Saturday, January 30, 2010

The monkies stand for honesty

Picture the opening scene of 2001, A Space Odyssey amid some bizarre Aztec-like ruins with a backdrop of the Flinstones’ Bedrock and you come close to getting a picture of what Hampi is like. It’s an incredible landscape of gigantic boulders peppered with never ending ruins of temples and palaces. It’s heaven for anybody who likes to wander off on their own to discover. Even though it attracts a large amount of domestic and international tourists it’s incredibly easy to get away from the hoards by bike or on foot and find your own private ruins to uncover. And in Hampi town itself there is always more than enough going on in the bazaar if you are growing tired of old broken down buildings. For example we began one day by getting blessed by Lakshmie the elephant. If you put a rupee in her trunk she passes it over your head to fill you with good will or good luck or whatever it is that holy elephants wish for humans. In most probability the only thing she is wishing is to be left alone.

Along with the usual menagerie found on any Indian street, Hampi also had the most mosquitoes. We were averaging six newly discovered bites each day. Almost as ubiquitous as the mossies were the monkeys. I never get tired of seeing them no matter how many I’ve come across now. The novelty hasn’t worn off remotely. Would you like to see the monkey temple? a rickshaw driver called out to us one afternoon as we strolled along a road in Hampi. What a silly question I thought to myself. I mean who wouldn’t want to see a monkey temple? Before we knew it we were out in the countryside climbing six hundred steps on a very steep hill lined with all kinds of monkeys. Sometimes I had to wonder as the monkeys patiently watched the tourists throw bananas at them and then take photo upon photo squealing in delight every time a baby monkey wandered by – just which of us are the real monkey here?

After three days we reckoned we had seen just about every monkey and every ruin there was in a 20 mile radius. While trying to figure out how best to spend our last few hours there we decided to sit by the river and lap up the sun. We gazed down at the usual scene of people washing themselves and their laundry. All of a sudden we spotted six elephants having their own baths right then and there amidst the usual daily life of the Hampi locals. Next to all chores being performed by humans the elephants just walked about and were being washed themselves. It was truly a stunning sight! Before we knew it it was time to leave. India had found its own perfect way to keep us entertained, bemused and in awe before it was time to start travelling again.


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