Mumbai To South India Solo Road-trip

pranaymeher

Member
Day 1 – The Boring Highway

12th December, 2015
Mumbai – Belgaum (525 kms)







Five months of planning, long discussions with south Indian friends in office, countless travel blogs on bcmtouring.com and reading a travel book on India, that’s what it took me to finalize this trip. And in the first week of December I cancelled it. Me, along with my cycling buddies planned a cycling trip to France in August, 2016. To save funds for the France trip I had to cancel my South Indian Solo trip. After cancelling the trip, I was feeling something missing in me. I was feeling guilty for cancelling my first solo road trip. My inner voice was getting louder and one fine morning it just shouted “Don’t think, just leave”.

So that’s it. Instead of cancelling the trip which was initially a month long trip plan, covering Munnar, Periyar, Kanyakumari, Pondicherry and Chennai, I decided to cut this trip short. Instead of a month long ride I planned a 15 day plan, which during the trip turned into a 20 day long.

At 4 in the morning on 12th December, my alarm rang. I woke up from my sleep (I hardly slept due to the excitement), got ready and went into my living room and took a look at the riding gears and my bags that I had arranged there the previous night. I smiled and said to myself, “Pranay, you are going have an awesome trip”. I carried all my gears down near my bike. Loaded and tied all the bags on my bike. Put my riding gears on and started the bike. The sound and headlight of my bike woke up the sleeping security guard. He opened the gate and looked at my fancy riding gears. I said good bye to him and left the residential complex.

For two and half hours I rode on the dark streets. I hate to ride in the dark and especially more when the light beam coming from the vehicle on the opposite side pokes you in the eye. By 7 am, I was near Lonavala. I took a wrong turn near Pune and entered the main city which was crowded. It took me a while to be back on the highway. After leaving Pune the roads were wide with less vehicles. I opened the throttle and was feeling hungry. By 10 am I had crossed 184 kms. I stopped near Ramnagar for a brunch, which is on the outskirts of Pune. While removing gears I noticed many eyes observing my strange outfit (my riding gears). I acted like I didn’t noticed them noticing me. Within half an hour I was back on the road with food in my stomach. Sip of hot coffee gave me the energy I needed.

As I rode further ahead towards Satara-Kolhapur, the highway became damn boring. The road was just straight for a very looooong stretch and without any scenery to enjoy. For hours and hours I was seeing industrial complexes on both sides of the highway. People dressed in white from head to toe, driving tractors loaded with sugarcanes, and some reckless local riders which very cutting my path and slowing me down. There was absolutely no driving discipline in these region. The ride became so hell boring that I started doubting if my decision of this solo road trip was a good one or the stupid one. If this is the case on the very first day then how am I supposed to continue this ride in coming days. I soon got the answer I was seeking. As soon as I crossed the Maharashtra border and entered Karnataka, the road quality changed dramatically. Even the color of the sky appeared more bluish . The view was superb. The energy in me which was sucked out of me by the Satara-Kolhapur highway was back. I felt the adrenaline rushing through my veins. The road had some amazing curves and I was enjoying it more and more. We bikers just love the curves. Ahem… I’m talking about the roads.








SOME RIDING PHOTOS FROM MY RIDE IN DAY 1
From then on I started enjoying the ride and realized that my decision of the solo road trip was indeed a great decision. Little did I know that in next 20 days I’ll get addicted to Solo Road Trips. After about an hour or so of this great ride I reached Belgaum and started searching for accommodation. I covered almost all the streets of the small Belgaum town looking for accommodation. I saw many lodges but they did not have parking space of their own. I didn’t want to stay at a place where I can’t park my bike safely. It was 6:30 and getting dark. I asked several local guys for accommodation options and they directed me towards a three star hotel nearby. I wanted to keep my budget low therefore I avoid expensive accommodations, but I had no choice. I thought of three star hotel as my last option. I went to the reception and asked about the availability of the rooms. I was told that the rooms are not available but if I wait till 8 pm then I might get a room. I didn’t want to wait till 8 pm, that too just for the probability of getting a room. I asked the receptionist for the accommodation option and was directed towards Pai Resorts. I rode towards Pai Resort. Darkness of the night had taken over the skies. The blue sky turned dark. Fortunately I got a room in Pai resort. The resort was really beautiful and the room was great too. The staff was very friendly. While my booking process was taking place, I was asked many questions about my journey and my past adventures. I answered all their questions happily. Finally one of the staff member Mr. Anand Patil took some of my bags from me and took me to my room. We had a good talk. I was happy that my day’s journey ended in a nice place. I took a hot shower. Since the resort offered WiFi, I downloaded two apps to help me avoid the accommodation hunt that I experienced today.One was Booking.com and other was AirBnB. Using Booking.com app you can book a hotel room online and AirBnB was for booking home-stay. Since I had already booked accommodation for Hampi I didn’t need to use it on the same day.

