Road Trip to Hampi and Another Birthday

Pootle list #28: 3 of 50 roadtrips in India

To celebrate SG’s brother’s birthday, we drove to the the World Heritage site of Hampi, over the weekend. Dotted with ruins from a bygone era nestled among massive boulders that have been carelessly dropped by craggy giants, the landscape in Hampi inspires awe, wonder and flights of fantasy.  A weekend visit soon became a crash course in history, Indian mythology and climbing boulder strewn hills. From being an item on my bucket list, it went onto being yet another place which holds a tiny piece of my heart.

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The lonely ruins of Hampi

Since my ‘to do’ list for this week is a mile long, I asked the Pretend Interviewer (PI), who was insisting on a lowdown, to talk to my 7yo niece – Tadpole – instead. You will know shortly why I call her Tadpole.

PI: Thank you, Ms. Tadpole for the interview. Here is a lollipop (not the type which does mysterious things to your phone, instead one which rots your teeth) for your efforts.

Ms. Tadpole: I have a very clear understanding about bribes. I don’t agree to do a thing without them.

PI: So Ms. Tadpole, you went for a trip with your mom, dad, uncle and aunt down to Hampi. I understand you call your uncle chitappa and aunt, chitti in Tamil.

Ms. Tadpole: Amam, which means yes in the language. I know four and a half languages – English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada and bits of Marathi from my time in Mumbai – and I am learning fractions in school.

PI: That’s 3.5 languages more than I know! Coming back to the topic, how did the weekend begin?

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Homemade spicy potato buns, masala tea, and roadside picnic

Ms. Tadpole: Oh the excitement! It was my dad’s birthday, and we threw him a S-U-R-P-I-S-E. He knew about the trip but not about how chitappa and chitti were coming along and how mom spoke to them already, and how there was going to be C-A-K-E.  I could barely sleep for a week what with keeping the secret and looking forward to the holiday! *toothy grin*

PI: How was the drive over? How many times did you ask ‘Are we there yet?’

Ms. Tadpole: Only babies do that! And I can read the GPS perfectly well. You dodo PI! And besides, I rode half the time in Chitappa’s car and we made up all sorts of silly games. In one, I added up the digits in the number plate of the car in front of us. Do you know Chitti got more sums wrong than I did! *chortling with glee* But she invented a story telling game in which we all contributed a tale in which my pet stuffed fish played a starring role. She told me to tell you that she is quite brilliant and creative.

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Sunset at the Bank of the Tungabhadra

PI: What did you think of the hotel you stayed in?

Ms. Tadpole: The hotel had the world’s bestest swimming pool! My mommy booked the hotel, Hyatt Hampi, especially for me. I L-O-V-E swimming. It was late evening by the time we hit the pool after the long drive, and the adults were being absolute babies about it being soooo cold. I had to tell them to mind their language!

PI: To hear you, the trip was all about birthday cakes and swimming games. What about the actual place, Hampi. What did you make of it?

Ms. Tadpole: We saw all these broken statues of idols and ruins of temples and palaces. Our tour guide uncle told us long tales and gave all the boring history. I kept wandering off trying to find pools of water I could jump in to.

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Virupaksha Temple

PI: Tell us the history as you understood it.

Ms. Tadpole: Many years ago, before my mom was born, before even my granny was born, before my 1100th granny was born (that is how Chitti explained it to me), there lived a very rich king. His family built this entire city. More than 5,00,000 people stayed in it and it was where all the cool stuff happened. Then one day, the neighboring kings ganged up and attacked the poor king and destroyed the city. If you go there you can see all the ruins and hear the stories.

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The sights from Matanga Hil

PI: Your chitti does a round-up of highlights every evening, in which people have to name their favorite bits of the day. What did your dad say?

Ms. Tadpole: My dad loved the hill that we climbed. Called Matanga Hill, it has huge orange colored boulders and scratchy thorny bushes. We trekked up to see the sunset. He liked clicking all the photos, especially of this tree which had soooo many monkeys in it, all black against the pink sky. I could see all the banana trees and the temple from up there.

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Climbing the Matanga Hill

PI: Your mom kept talking about the bazaars, the ruins of which line the road to the main temple.

Ms. Tadpole: Our tour guide uncle told us that they used to sell precious jewels, gold, spices and all manners of things. People from all over the world came to the market and it was always buzzing. My mom even showed me a picture in a guide book of how it may have looked.

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Ruins of the Bazaar; where one could buy everything from jewels, gold and silver, to spices and prostitutes

PI: And why was Chitti touching the walls of the ruins, with her eyes tightly shut?

Ms. Tadpole:  She said she was ‘feeling’. She could not stop talking about how wonderful the water cooled lotus palace was, how it was all so symmetrical and scientific, and how fantastic the gigantic elephant stables were. We made elephant noises while galloping through the stables. The joy!

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Housing eleven elephants, the stables are an example of Hindu, Jain and Islamic architecture

PI: What did Chitappa like? He carried his running shoes.

Ms. Tadpole: He fell in love with the township our hotel was in. A green, well planned town, it even had a lake where I saw ducks in the evening!  Each morning he jogged around the town, and we trotted along. We spotted peacocks one day, and an entire family of mongoose. Tell me, why are two mongooses not called mongeese?!

Chitappa also liked the painting on the ceiling of the temple. Done more than 500 years ago, with dyes made of flowers and fruits, they show scenes from Indian mythology. It was aww-some.

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Entering the Virupaksha Temple
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Lighting lamps inside the Virupaksha Temple

PI: Your family does like their food, we know, spending several hours over every meal. Did you go to Mango Tree, the iconic restaurant in Hampi?

Ms. Tadpole: They had YUM mango drinks. But strange décor. Funny lampshades. And big pictures of Gods hung on one side and my favorite cartoon character on the other wall. Mom said it was all hippy. What does hippy mean?

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Stucco pillars of the Jal Mahal. Cooled by an ingenious system of water lifted to the top of the palace.

PI: Erm *changing the subject* and how did lunch at Mango Tree lead to Chitti’s favorite food memory.

Ms. Tadpole: She ordered the banoffee pie, and SAID she would share.  She ate every little crumb, all by herself.

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Where now squirrels reside

PI: You stayed for such a short while. You did not even see the Vittala temple, with its stone chariot. No coracle ride across the Tungabhadra! No trekking to the waterfall!

Ms. Tadpole: Mom and Dad had to go to work on Monday. And I had school and 2 whole pages of homework to do before.

PS from EP (me). I just realized that I had not included Hampi in my bucket list, an oversight while drawing it up. I have always wanted to visit and it is a definite must do! Hope you go. Feel free to contact me @pootle.list@gmail.com or through the comments for any help.

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