Sunday, September 6, 2015

Rain in the Ruins [Part 3]

Hope you have read Part 1 and Part 2. If yes, we can start the day 3 of our Hampi trip.

We had planned to go to the Daroji Bear Sanctuary on our 3rd day. After an entertaining 2nd day, we obviously requested the same driver to accompany us on our 3rd day. Not that we forced him. He too wanted to be part of our trip for one more day. We had checked the Sanctuary’s opening hours before we came to Hampi and many websites informed us that the Sanctuary opens at 6 AM. We asked the driver to wait for us at the Virupaksha temple around 9 AM and we also asked him what we could do before going to the Sanctuary and he said that we could go to the museum. We weren’t interested in going to the museum, for a simple reason that they are not new to us.

Posing for a camera on a boat

While we were crossing the river in the small boat (read Part 1 if you don’t know what I’m talking about), we saw a huge elephant being bathed by two men. Watching a gigantic mammal being cleaned with stone and water was quite a unique experience. I thought every pet was just bubble bathed like a dog.

Elephant bathing   Elephant enjoying being washed

We asked our driver to take us to a place where we could shop some souvenirs. He took us to one of the Silk Emporiums which sold things at fixed price and that was so much of a relief. The plan was not to buy much but we ended up stocking quite a bit. The shopkeepers showed us the best they had which ranged from Silk stoles to sarees to dress materials.

Silk Emporium at Hampi

We left for the Bear sanctuary after this and reached there around 11 AM. To our surprise (an adventure was the only thing missing till now in this trip), at the gates of the sanctuary, we saw a noticeboard claiming that the opening time was 2PM. But our driver was an ardent follower of “NO Worry, Madam”. He opened the closed gates of the sanctuary (there was no lock just a simple latch), moved the car inside, closed the gates again and started driving the car down the road in the sanctuary. We asked him if he knew the route and he thought we questioned his integrity, so we shut our mouth and watched him and the road. Just to reiterate, we were now travelling inside the sanctuary in our car, looking for Bears or any other wildlife at the ‘wrong’ time. Anyhow, we spotted a lot of peacocks and peahens, lizards, birds, etc. The driver’s constant remark was ‘camera chaaloo rakho, kheench daalo’ (roughly: keep the camera on and shoot even before you spot something). It sounded funny (more so because of his accent) when he said it the first few times but later on we got used to it.

Spot the wild lizard!   Spot the Peacock!   Spot the Peacock!

As there were no cars inside and ours was the only one moving along this trail, we realized that we weren’t doing the right thing (apart from the fact that we had just barged in before the opening time). But we met a few people along the way who seemed to be guiding the driver, so we continued to look out from the windows to spot some bears (as suggested by our driver). We reached the last spot on this trail which was the watch tower (to watch the bears) and our driver brought the car to a halt.

Stones lined up

He asked us to climb the tower and take pictures from the top. We went up and saw cows and goats roaming, grazing and being guided by their herders. It was sad that we couldn’t find any bears. We saw very many caves and imagined that the bears must be sleeping inside them. Adding to our disappointment, the driver said ‘In summers, the bears love to sleep longer. That’s why they have changed the entry time to 2 PM in the noon’. I wanted to say, ‘Why did you bring us inside if you knew this already?’ but I didn’t.

Cows walking

I heard one of the guards of the Sanctuary talking to our driver in Kannada. He was scolding him for getting inside the sanctuary. That’s when I felt that we were in trouble and that we have come inside too far. We got down from the tower. The guard continued to scold the driver in Kannada but our driver gave some curt replies. We apologized on his behalf and started our way back to the entrance. Someone else (a staff/ranger I think, though not in a uniform) stopped our car and asked our driver ‘how he got inside?’. He said that we came here looking for bears but are disappointed that there aren’t any. I wanted to laugh at the driver’s answer but it would have sounded rude to the staff and gotten us into more unnecessary troubles so I apologized and with few mumblings over this encounter, our dear driver drove back to the entrance. He stopped the car at the gate, opened it, drove us out and closed it again. That was the end of our adventure at the Daroji Bear Sanctuary.