I went to the dining area and had a delicious dinner. After the dinner I was back in my room. I rested my back on the cozy bed and imagined my ride tomorrow to Hampi.




PHOTOS OF PAI RESORTS, MY ACCOMODATION FOR DAY 1, SORRY NIGHT 1
 

pranaymeher

Member
Day 2 , part I – The Lake That I Missed


I woke up at 5:30 in the morning. A perfect time to wake up. I had slept at 9:30 pm the previous night and that’s why I could sleep better and wake up with abundance of energy. I wish I could follow the same schedule once I’m back home in Mumbai. I slid the curtains of the window to take a look outside. It was still dark. I didn’t feel like going back to bed. I took out the Kindle and started reading a book, ‘Alchemist’ by Paulo Cohelo. I really love the writing style of Paulo Cohelo. His books are rich in philosophy and spirituality.

Usually I prefer to leave early and reach early, but during my talk with Mr. Anand Patil the day before, I had inquired about the road condition till Hampi. He said “You are in Karnataka now. Don’t worry about the conditions of the roads at all. The entire state has good roads. 10 years ago the situation was different but it has changed now. You can reach your destination in no time”. That was a relief. I knew I’m going to enjoy today’s ride because of the roads, and I had to travel 264 kms today to reach Hampi. The resort offered a complementary breakfast (which, actually is charged to us but smartly missing in our final checkout bill). I decided to have breakfast at the resort so that I don’t have to stop anywhere during the ride for food. I can just reach Hampi for lunch. I stuffed the Kindle back in my bag and left for the dining hall. It was around 8 am. I was told that the breakfast would be served at 8. I was the first one to reach there.

The staff was still making arrangements for breakfast. I asked a guy how much time it would take for the breakfast to be ready, to which said just 10 minutes more. I decided to wait in gallery of the dining hall till they make arrangements. The dining hall was on a first floor. The resort being on the lower ground, the gallery was in level with the roads. From the gallery I could see a huge lake right in front of me. I wondered how come I did not notice this lake yesterday. And I recalled an earlier learnt lesson that ‘our eyes see only what our mind wants to see’. The day before, my only priority was to find a decent accommodation, therefore I could not notice the lake. I saw many people taking morning walk and jog on a paver block track built around the lake. The lake had tall fences from all the sides. I came back to the dining area and asked one of the staff about the lake. He said the track is around the lake is around 6 kms long and should take about 45 mins to 1 hour to cover. The entry point for the lake was just half a kilometer from the resort. I was tempted to have a walk around the lake. I told him that I’m heading out for a walk around the lake. I’ll have my breakfast later. He said “Sir breakfast is ready, please have your breakfast first and then you can go for a walk”. I agreed and stuffed myself with a delicious breakfast.

I headed out for a walk. Entered the lake garden and stood before the lake, to take in the view. The lake was huge and there was a little island with tall trees in the middle of the lake water. There was a fountain machine near northern bank of the lake and a childrens park right next to it. Some people were walking while others, mostly in jogging suit, were running. I noticed most of the people were walking in clockwise direction around the lake. Therefore I decided to walk in anti- clockwise direction. I took out my phone and captured some beautiful views of the lake. I took my time to walk slowly around the lake and enjoyed my walk and the view. I had totally forgotten that I had to ride to Hampi on the same day. Once I came back to the starting point, I sat on a bench nearby and just kept looking at the small waves on the lake water. I spotted two swans who came out of the water and sat on the ground. As the sun rose higher the cold climate started turning hot. I suddenly realized that I have to leave for Hampi. I walked my way back to the resort.







SOME CLICKS OF THE LAKE DURING MY WALK
I checked out from the resort and loaded my bike with my backpack, saddle bag and tank bag. I wanted to meet Mr. Anand Patil before leaving but I could not see him anywhere. I hit the road and was on my way to Hampi. The ride towards Hampi was really good. The roads were good and I was enjoying seeing the curvy road unwinding itself before my bike. After few hours ride I looked up at the blue sky and noticed hundreds of small clumps of clouds. All these clumps were maintaining same distance from each other as if they were arranged by an engineer. It reminded of the opening shot of the movie “Toy Story”. Andy’s room in that movie had a wallpaper with this pattern. On the horizon I could see a series of perfectly aligned and perfectly spaced tall towers. After few minutes I started seeing three blades attached on the top of each tower. They were wind mills. All the windmills were dancing like a belly dancer. It was an effect caused by the mixture of cold and hot air between a viewer and a distant object. I even saw a huge mirage on the road. I overtook a truck carrying a huge windmill blade.

