Hampi, once the capital of Southern India, is also known as the City of Ruins. Dating back as early as 100AD, this is an extremely sacred place in India. In search of some epic temples, we headed to Hampi through a vast range of transportation: two buses, one train, and two tuktuk (auto-rickshaw) rides. Not to mention that the train ride involved me riding in the overhead luggage rack for 3 hours while Mikaela was crammed on a bench seat with 4 other people and a baby. However, having only paid 2 dollars for the both of us we weren't complaining!!! In the end we found ourselves surrounded by a boulder strewn landscape with massive temple ruins on every horizon.
We spent five days in this small little town, walking miles and miles each day exploring some of the most amazing places thus far on the trip. Some of our favorite Hindu temples and sights included the Vittaya Temple (it’s columns being intricately carved unique instruments making various tones for which they were played on like drums), the Hanuman temple (the monkey god’s rumored birthplace atop one of the highest hills, ironically riddled with hundreds of monkeys) and the gorgeous river which divided the city into two sides.
The number of temples that were built in such a small area was really a sight to behold, some of which we wound up staring awestruck, unable to believe its existence and the amount of work put into their creation. With a nearly endless supply of granite, the kings took advantage of what the land had to offer and were lucky to have such talented sculptors at their disposal. The history of this place has had crazy twists and turns from total annihilation in the late 1400’s to being colonized and rebuilt by the British, some 500 years later.
Once we had our fill of Hampi, we couldn't help but feel the urge to press onwards to Mysore, to finally get into a big city for a change! The train ride was pretty un-eventful this time around having booked sleeper class tickets with beds after finding out it was a 10 hour ride and thinking of the luggage rack incident! We arrived at 8 am and finding a hotel was priority number one. After taking a nice long nap we decided to hit the town and explore the sights of the new intimidating city. It didn't take us long to meet new local friends whom were so eager to strike up a conversation and show us around town for no cost, just wanting to have a conversation in English. Later we found out that the locals have deals made with certain shops, receiving up to 50 percent commission for any items sold!
We eventually met a local yoga student named Ali, whom seemed to stand out from the rest. We decided to tour around town for a day with him and his brother-in-law for next to nothing. This made us a little apprehensive at first due to the low price, but we didn't want to miss out on a good time either. It ended up being a pretty amazing day which involved us visiting museums, traveling to some local mountain top temples, going into some pretty shady areas of town to see local beedie (natural cigarettes made from a eucalyptus leaf and tobacco) and handicraft manufacturing, and me driving the tuk-tuk! After the tour was over we said our goodbyes expecting some kind of catch, but in the end nothing else was said. What an amazing tour for such a cheap price! The next couple days passed in a blur and were spent wandering the endless streets of the city, shopping, trying new cuisines, and spending nearly a full day at the surprisingly impressive Mysore Zoo. With our time in India coming to a close, we wanted to see as much as possible before leaving for good, so yet again we packed our bags and set off on the open road.
Pondicherry (Pondi) was a short and sweet stop for us which lasted 4 days. We stayed in the city’s well known French quarter right against the ocean. Like Mysore it was filled with small hand craft textile shops, which we took full advantage of and ended up filling our backpacks over the brim! But a quick trip to the post office cured our overflowing backpack problem, which was a huge relief. Twenty minutes north of Pondi was a really unique International city called Auroville, known for its progress in sustainable living. Without going into the 40 year history of Auroville, I will say that is was truly a spectacular feat what has been accomplished in the last forty years. What was once an empty desolate desert region, now looks like a well deserved tropical paradise after planting 1.5 million trees. The Matramandir (a huge spherical structure) is the city center bringing in most of the tourism to its visitor center. For our last day in India we took a SPECTACULAR cooking class, where we went to the local market and hand picked all the fruits and vegetables for the meal we were preparing. Two hours later we were feasting on rice, eggplant curry, potato curry and a lentil soup dish called dhal, with a cashew and raisin dessert sweet.
All in all it is impossible to put into words how much we enjoyed ourselves in India and were sad to leave such a misunderstood area on earth. It's not as intimidating as we once thought and 99% of the people ended up being more friendly than back home! That being said we also wish we would've had more time to explore the north because it seemed like everyone had great things to say about it. Maybe next time! With a short 2 hour plane ride, we say goodbye to India and hello to Sri Lanka!