Our plan for this day was completed by Noon and we didn’t know how and where to spend the rest of the day. Our driver suggested that we should see the museum, have lunch and then go to see the Tungabhadra dam. As we had nothing else to do, we agreed to what he said. The entry fee for Indian citizens at the museum was almost negligible but they charged 25× for foreigners. I still don’t understand why. (In fact, this was the case at all places in Hampi, Badami & Pattadakal.) The museum had a decent exhibit ranging from a model of Hampi area, photos of different ruins in Hampi (pre- and post- excavation), statues of different rulers of Hampi and gods/goddesses, weapons used by kings and common people, coins used in different times and much more. We sat in the garden outside the museum for a while before heading for lunch.

A model of Hampi

We had not particularly liked our driver’s taste in places he took us for meals yesterday so we were specific about where he should take us today. Luckily, he understood what we preferred and agreed to take us to a very nice restaurant. On the way, he made sure that we ate some sugarcanes freshly cut from the fields. I realized what these multinational organizations have made out of me – weak body and even weaker teeth. As a child in the small town of Kovilpatti (Tamil Nadu, India), I could eat the whole sugarcane (30 cm in length) at one go without any assistance from my Mother (she would still help but that’s another story). It was difficult to chew even 5 cm now. The driver made fun of us but I liked his kindness and caring nature. And so we reached the nice restaurant he had promised. We enjoyed mango (me), butterscotch (Him) and rose (Marcos) milkshakes among other delicacies there. Rose milkshake was apparently new for Marcos and we were happy that we were able to let Marcos taste something ‘unique’ from India.

We started for Tungabhadra dam after this.  We saw red soil everywhere and many sunflower fields too other than the more common paddy and sugarcane fields.

Pink water

The dam was huge but we could only watch it from a distance. We walked along the river-shore or shore of the reservoir created by the dam. He and Marcos discussed Physics and life. They also tried teaching me about Polarization of electromagnetic waves. I still don’t know how much I understood but I appreciate their efforts. Perhaps I will be able to answer some basic questions.

Shore of river Tungabhadra    Stacking stones near the dam

As we still had enough time to catch our train back to Bangalore, we asked our driver to take us to the local market. We roamed around the streets finding nothing buy-worthy and just got inside a small coffee shop. I had my favorite filter coffee along with Him but Marcos had some cold drinks. We absolutely had no idea what to do next. Our driver had been talking about a movie for quite some time so Marcos suggested that perhaps we could watch a movie to kill time. Our driver was overjoyed and agreed to drop us at the theater and leave. We instead asked him to watch the movie with us and drop us to the railway station before leaving us for good. But he said he has already watched this movie and since he’s on this side of the river, he might as well visit some relatives of his. So we bid him good bye and bought the tickets. We entered the old style cinema theater (reminding myself of my younger self) with all our luggage. The movie was ‘ABCD-2’ in 3D. The 3D glasses were not too comfortable but we did enjoy the movie. Marcos could also understand ‘everything’ because the movie was about dancing and the bits other than that were over-expressive acting. We had to leave 30 minutes before the end of the movie though to get to the Railway station and catch our train back to Bangalore.

This last day didn’t turn out to be as planned but it was a lot of fun nonetheless. Maybe we should do this more often. Or maybe not. Who knows? I enjoyed this trip, the sweet company of my co-travellers, the helpful spirit of our auto drivers: Shiva and Raghu, and last but not the least, the adventurous spirit of our taxi driver, Sadiq.

Goodbye Hampi...

Now at the very end of this travel series of 3 posts, we remember you: our dear reader. For following us through these 3 days of our Hampi trip, we leave you with the full album of photos. Enjoy!

... and Goodbye from us!