Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Blog when you can

I have finally got around to starting this blog. It was beginning to be more work not to start a blog; typing out the the same information four times explaining where I am and what I've been doing to family and friends was not a very productive way to spend my time in internet cafes, as the Rupees clock up and the time creeps on.

Kavi digs into an excellent thali
Kavitah must take full credit for the blog title (and I can't wait to read her 'come look my blog!'). 'Eat when you can' (/drink/sleep/insert indulgence here when you can) has been our mantra over the past few weeks, and I have been taking the 'eat' part of it very seriously indeed. The food has been incredible throughout my time in India, but whilst I've been travelling over the past 3 weeks I've shunned curry a little in favour of more Western comfort food, particularly whilst I've been ill this week. Whilst on Raleigh we got the best of authentic, rural, South Indian food: the mighty thali, the delicious dhosa, and the brilliant parotha, amongst others. My taste buds have manned up to the spice and I've forgotten what meat tastes like (and don't really miss it).

Retrospectively, not wearing a helmet was a bad choice
Now I'm well and truly on the tourist trail these kind of foods are more difficult to find and far less genuine, and by that I mean what Indians actually eat away from the tourist centres. Some of the best curries I've had have been in tiny dhabas in the middle of nowhere whilst trekking in Kerala, which look about as clean as the streets they sit on (i.e, rank) but they serve up a fantastic egg curry for a little over 40p a go.

Sadly I've had an extremely dodgy stomach over the past few days and my calorie intake has mostly come from rather dry toast and bananas. I've managed a pancake today which is a huge achievement!

I write this from Hampi, or Vijayanagar, the ruined 'City of Victory', a once great Empire which has been left to fall into an awful state of repair, leaving the ruins looking far older than their 500 years. For me, the prime attraction in Hampi has been the landscape the ruins sit amongst. The whole site is a surreal moonscape of giant boulders, hills made from these boulders and strange rocks precariously balanced upon each other. I spent the first 3 days looking at the inside of my wooden hut,  due to the combination of a hideous cold and the unsettled stomach. Finally I made it out on Monday, and we had a great day, hiring mopeds and whizzing around the backroads, soaking up the atmosphere, and climbing up what seemed like hundred of steps to the Hanuman temple (monkey god) from where there was a spectacular panorama of the whole of Hampi.

My rubbish camera doesn't do it justice at all.
We went inside, got a blessing (the ubiquitous red dot - or in this case a huge stripe - on the forehead) ate some sugar, sniffed and wafted some incense and listened to a woman in a very bright saree sing/wail what must be some sort of holy chant or song. I think Hinduism is even more confusing than Buddhism and most of the time I have literally no idea what is going on in any of these ceremonies.

On the way down (and up) we were followed and hassled for pens and water by a huge gaggle of school children who had quite literally arrived by the truckload. As in, an open back truck, crammed with kids, all stood up. Oh India. And this very cheeky monkey.

That day we waved goodbye to Amy, who was heading off to Mumbai, and the next day Kavitah also left us to return to Bangalore to meet her friend. Yesterday morning we got up early to see Lakshmi, the temple elephant, being washed in the river which separates Viru (where I'm staying) and Hampi Bazaar, and then had a wander amongst the weird landscape to the Vitthala temple and had much fun taking photos. Sadly there's not much in the way of information provided by any kind of signage, and so it's up to you to imagine why the ruins are there. Or you could fork out for a guide, or, as I hope to do tomorrow, hire a moped and dirve the the archeological museum. then it's time to move on, on again to Mumbai, which I'm sure will be in every way the absolute antithesis of Hampi. Exciting, nerve-wracking, bizarre, frustrating and brilliant - as India always is.

Generic ruins

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