Rockin’ Like the Flintstones
After the fondest of farewells to our friends and our home over the past month, we hopped on the back of Nikky and Deepak’s bikes to head to the bus station. Armed with well wishes we boarded an overnight sleeper bus for Hampi. Squeezing into our small, shared cabin we got an initial feeling of claustrophobia. The advertised ac was not very powerful and the beds were slightly too small for us, creating a stifling environment that made breathing fresh air seem impossible. However, as the bus got moving, the ac and plummeting night temperature cooled the bus down and we found ourselves fast asleep, oblivious to the hundreds of kilometers that we traveled.
Waking up and looking outside our tiny windows, we caught our first glimpse of the prehistoric rocks Hampi is famous for. Large boulders stacked on top of one another extend up into the skyline, arousing the desire to climb of many an adventurer.
As the bus pulled up to the station, we unloaded our bags and watched as the police held back a throng of rickshaw drivers and kids trying to sell postcards to us, the lucky first customers of the morning. With a shout they swarmed forward as we walked down the road shouting “No thank you!” to the endless line of Indians trying to court our business. Immediately, the Virupashka temple became visible in the distance with intricate carvings extending all the way to the top. Hampi is famous for its ancient temples and we decided to trek around and see what it had in store.
After scoping out some temples, we had to scratch the climbing itch. Ascending a group of rocks on a hilltop overlooking the main temple, we ran into a family of monkeys who watched our every move. The sight of the boulders and valleys surrounding us conjured images of dinosaurs roaming in our minds. Feeling like the Flintstones, we trekked around to view some more ruins and take on some more climbs.
Spotting a large set of rocks in the distance with a small altar at the very top, we decided to make reaching the altar our goal. Hiking through banana plantations, we passed by an ancient water temple and resisted the urge to combat the sun by jumping in the holy water. After a solid 30 minute trek, we reached the base of our climb.
The beginning of the climb started out smoothly with good handholds and rocks without too sharp of an incline. The higher we got, the more the native monkeys seemed to be taunting us. One particular monkey with a black face and a big white bushy beard stayed a few rocks above us, watching our progress (and probably laughing every time we had to brush away dried monkey shit from our next holds).
Arriving at a much steeper rock, we realized the only way up was to transverse the side of the rock using a small crack to hug ourselves into the rock face and shimmy across. Mindful of the death drop below, Gabe got frisky with the rock and made his way to where the crack turned vertical. After a few minutes of route deducing, he powered his way on top of the rock and I took my turn. With a deep breath to calm my pumping heart, I made the journey with a helping hand from Gabe (with my ribs still not 100% I couldn’t extend fully with my left hand and was grateful for Gabe’s assistance.)
Ascending the next couple of boulders we came to a heartbreaking dead end. In order to go any higher, we would have to dino (full out jump and grab onto the top of the rock with both hands) to the boulder above with a fatal drop taunting us. Meditating on the risk/rewards of continuing our climb, we decided that falling was not the type of stoned we would want to be on a Saturday afternoon and reluctantly headed back.
Our conversation with death was not over yet though. Staring at the crack we used earlier to ascend, knowing that one slip would write a death sentence, we said a silent prayer. Gabe made the painstakingly slow descent first, pausing for a solid two minutes to figure out the best holds. After multiple huge exhales, grunts, and “Wooo!”’s, Gabe found himself safely to the other side.
Knowing that I wouldn’t have a helping hand for support on the way down, I saw a tiny crack in the rock face that would allow me to skip the treacherous beginning of the descent. My boots were able to fit through the crack with barely 3 inches to spare as I slowly wiggled my body between the two rocks. Halfway through, my left arm got pinned against my side and I was literally stuck between a rock and a hard place. I pushed off the far wall with my right foot to get the extra space to slide my arm through. Hunching down in the crevice, I was thankful for the few kilos I had lost while in the hospital. Making our way back down the rocky mountain with a fresh respect for life, we trekked some more and made our way back to our guesthouse.
Ravenous from climbing all day, we set out for the Mango Tree upon many local’s recommendation. The restaurant overlooks the small river separating the two sides of Hampi and has an amazing view of the prehistoric landscape. A spicy, local thali filled our bellies for a mere 80 rupees and was washed down with some rich banana cream rice pudding. Afterwards we made our way back to the guesthouse for some night roof yoga and fell asleep while watching Arsenal lose at a local hangout. With the staff awakening us for closing, we groggily made our way back to our rooms for some much needed sleep.