When I reached near the wind mills I stopped to take a look. Some windmills were standing in the middle of a farm whereas some were on a barren lands. While I was capturing photos of wind mills a small kid on cycle came near me. He must be about 12-15 years old. He spoke to me in a language I did not understand. I told him “Sorry kid, I don’t understand your language”. He again said something and I only understood the word ‘Camera’. He was point at the action camera that I had hooked on my chest. I guessed that he wanted to know if it was a camera. I pointed a finger at my action camera and said “Yes, Yes, It is a camera”. He looked into my camera and gave a smile. Sadly, the camera was off at that time. The kid didn’t know it. He hopped on his bicycle said bye to me and left. I smiled and waved back at him. I took a left turn and
entered a town named “Koppal”.








SOME CLICKS ON THE WAY TO HAMPI
Day 2 To Be Continued…
 

pranaymeher

Member
Day 2, part II, Search for The White Elephant

CONTINUES FROM THE PREVIOUS BLOG -‘DAY 2 – THE LAKE THAT I MISSED’

Koppal was a small town and a bit crowded. All structures in this town were short. The tallest building I saw here was two stories high. Everything was painted in bright colors. The streets were abundant with shops on the both sides. I observed very few cars on the road. Almost everyone was commuting on a motorbike. I dissolved into a swarm of motorbikes. I had a first sight of the hills of boulders. Seeing this hill with uncountable boulders, most of which were on top of each other, and a small town situated at the base of the mountain was a scary sight. I wondered what would happen if a even a single boulder loses it’s place and rolls down. It would be a disaster. I wondered if it had happened in the past.



After leaving the Koppal town, I came across a road sign which said Hospet was in straight direction and Sanapur was in left. With a distance of 12 kms, Hospet is the nearest town to Hampi. But in this trip I had decided to avoid staying in town. I always prefer staying away from crowded area. From what I had read in numerous travelogues, my impression of Hospet was a very busy and over crowded town. Therefore I had booked a guest house named ‘White Elephant Guest House’ in Rangapur. By road, Rangapur was 40 kms away from Hampi but I was ready to travel 40 kms to and fro just to be able to stay in calm and serene place. I had to cross Sanapur in order to reach Rangapur.

I took a left turn. After a about a kilometers distance I saw pile of hay spread on the road, and three women, wearing Rajasthani costumes were doing something with it. When I came closer, one of the women looked up, saw me and went back to doing whatever she was doing. I was confused if they were picking up the fallen hay or they were spreading it. I didn’t know if I was supposed to wait until they were done. Soon a tractor came from behind, women moved aside, tractor run over the pile of hay and crossed. I guessed that the women were spreading the hay for drying and the vehicles passing over it would help in the process. My left hand pressed the clutch, and left leg moved to shift to the first gear. Soon I could see the hay in the rear view mirror.

Coconut and Palm trees were standing tall on both sides of the road. When the density of the trees lessened, I saw two beautiful hills on the other side of the farm. The farm was almost dry. The blue sky, purple and reddish colored boulders on the hill and green trees were making quite a spectacular view. I admired the beauty of the nature. Clicked a photo and moved ahead.


Two Beautiful Hills
I was passing through a small village. I came across a junction. I called few guys standing across the street to help me with directions. Luckily they spoke to me in Hindi. It is rare to find Hindi speaking people in South India unless you are at a tourist place. I asked them which village was it. They told me it was Sanapur. I knew I had to cross Sanapur but was confused if I had to cross it by going straight or by taking a left turn. One fellow came near me and asked, “Brother, where are you from? I noticed your registration plate starting with MH-02, it’s Andheri registration, are you from Mumbai?”
“Yes, I am”, I said with a smile.
“I’m from Mira Road, where are you from?”, the guy asked
“Whoa…. What a coincidence. I’m also from Mira Road.” I said surprisingly.
He seemed quite delighted. He looked back on the street where I came from, possibly looking for more bikers like me and then asked, “What are you doing here? and where are others?”
I replied, “I’m searching for a guest house. And there are no others. I’m riding solo”
“What, you came all the way here, all by yourself?”, it was quite amusing to see the look of shock on his face. May be I was the very first solo rider he had met in his life. I explained to him my idea of adventure in solo riding. He seemed to find it hard to believe that people find joy in riding solo. He said, “Look brother, you continue straight, there are lot of resorts and guest houses there. You’ll definitely find a place to stay”.
“No, No, I have already booked a guest house. I’m searching for it. Do you know where ‘White Elephant Guest House’ is?”
“No brother, I haven’t heard of it. I’m not from around here, I just came here for some personal work”, he then asked other guys standing near by in south Indian language. No one knew about it. I was about to take out my phone and call up the owner of the guest house and I suddenly remembered the name Rangapur.
“It’s in Rangapur”, I said while sliding my hand in the pouch, searching my phone. Quickly two hands shot up and pointed in the left direction.
“Oh, it’s in that direction brother”, the guy said.

