It’s hard to overstate the sublimity and timelessness of Hampi. Geologically inactive for a billion years, the founding mountains wore away leaving their bones strewn helter-skelter. The locals settled here some 2000 years ago and found the crunchy stone boulders a perfect material for constructing hundreds of temples. Juxtaposed with the lush green rice paddies, the temples stand in stark contrast creating the sense of “that which is, shall ever be.” A sleepy backpacker culture meanders amongst the rocks, exploring temples, bouldering serenely in the hazy air, and lining the boulders to face off with sunset each evening, insects incessantly buzzing and chirping. Locals offer mopeds, boat rides, road side juices, and ear cleaning services to both those on and off the “Humus Trail” — a euphemism for the route Israelis travel tribe-like across India.
It wasn’t until the third day of my Delhi-belly in Hampi that a kind Israel let me know the joke of Hampi: you come to Hampi to get sick. Apparently, there’s an amoeba that infiltrates the water making it near impossible to decline intestinal fortitude tests. As much as bouldering appealed to my sense of adventure, the mopeds were the better choice offering speedy access to toilet facilities when I wasn’t sleeping the bug away.
Shannon and I had come to Hampi a few days before the rest of our Gokarna flock was to descend. We did our best to scout out the place in advance, going on a tourist circuit of the main temples in the area, getting swindled into buying old British era coins, and laughing at the locals’ antics. Getting away from the over-plentiful backpackers in Hampi proper, we found ourselves immersed in a languid farming culture. Secluded swimming holes, flat tires, oasis like restaurants, and warm smiles pressed themselves upon us as we putted around the rice paddy fields aimlessly keeping track of time by the movement of the sun. I suppose it’d be more accurate to say the world turned under our feet while we stayed present, ever delighted with its gifts — save the Delhi belly.
Our flock arrived and our solo moped days became a group tour, spearheaded by Vivian, a Spanish/Moroccan woman who’d travelled India for years and knew all the right people and places to visit, which we dutifully did. Then it was time to experience my long dreaded fear: an overnight bus ride with a sloshy gut. I faced it head on during the five-hour journey to Bangalore, on the worst location the bus offered, slipping into an animalistic/zen/out-of-body state to maintain my composure as I mapped all four walls with my body with each loving bounce and turn. Somehow I did and…yes…it was spiritual.