“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.”
Leisure – William Henry Davies
You could say the trip started the evening before.The excitement in the air was palpable. Printouts of routes taken, last minute shopping done and packing was on at full swing. Our cheerleaders for the trip, Mash and Pai, landed late in the evening to wish us Bon Voyage and of course, to drink for our Health ( what holiday without obeisance to Bacchus!). We loaded the car with what we now recognize as our road trip essentials- the favourite duvet, the favourite pillow and cushion, Games, CD’s, Food and clothes , matching accessories and other sundry stuff to make us feel at home ( read it as half the house).
Leg 1: Mumbai- Hospet
Distance :740 km
The Destination: Hampi
A small village on the banks of the Tungabhadra, filled with relics of a glorious past and a UNESCO heritage site since 1986.
This was once Vijayanagara, the capital of the Vijayanagara empire (1336-1646) established by Harihara and Bukka Raya of Sangama Dynasty . The empire reached its zenith under Krishnadeva Raya and his minister Tenali Rama ,whose tales of wit are still popular today. At its pinnacle, the bazaars of the kingdom were said to overflow with gold and diamonds attracting traders from as far as China, Mongolia and the Middle east .
We set out from Worli at 530 am , Aug 10th on what was promising to turn out to be a rainy day with near zero visibility. Baba volunteered to be driver on the first leg of the journey while I lazily curled up on the side . We inched along the Eastern express way and just as we entered the highly overrated Mumbai- Pune Expressway ( a terrible drive with slow and fast moving vehicles indiscriminately occupying all the available lanes, not to speak of daredevils who weave in left and right) the rain Gods decided to gift us a rain free day. We happily sped along the Ghats, which seemed to have a charm of their own during the monsoons with the hills looking like a carpet of green and impromptu waterfalls on the side of the road . The Ghats soon gave way to the chaos of Pune where there seemed to be no traffic rules!.We continued along the NH4 to reach Satara by 11 am which was our first pit stop for breakfast and to change drivers.
The NH4 which runs from Mumbai to Bangalore is a broad road bypassing all major towns on the way. The Maharashtra side of the road though broad was an uneven stretch (with astronomical toll rates for the quality of roads) .At around 1pm we reached Nipani, the Maharashtra-Karnataka border, from where the drive and the road acquired a magical quality. Being a working day, with very few long distance drivers on the road , we soon fell into a predictable rhythm of changing leads with others , just like migratory birds on a sojourn.
By 3 pm we reached Hubli, where at the tool booth ,we were requested to maintain a speed limit of 30kmph within the town. Buses, cars and bikes in that small town were all following traffic rules and speed limits to the “T” which surprised us !! It showed us what a bit of will can do in reining the chaotic traffic in our towns and cities.
From Hubli, the road became an undivided two lane passing through villages and fields. By 630 pm we reached Hospet, the nearest railway head and where most of the tourists stay for Hampi has food restrictions on travelers- consumption of alcohol and meat is prohibited within the village . It was our destination too for the day and we were ever so happy to see our temporary abode- The Royal Orchid Hospet.
The next morning after resting our tired muscles, we proceeded to Hampi, with its impressive golden brown boulders and temples which can be seen from far.We started our tour with the ruins of the majestic Vithala Temple. The walls of the temple are a poetry in stone with intricate carvings of myths, puranas, geometrical shapes, animals, humans … The outer walls of the temple even features Persian and Mongol Traders! The mandapam by the side of the temple boasts of hollow pillars which when struck emits the notes of an octave.The iconic rathas(chariots) of Hampi too are in this temple.
The Tungabhadra river is just a small walk away from the temple. We ambled along leisurely to the banks of the river where the ruins of the ancient stone bridge still exists. The “anna shaala” and the mandapam where the famous Carnatic music composer Purandaradasa used to conduct his poojas and classes are also on the banks of the river.
The Hazara Rama temple, believed to be the private temple of the Vijayanagara royals was our next destination. The temple is so named for the multitude of panels depicting events from the Ramayana carved on its walls. The compound walls of the temple depict arrays of cavalry, dancing girls and elelphants all reflective of the Navarathri procession of the empire.
We took a break for lunch at the Mango Tree Cafe which is extremely popular among tourists – both domestic and international . The cafe which overlooks the river is an old house which you enter through a shady banana grove . The seating is traditional – diners sit on floor mats and food is served on brass plates placed on low tables. The cool, breezy interiors of the cafe was indeed a welcome break from the hot, blazing sun!
A heavy lunch and some rest later we headed back to the main streets of Hampi – this time to view the famous Ugra Narasimha statue ( the largest statue in Hampi) and the Mustard Ganesha( named after the mustard merchants who contributed to make the idol) .The next place in our itinerary was the palace of Krishnadeva Raya. Most of the palace in now in ruins with just the foundation stones visible though the elephant stables, the Rani’s palace and the palace pond are still intact giving one a glimpse of the pomp and splendor of the palace !
A paucity of time resulted in us having to miss some of the other major landmarks- the Virupaksha and the Achutaraya temples being the notable two of the lot. A whole day sadly, is just not enough to do justice to the majesty of Hampi, though that was all we had…. and then we were off to Bhadra and into the lap of Nature…..