I thanked everyone, shook hand with the Mumbai guy and took a left turn.
 

pranaymeher

Member
Day 2, part III, Meteor Shower By The Lakeside

CONTINUES FROM THE PREVIOUS BLOG, ‘DAY 2, PART II, SEARCH FOR THE WHITE ELEPHANT’
13th December, 2015
Belgaum To Hampi (264 kms)


I continued on the narrow road. Soon I was out of the Sanapur village. The road snaked through many small villages and beautiful farms. I found my self riding up on the road and saw a wall on the higher part of the road. When I reached up there I saw a big water reservoir beyond the wall. On my left, beyond the wall was a big blue reservoir of water and on the right, down below was a farm and edge of a small village.

The road became narrower from there but the view was breathtakingly beautiful. I could see big golden hills of boulders all around. I was suddenly transported to a different place. This place was in big contrast with the villages that I just passed through. The place was very clean and beautiful. I continued on the curvy roads. The water reservoir I saw earlier was kind of a lake. Now I was at the portion of the lake where the canal met with the lake. The canal carried the waters of Tungabhadra river to this lake. There was a big mechanical gate through which the water was flowing into the lake. I saw many foreigners swimming in the lake water. Some were taking a dive from the boulders near the banks. Some people were taking a ride in a round shaped boat. I continued further along the canal. The water in the canal was flowing slowly but the force of the water was clearly evident. I stopped to enjoy the view and clicked some photos. “Can I take your photo?”, I heard a voice from behind. I turned to have a look. I saw a fair skinned Korean guy standing there with his moped. Soon few other guys stopped near him on their respective mopeds. I said, “Hi, Yes please”. I handed my phone to him. I gave a thumbs up pose and he clicked my photo against the flowing water of the canal. We exchanged few thoughts, shared our travel stories. I waived good bye to him and his friends and rode ahead.

I saw “White Elephant Guest House” written on a big boulder and there was an arrow painted in white color just below the name. The arrow was pointing in right direction. I took a right turn and again was in a very small village which had very few houses that could be counted on fingers. As soon as I was out of the village. I saw a beautiful view. Two beautiful hills on the left side and a beautiful farm at the base of those hills. A narrow road made it’s way through this scenic place. On my right was ‘White Elephant Guest House’. My safari in the search of an White Elephant had finally ended.




I entered the open ground of the guest house. I saw white colored row of houses in front with a passage on the left and on my right was a restaurant area. It was built with sloping roof covered with dried palm leaves. Restaurant had a very short, about a foot long brightly colored white wall around it. I saw an elephant outlined on one of the white walls of the row houses. And on my left wall “White Elephant” was written on the white wall. Restaurant was full with foreigners enjoying their food and beverages. Kids were having fun in their own way. There were many mopeds parked where I parked my bike. I removed my shoes and entered the restaurant area and asked a guy behind the desk if this was the reception desk. He said yes. A tall and skinny guy behind the desk asked me to show my booking details. I showed him the details on my phone. He then took me to my room. His name was Sheikh.

The room was very basic. The passage to reach the row houses was beautiful. It had a lawn between the row of houses and beautiful plants just outside every room. I got freshened up and went back to the restaurant. The restaurant had series of cozy mattresses arranged in a row. Between each row was a low height wooden table with a dim light hanging from the top. I really loved the ambiance of the place. I found an empty mattress and sat there with my back resting against the wall and and my leg spread straight. All others in the restaurant were foreigners except an Indian young guy sitting next to me. A short Nepali guy came near me, he had a pleasant smile on his face. He asked me what I would like to order. I took a quick look on the menu and ordered my lunch.

