I was travelling from the bustling capital of Hyderabad down to Goa in the west and was expecting numerous temples, history and plenty of food – standard for India!
For me, the best day of the trip was discovering the ruins at Hampi, an ancient capital city in the south Indian state of Karnataka. This site was the ancient capital of the Vijayanagar Kings, the largest Hindu empire in Indian history. We began with the Virupaksha Temple, ornately carved in the typical south Indian style and set in a fairly open space with the distinctive boulders that dot the Hampi landscape. It was amazing and that was just the start of it!
We explored a few of the main temples and then, instead of taking a bus to the next site with everyone else, we followed a small path down to the riverside and walked. The route was so peaceful; just us and a few locals and the odd herd of goats! We stopped to buy fresh coconuts from a small stall and sat in the shade rehydrating and relaxing.
We walked about two kilometres on very easy terrain, following the river all the time so there was no chance of getting lost. We hopped in to tuk tuks and went for lunch – a tiny spot, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, which served the most amazing thali (a large plate of taster dishes, popular in the south)including a local recipe for banana flower curry that we were still talking about days later.
If I was forced to pick a favourite temple then it would be the Lotus Mahal, a two-story, ornate gem set in beautiful, peaceful gardens. But the elephant stables and the statue of Narasimha are a close second.
As sunset approached we made our way to a viewpoint to spend time reflecting on what we’d seen. As we turned a corner we were greeted by two locals dressed up as the god Hanuman and doing a very good job of acting out being a monkey. It was a great way to end the day as they posed for our photos and we laughed at how scarily realistic they were. For me, it summed up the way that the unexpected parts of the trip are often the ones that leave the lasting memories.
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