. And then we had to wait a while to get a boat across the river. We felt bad but no one seemed too upset. The bikes were nothing special. Chains fell off regularly. At one point both Nicola and another girl’s bikes had broken and they were on the motorcycle with the guide. After about half of the tour, we stopped at one of the temples and sat in a big circle on the lawn. The guide pulled out a birthday cake for Nicola that actually read “Happy Birthday Nicola” on top. Everyone sang. This will definitely be a hard birthday to top. Usually we are driving back to Fort Smith to go back to work on Nicola’s birthday. After the tour, we had lunch and then we bought Nicola a nice printed sheet that she wants to use for our bed… perhaps more as a bed cover than a sheet. Then we went into Viznayath. There is a temple elephant that blesses people for 10 rupees. Nicola got blessed for her birthday.
The bike tour was good. We saw many more temples and met some nice people. After the tour and back at our guesthouse we had a couple of beers. We had met a couple of Australian girls, Jess and Rachel, who we taught to play Beans. They enjoyed it I think. All around a great birthday for Nicola. Bike tour, cake, singing, and to top it all of Beans.
For the day after her birthday we laid low most of the day. We did however sort out some of our future travels. We booked accommodations and bought a train ticket from Bangalore to Cochin. We had already bought our ticket from Hampi (Hospet) to Bangalore. We decided on only one night in Bangalore. We would take a night train to Bangalore; spend the day in Bangalore and one night. Then we would take another night train the following day. That would be enough time in Bangalore.
The slow day also gave us the opportunity to catch up on our emails, Facebook, etc. We went up the street to an Israeli restaurant where we ate a falafel wrap. It was tasty. However, I am quite sure now, that the sauce that was on the table made me sick later that night. I was sick for a few days. Four weeks in India and I have been fine. One bad meal and it was all over. I was still able to get up and do things but I felt like I had no energy because my body was not absorbing any nutrients from the food I ate. It just went through me. Once again, Nicola ate the same food and was fine.
On our last day in Hampi we just laid in the hammocks at the guesthouse. I was too weak to do anything else. I did not eat at all that day. I was very worried about our night train. By the time I got on board I was so full of Imodium that I was alright. We took the boat across the river at about 5pm. We ate dinner… I ordered toast that I could not finish. We got an auto rickshaw to take us to Hospet for our train. He found me a pharmacy along the way so I could stock up on Imodium. We were about an hour early for our train.
The train ride was fine. I slept from the moment I got on until early the next morning. In Bangalore, we went right to our hotel. They gave us a room by about 8am. I showered and then we had breakfast. I was still ill but was able to stomach some food.
We went to the Garuda Mall which was only a few minutes walk away. A real mall… how long had it been. We spent the day in the mall. We shopped a little. Ate in the food court. And went to a movie… in English. What a wonderful way to kill a day. Neither of us had any desire to eat Indian food. We basically have been eating it since we were in Nepal and frankly getting tired of it. Especially since I was not feeling well, I wanted comfort food. SUBWAY!!! A six inch turkey sub was like the food of the gods… and I think just what my body needed. We went to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and really enjoyed it. It cost less than $4 each.
We planned to see The Hunger Games the next day at 10 am. We actually bought our ticket a day ahead for it. That movie only cost $2 each. I was so excited to see the Hunger Games. My body was definitely getting better. I was able to eat again. I had Subway again not wanting to mess with the cure that I had convinced myself that it was. Nicola ate some Prawn Samosas. Then we went to Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. This was one of the reasons Nicola wanted to come to Bangalore. We wandered around in the scorching heat enjoying the peacefulness of these large gardens in the middle of this urban sprawl. For some perspective, the population of Bangalore is something like 25 to 30 million (Canada is only about 35 million). Lalbagh is no Buchart Gardens but it was nice. It was very hot though and now neither of us was feeling very well. We took an auto rickshaw back to the Mall.
We had several hours to kill before our night train and so we just hung out in the mall to kill time. At around 4pm however Nicola got sick. Very sick for Nicola. I don’t think I have ever seen her like that. She almost vomited at the food court. We went back to our hotel to pick up our bags but to be honest, I did not think we should go. She was sick and the last thing she should do is subject herself to an Indian toilet on an Indian toilet. I made an executive decision that we were going nowhere. Nic would have gotten on that train on her death bed to avoid losing our $20 train tickets. I made the decision for her. We rebooked ourselves into the Terrace Gardens Guesthouse. Within ten minutes of getting in our room, she vomited for the first time in almost 15 years.
The next day Nic stayed in bed most of the day. She was no longer vomiting but she was definitely still sick. I went out to try to rebook another train ticket. We had planned on one night in Bangalore but that was now stretching to at least two nights… depending on when we could get another train. I found a travel agent however what we did not know was that this was a long weekend and getting a train would be virtually impossible. We had to settle for the dreaded night bus… ugh. The longer we stayed in Bangalore, the less time there would be to see the area of Kerala. We have a flight from Kochi airport in the region of Kerala on January 17th. Originally we had thought about ten or eleven days in Kerala. Now we were down to 7 days depending on bus availability.
We had places in Kerala we wanted to see but would likely just do a few of the highlights. As I booked the bus tickets for the night of January 10th, the travel agent started to talk to me about other things to see and do in Kerala. Before I knew it he was trying to sell me on a car and driver for a week to see the highlights. Day 1 in Cochin (Kochi); day 2 on a houseboat in the backwaters near Allepi; day 4 in Thekkady; day 5 in Munnar; day 6 we fly out of Kochi. I never thought about booking a tour when I left Nic but it was starting to sound good. Six days including our bus tickets, car and driver, hotels including breakfast, houseboat for one day including three meals for the two of us… total was under $600. What I liked about it was it was hitting the highlights of Kerala and sorted out all of our transportation and accommodations. Nothing to do but wake up and go each day.
Executive decision number 2 was a biggie… I booked it without consulting with Nic. She would either be good with it or mad at me. When I got back to the Terrace Gardens she was still in bed. I told her that I had booked a bus and then went on to tell her that we were going on a tour. She thought I was kidding at first but in the end thought that it all sounded good and reasonable. Phew!!!
We would now have another day to spend in Bangalore. We had our night bus on the night of the 11th. Nicola was feeling a bit better after spending three nights in Bangalore instead of the one we had planned. We walked back to the travel agency where we picked up all of our vouchers for our tour. Then we walked up to Commercial Street. It is a big shopping area. Bangalore is a big cosmopolitan city known as the IT capital of India or the Silicon Valley of India. There are some sites to see but frankly neither of us was up to it. Wandering around the shopping area was fine although neither of us wanted to buy anything.
After Commercial Street we walked back to Garuda Mall. We planned to see one more movie before our night bus. This time we saw the Wolf of Wall Street. Following the movie we went to a restaurant and then got a rickshaw to take us to the bus station. This is how I came to be on a night bus to Hampi as I mentioned in the beginning.
Despite planning to stay one day in Bangalore, we stayed three nights… saw three movies… at Subway four times… shopped in the mall for many hours… and saw only one of the sites of Bangalore. Travelling for so long, it is inevitable that we will be sick once in a while. Staying put in Bangalore was what we needed to recuperate.