I looked outside. The view was wonderful. I felt glad that I made my booking in this guest house and nowhere else. I felt relaxed just sitting there and enjoying the view outside. I said Hi to the guy next to me as everyone else was already engrossed in deep conversation. I introduced myself to this guy and then he introduced himself to me. I was surprised with his accent. Even though he looked like an Indian, he spoke in a perfect US accent. He was not faking it either. May be he read the expression on my face and told me that his parents are from India but he was born and brought up in Texas, USA. His name was Aditya. He was on a tour of India and had arrived in Hampi just a day before.

By the time my food arrived, me and Aditya were engrossed in a deep conversation. He told me that he works as a data scientist in USA, I told him about my profession. Soon our conversation shifted to history of India and literature. We recommended many good books to each other. I recommended few books from the author Devdutta Patnaik, since he was very much interested in Indian mythology and the wisdom hidden in it. Devdutta Pattnaik’s books not only explain the mythology in a comprehensive manner but also explain how the wisdom can be applied in modern lifestyle. When we were talking about Mahabharata, one of the greatest epic story, I recommended several books which narrate the story from totally different and fresh perspective. Soon I realized that the guests around us had gone silent. They all were paying attention to the conversation between us. I guess Indian mythology is an interesting topic for many foreigners.

He told me that he had made arrangements with an owner of the boat who’s going to take him to a distant shore of the lake. He had made plans for camping at the lake shore at night and enjoy the meteor shower which was going to take place on the same night and the night after. I had also planned to watch the meteor shower at night. Since the village around the guest house had very little number of houses, I thought that there will be very little light pollution in this region and I would get a spectacular view of the night sky. Aditya had come there just for food, he didn’t stay at the guest house. Before leaving he gave me an advice which saved my huge amount of time the next day. He told me that Hampi ruins are just across the Tungabhadra river. By road one has to travel 40 kms from here to reach the ruins, but if you cross the river you’ll reach within just 3 kms. There were small boats in the river which can carry at most 4 bikes and 5-6 passengers. He was not allowed in the boat as he was on a rented moped. He told me that since I’m on my private vehicle I can easily go across the river in a boat. That was the rule of the local people. They didn’t allow rented vehicles in their boat. I thanked Aditya for his great advice.

After Aditya, one by one, all other guests left. I had initially thought of taking a nap after finishing my lunch. But then I decided to just sit there on the mattress and enjoy the tranquility this place offered.

Soon I was accompanied by Sheikh and Raj. Raj was the short guy who took food order from me. They sat there talking with me. We three became friends very quickly. Soon a guy came and asked how I was and that he had been trying to call me since morning but my number was unreachable. He seemed like a nice guy. After a while he left. I asked Sheikh who this guy was. He told me that the guy was Mohin, owner of the guest house. I told Sheikh about my plan to watch meteor shower at night. He told me that I can get a nice view from the base of the hills which were in front of the guest house. He also said that if he gets free time in the evening he will accompany me to watch the meteor shower. Mohin was back and sat next to me. We spent the afternoon talking about the life in a place like Hampi and a life in a metro like Mumbai.

In the evening guests were appearing again in the restaurant. I was having quite a good time there. The golden boulders on the hills were casting longer shadows now. Though the climate was hot in the day, there was a significant chill in the air as the dusk approached. Sheikh asked me if I would like to go for a walk. He offered to show me the place where I can enjoy the meteor shower on the celestial stage. He was offering me the best seat in the auditorium under the biggest dome in the world. We were walking next to a farm. The green crops in the farm, against the reddish evening sky and the mountains soaked in the blue haze caught my eye. It was a wonderful sight. I told Sheikh how lucky he was to stay at a place like this.






After dinner, Mohin told me that he learnt from Sheikh that I was interested in watching meteor shower. He told me that he’ll ask Sheikh to take me to the lake. He said I can get an amazing view from the lake side and it’ll offer pitch black darkness. Perfect for sky gazing. Sheikh and I rode on my bike to the lake. It was getting colder now.

The lake looked beautiful. There was no moon in the sky. I saw the dimly lit sky dancing on the lake water. Three boulders stacked on each other was an amazing view against the lake water. Me and Sheikh climbed one of the big boulder and I took a look at the magnificent night sky. For guys like us staying in crowded city, view of the night sky like this was invaluable. Millions of stars were twinkling in the sky. Very faint belt of the Milky Way was visible if observed carefully. I showed Sheikh many constellations visible in the sky.

