The two obvious temples at the center are only a few of the many structures built and carved into the rock valley. Nearly everything is cut from the same light granite. I can say I have never seen a place like this. Nowhere I've been has the look and feel that I had when pulling in. We picked a good place to spend the weekend.
We checked into the hotel we made earlier contact with, guided by Lonely Planet. It's a nice place with a great crew of people. It has a rooftop cafe with a great view right next to the main bizaar. I think that lonely planet needs to publish more frequently. I feel that once Lonley Planet publishes a place their prices get higher by the next season. I don't blame the book. I'm sure these were some of the cheaper good-out-of-the-beaten-path deals last year. In a country that will do anything for an extra rupee it is completely expected that the guest houses use their fame as leverage. There are cheaper deals for half the costs across the river, which we did not get to until our last day to even know it existed. What made the Gopi Guest House the right place to stay was the guys running it.
When going over the scenario of our new years choice I recognize that what we did may have the making for a potentially not-so-safe situation. We spent four hours enjoying the sites in the area upon our initial arrival. The whole time we weighed out what we wanted to do concerning an invitation from some locals to join them out of the town to celebrate the new year. I don't mean to scare my folks so I have to say I thought of all the worst scenarios and our judgement, instinct, and intuition was correct in deciding to join a crew of locals and other travelers four kilometers out into the banana plantation forest.
We joined what would become twelve foreigners to Gopi's land to share the evening. The plan was to go to this place watch the sunset, check out the crocodiles, have a meal together, have a drink (there is no drinking in Hampi proper), play drums and dance around the campfire bringing in 2011... and that is exactly what we did. We made it home safe even though 4-wheeling throughout the mud in a overpacked 3-wheel rickshaws at 3am gave it that some extra spice.
Asiana and our rickshaws shuttle was the first to go out to the plantation and we shared our ride with an adorable and super cool deaf couple. We nodded our headed and three thumbs up at each other smiling as we bumped around on our way towards the site. Once we reached the house where the food was going to be prepared we broke out our notebooks and and chatted up a storm. They were a great couple and were great fun. We were grateful to have started a special evening with a special couple. He was from California and she was from Sweden joining their long distance relationship in India.
There was a Frenchman and a French Canadian, a couple from Belgium, a German from Munich and a German living in Buenos Aries, a couple from Japan, a British chap with his lady from Finland, and an adorable Canadian gal. The other Girl from the States was an American born Japanese that was well traveled enough that she could have a come from anywhere.
The initial group that worked at our hotel was there and we were joined by another group of older locals later in the evening. We spent part of the night in a bamboo stilted hut sharing stories and going around the circle singing songs representing the countries we came from. When it came to the deaf couple we witnessed a beautiful dance as the song. We shared a simple meal of rice and dal fry using banana leaves as biodegradable plates. The late feast followed by the new years countdown and hugs.
My heart was thinking of family and friends, yet I could not have come up with a better script for celebrating the new years while traveling - with a group of strangers from around the world. We spent some quality time in discussions especially with the local Indians. It was refreshing to interact in that manner. Outside of our friend in Mumbai our contact with Indians has not been representative of India. We are either mobbed by the intrigued wide eyed kids wanting to practice their English or we are mobbed by vendors on all levels selling anything they can or we are beggar magnets and none of those conversations get beyond a very basic level. On this night we talked about the world and life and especially life in India.
The great conversation went well into the night until Asiana and I took the first rickshaws back at 3am. We hoped to still have a full day the next day... the day we start our seventh year together.