Drive 1, Episode 2
We left Bangalore at around noon on 19th.. Both Adi and I had interviews scheduled for that morning and we eventually decided to dump our prospective employers. After a short stopover at Kamat near Dobbespet Coffee Day, we drove almost non-stop till Hospet. Kishan had taken over the wheel for a short stint between Sira and Chitradurga on AH 47 (old NH 4) and I must say, he did a decent job. The training from the previous week had helped.
We took a deviation towards Hospet just after Chitradurga and hit Mangalore – Sholapur highway (old NH-13). The road between Chitradurga and Hospet is a standard 2-lane national highway and is good in most parts, however, it is infested with trucks. The sheer number of trucks made me take over the wheel and the drive was a bit frustrating because of the slow moving truck traffic. We pulled aside for some snaps and then stopped at a dhaba just before Hospet. The drive from Chitradurga to Hospet had taken more time than what I had estimated and hence we couldn’t make it to Hampi before sunset. So I decided that we’ll stop at a dhaba and wait there till the sun sets.
The dhaba was an authentic Rajasthani dhaba with cots laid out in the front-yard. Since the Sholapur highway eventually leads to the northern states and is a key link to move cargo, it carries a huge number of tricks which also means you can find a large number of authentic dhabas on the route. We ordered ourselves roti, dal and chai while the sun was setting behind the many boulders around the place.
We left the dhaba around half past six and waded through the traffic even as the sight of large industrial chimneys and lights signalled that Hospet was approaching. A few minutes past Jindal’s Aluminium plant, a pair of 200-odd metre long invites you to the prosperous city of Hospet. The tunnel, the clover leaf switchover past the tunnel where NH 13 and NH 63 merge, and the wide 4-laned, well-lit highway left us awestruck. The city of Hospet is also predominantly well maintained with good roads. The effect of tourism on this city is quite evident everywhere with its streets dotted with some big retail brands and decently big hotels.
A half an hour drive from Hospet brings you to Hampi. Since we were driving at night we missed many a boards that would have led us to Hampi. Our dependence on mapping apps over intuition and intelligence took us to the backyard of Virupaksha Temple in Hampi. The gates there were closed and we had to find the right ones. A large arch made of sandstone, wide enough to allow one vehicle at a time, welcomed us to Hampi. As we descended the winding curves just past the arch, the Virupaksha temple complex and the temple street unveiled themselves to us and so did the modern-yet-ugly markets outside the temple complex.
We were asked by the guy from homestay to park the vehicle in the new market area and take his autorickshaw to his property. I was quite concerned with doing such a thing as there wasn’t any paid-parking system or any security for the vehicles parked there. This guy, who later introduced himself as Vinay, asked me to just believe it will stay safe there. We moved the luggage from my jeep to his ‘auto’ and then we all headed towards the homestay. We first hit the main “Car Street” of Virupaksha temple.
On one side of the temple there were rocks and many small temples and on the other side I could see well-lit stalls and huts. Our rickshaw took us through the latter side of the temple and I realized this was the only place near the temple that was inhabited by people. This side of the temple is on the banks of the river Tungabhadra and is dotted with homestays, shops and restaurants for the tourists. It’s a small locality with narrow streets. There were a few houses here and there inhabited by the locals. This was the old village of Hampi – smartly converted into a thriving tourist centre. “Firangs” were more in numbers here compared to the locals. Locals were speaking fairly fluent English. Shops selling Indian handicrafts as well as tourist essentials crammed themselves between dimly lit restaurants. The place looked like a Goan flea market.
A thin, 5 ft 7 in tall, dark complexioned guy with a well maintained beard welcomed us to Thilak Homestay’s non-A/C property. The fellow introduced himself as “Kishore” in a thickly-accented-but-fluent English and showed us our rooms. He gave us some details about the place and about what we can do the next morning. We realized we had run out of cash and that the nearest ATM was 5kms away. We didn’t have sufficient money to buy us a fulfilling dinner even. Kishore pointed us to a restaurant of his and told us we can drop his name so that the fellow who runs the restaurant allows us to pay later.
We had our dinner at “Chill Out Rooftop Restaurant”. The restaurant has a dim ambience that goes well with the general laid-back feel of the entire village. The restaurant offers two types of seating – one provides regular plastic tables and chairs and the other provides diwan beds around stone slabs on the floor. Most international tourists prefer the diwan beds as the section is colourful and more comfortable apart from providing an earthly experience. We chose the plastic chairs and ordered ourselves a pretty heavy dinner. While Kishan and I chose “Chapati with Green Salad and Hummus” and “Pasta – Al Arabbiata” with tomato juice as supplement, Praveen opted for “Lemon Rice” and Adi went ahead with “Pasta – Al Arabbiata”. It must be said that the restaurants in Hampi offer wider choice of cuisines and are much better than the swanky glass enclosures of urban India. The dishes are prepared with a lot of love and care here and taste very authentic. From English breakfast to Israeli to French to Italian to Indian… Name it and you’ll get it.
We came back to our room by 10 and I sat with my laptop to write this blog. I logged into Facebook and saw a post by Srinath Krishnan upfront. He was having dinner at a restaurant called Mango Tree Hampi!
To be continued..
Featured Image: On the way to Hampi on NH-13 P.C. Kishan Simha