I lied down on the boulder and kept looking up on the magnificent wonder of the universe. And there it was, my very first meteor sight of the night. It went by pretty fast and left a long trail behind. I could have spent the entire night watching the heavenly show in the sky but I had to go for my excursion the next day to explore the mystical Hampi ruins. Me and Sheikh saw numerous meteors, or shooting stars as they are commonly known. After about an hour or so I decided to leave from there to catch some sleep. Me and Sheikh climbed down from the boulder. I came near my bike. I sat on my bike and before starting it I took one more look at the sky. I started my bike and imagined seeing myself from the opposite bank of the lake. I saw three vertically stacked huge boulders, me on my bike next to the boulders and the bright starlit sky in the background. Though this was my imaginary vision it offered me a great pleasure. I was back to reality. The three boulders were front lit by my bike’s headlight and cast huge shadows on the lake water. I rode back to the guest house with this unforgettable experience that I knew I’ll cherish forever.
 

pranaymeher

Member
Day 3, part I, A Walk In The Past

14th December, 2015
Exploring the Ancient Ruins Of Hampi


I had planned to leave for exploring the ancient ruins of Hampi by 8 o’clock because by that time the boat ferry in the river starts. But while coming back from the lakeside the night before, Sheikh asked me to witness a beautiful sunrise by the same lake. This chap was a great help. Being a local resident, he knew all the beautiful spots of the region.

By 6 in the morning, me and Sheikh rode towards the lake. The beauty of the place in the morning was breathtaking. When I rode along the canal I felt a sudden chill in the air. I saw the same three boulders sight when I reached near the lake. Sheikh asked me to ride further down the road. There was a small wall built on both sides of the road. I parked my bike there and sat on the wall to witness a beautiful sunrise. As I sat on the wall a noticed a simple mono colored painting of a little kid peeking from the edge of the wall. Seeing my curiosity for the painting Sheikh said, “We receive lot of tourists at this place mostly from Israel, and most of them happen to be artists. So they leave their masterpieces as a memory on the boulders or walls in this region. You’ll find many such paintings here”.

After admiring the painting, I sat back on the wall. I could see hills made up of numerous boulders before me and also calm waters of the lake and reflection of the morning golden sky in it. Sun was about to peek from behind the hill anytime. There was a great silence in that place. I tried to take in the view as much as possible. The place was unbelievably beautiful and experiencing a sunrise from such a place was a rare opportunity. The golden sun finally rose. I saw many fragments of the mighty sun twinkling in the lake water. The entire scene was painted in only golden and blue color. It was indeed one of the most beautiful sunrise I had ever experienced in my life. My trip was going to offer me more of such amazing sunrises but I was unaware of it just then.

Soon Mohin came to the spot on his moped. He stood there with us for a while. Then Mohin and Sheikh started speaking in their local language. They had decided to jump into the lake water from the wall where we had sat few minutes ago. They said they swim in this waters very often. They took off their shirts and one by one dove into the lake. The water entering into the lake from the canal had considerable force to it. Without any efforts the water was pushing them towards the shore. We saw two guys coming near the shore in a round boat. Since the lake water was shining with the sun, I could see only black silhouettes of them. Mohin had told me that these round boats are called ‘Korakel’. One guy got down from the boat with his bag. It was Aditya. He was returning from his camping by the lakeside. We greeted each other and exchanged our experiences of the meteor shower. He had a great camping experience at the lake. He told me that if he knew that I was also interested in the meteor shower then he would have invited me for the camping last night. I had missed a good opportunity. We talked for a while then shook hands and wished each other a good day.













By 8 am I was riding towards Hampi. I had had my breakfast at the guest house therefore I was all set to go without food for next couple of hours. I had to catch a ferry from a town called Annegundi. I reached the ferry spot just in time. The ferry was very small. I saw it coming towards the riverbank. I was first in the queue of the motorbikes. The bikes in the ferry that came from the opposite side, one by one got down and followed the road. One of the three boatmen stood outside to help the motorbike get down from the boat. When the remaining passengers also left from the boat, the boatman signaled me to come ahead. The passage was very narrow. In order to get into the boat I was supposed to get the bike in the boat with rear wheel first. I had no idea where to turn the bike. The boatman did not speak Hindi or English. From his gesture I understood that he wanted me to get my bike on a metal plate that was kept on the bank near the boat. He told me to keep the bike on side stand. The boatman then tilted my bike and turned it in a one swift movement. Now my bike’s back was facing the boat. The boatman asked me to sit on the bike, he then pushed my bike slowly into the boat. I was maintaining my balance by pushing the ground with my feet. Another three bikes boarded and then 5-6 passengers entered. The boat started, took a full turn and started moving on the opposite side at a very low pace. The water was shallow as I could see the riverbed. Both sides of the bank was covered in long grass. The passage made for entering the boat was the only piece of land that was cutting it.

I got down from the boat and rode on a bumpy road that connects to the main road towards Hampi. Just before connecting the main road I saw a small ruin. It was carved into a rock and many pillars. Though it was very simple structure I could not make out exactly what it was. It had a tall rock base and number of pillars supporting a flat rock ceiling.

Mohin had given me a small tourist guide book. As per the map on the tourist guide, I would first reach Vitthala Temple. After riding further down the road I came near an open ground on the left side which was covered with long mesh fences. A small tea shop had a bunch people sipping hot tea around it. I asked them about the Vitthala temple. They spoke in their local language and asked me to park the bike near the tea stall, and directed me in the direction of the temple. I was told that the Vitthala temple was one of the most beautiful structures in the entire Hampi. I walked through the bushes and came across what looked like a small temple. I climbed up the steps. The structure was open from all sides. Stone pillars supported the conical dome on top and there was a square fire altar in the center. It must be a sacrificial altar, I guessed. I thought this cannot be Vitthala temple. Unfortunately, the tourist guide did not have any image of it either. I observed the carvings on the temple. Many gods were carved onto the pillars and the entire structure was ablaze in fresh morning sun rays. There was a small hill just behind and the actual Vitthala temple was behind that hill. Which I came to know later in the day. I also learnt later that the structure where I was, was called ‘Gejjala Mandapa’.

With confusion in my head, I went back to the tea stall and asked the vendor again if the Vitthala temple was in the same direction where I came from. He did not understand what I said. He understood the word ‘Vitthala Temple’ and looked at my hand that was pointing in the direction from where I walked back there. He shook his head said ‘yes’. I did not say anything. I was still confused. I thought I saw the most magnificent structure in Hampi and didn’t find it to be really that magnificent. The tea vendor kept looking at me as I started my bike and rode away from there.

After a 10 minutes ride I saw a sign, ‘Welcome to Hampi’. Further down the road there were directions to go to various sites of the ruins. The first sign I saw was pointing towards Chandrashekhara Temple, Saraswati Temple and Ashtakona Snan Ghar (Octogonal Bath). Tar road ended and muddy bumpy road started. I reached an old carved beautiful gate of the Chandrashekhara temple. The entry of the gate structure had about a 12 feet long stone structure as a base which had beautiful carving and a passage to pass through to the other side. On top of the base structure there was another tapering stone structure with many gods carved onto it which had turned black over years. The base was golden colored rock with no signs of wearing.

I entered the temple ground section and took a good look at the temple. The temple was built strong with attractive proportions. I walked around the temple to observe the carvings. I saw an old lady wearing blue saree and end of the saree covering her head. She looked at me and smiled. She started speaking to me. She was telling me something about the temple but I did not understand her language. I spoke to her in Hindi and she realized the communication problem. She started speaking to me with gestures. She asked me to have a look of the temple from inside. I was about to remove my shoes near the steps but the lady signaled me to go in with shoes. With what she said I understood that she was trying to say that there are no idols in the temple. The inside of the temple was beautifully carved. The sanctum where the god would be placed in it’s time was now a dark room. With an blink of an eye, I imagined myself standing there in the 15th century. The inner sanctum was lit with many torches hung on the temple wall. People with strange costumes and strange ornaments entered from one side of the temple. Offered the offerings to the idol, bowed before their god and left from the other side. The sanctum looked glorious in it’s glorious time. With another blink I was back in the present day. I came out of the temple and saw the old lady again. She was smiling at me. She again told me with her gestures to go in left direction, there’s a ‘Saraswati Temple’ and ‘Ashtakona Snan Ghar’ in that direction. These were the only words I could make out from what she said. I waived my hand at her and said ‘Thanks’. She waived back with both her hands which looked more like blessings.

I came out of the temple grounds. And started walking in the direction pointed by the lady in the temple. The nearest monument was still about a half kilometer away. I was walking on an open empty land. My imaginative mind again sprang into action. I imagined crowd of people walking around on the open plane of the ground. In it’s glory day this kingdom of ‘Vijayanagara’ was ruled by the king ‘Krishnadevaraya’. And was one of the wealthiest empires in India in those time. I imagined a crowd moving on horses, camels and bullock cart. I had seen a painting depicting the wealth of this empire in the 15th century. I was using the same painting to imagine the lifestyle of people of this region. Another blink, and I was in the present. I looked around. I was walking on a barren land. The Sun had moved higher in the sky and air was getting hotter. Absence of wind made even trees look rock solid. The only things moving in the vicinity were me and my shadow. I looked around and saw no living soul anywhere around me. I was aware of the presence of the old lady in the temple grounds though. I took out bottle from my bag gulped down some water. I realized my mistake. I should have had brought more water with me. I made a mental note to buy a bottle of water before moving to the next site.

I was at the ‘Ashtakona Snan Ghar’. It was a public bath facility built in an octagonal shape, hence the name. One has to climb down the steps to reach the water. There was no water there now. Series of rock pillars supported octagonal ring on the top. It was hollow from center allowing a view of the sky to those taking a bath. Saraswati temple was a small structure near the Snan Ghar. I came back to the Chandrashekhara temple. The old lady was missing. I rode my way back to the main tar road.

The next road signed pointed in the right direction towards ‘Queens Bath’. Well, the name was seductive, so I turned right. I came near a beautiful and well maintained garden. The lush green lawn, big and wide trees and beautiful flowers were emphasizing the presence of a small structure in the center. It was ‘Queen’s Bath’. I read the details of this structure on a sign board standing in the garden. Few people were hanging around in the garden area. I entered inside, there was no one except a lady sweeping the floor. I saw many changing rooms inside. In the center was 15 square meter wide and about 2 meter deep bath facility. Windows with beautiful arches overlooked the bath. I resisted the temptation to imagine this place in it’s glory days. The narrow stone passages built to carry the water to the bath facility was neatly carved out and in the bottom there were holes to flush out the entire water.

































To Be Continued…
 

pranaymeher

Member
Day 3, part II, The Royal History

CONTINUES FROM PREVIOUS BLOG, ‘DAY 3, PART I, A WALK IN THE PAST’

I was out of the Queen’s Bath and was walking towards my bike. A book seller approached me and showed me some books. A book on the history of Hampi caught my eye. I purchased it and was about to move when I heard a call from behind. A dark skinned, plumpy guy wearing a shirt and trouser was walking in my direction. “Hello Sir, Do you need a guide? I can show you all the sites of Hampi and explain the historical significance of each site”, He said, finishing the sentence before stopping near me. Getting a guide along seemed like a good idea. It was also going to save lot of time that I was spending in finding routes. We settled the rates, and he took me back into the Queen’s bath to explain the history of the place. His name was Manjunath. He did not speak fluent Hindi but it was good enough for me to understand.

Manjunath and me were riding on our bike to our next site, ‘Royal Enclosure’. I told him about my story of Vitthala Temple visit. When I explained the structure of the temple, he told me, “Sir what you visited was not the Vitthala Temple. It was Gejjala Mandapa. The actual Vitthala Temple is behind the hill that was next to the Gejjala Mandapa. One has to take a ride in an EV (Electric Vehicle) to reach the Vitthala temple. Don’t worry, we are going to the Vitthala Temple at the end of our tour”. Finally my confusion came to an end. I understood the look of the tea vendor in the morning.

We were at the Royal Enclosure. This place was huge. I could sense the powerful history of the place. One by one Manjuanth took me to many monuments in this enclosure. He told me that this entire enclosure was spread in 95,000 square meter area. I observed elegantly decorated base of the palaces, water system designed to carry water to the entire facility, large halls, pillard shrines and water storage tanks. Manjuanth’s words were creating images in my head. He told me that most of the structures that we see here are only the base structures. In those times the architecture style was to have a base structure or the support structure made of stone and the entire palace or other structure made up of Sandal wood. During invasions, Muslim emperors burned down the sandal wood structures and destroyed the beautiful sculptures found in the vicinity.

I climbed up the tall steps to go on top of the sculptured terraced platform known as Mahanavami dibba. In those times many festive performances used to take place on this platform. One can observe beautiful sculptures on the walls of this platform which depicted the dance, sword fights and other types of art performances being performed there.

We visited the public bath facility, which was a simple rectangular structure. From there we went to a stepped water tank. This was a beautiful structure. It had series of tall square steps around a square open water tank. Each square step had series of smaller steps along it’s length, which were shaped in a tapering manner, making it look like small pyramids. One of these pyramid shaped steps had names of the four dynasties that ruled the Vijayanagara.



















I noticed four square shaped tiles near a passage built to carry water. These tiles were thick, had a big circle carved in the center and another four round shapes carved on four corners. Manjunath told me that those were plates, Soldiers used have their meal in. Later in the day Manjunath showed me a site where these plates where arranged in two rows. Between these two rows a passage passed which carried running water. Whenever a soldier finished his meal, he would wash the plate with the running water for the next soldier.

We saw a broken sculpt of an elephant. Manjunath asked me to bring my ears closer to the sculpt, then knocked on the sculpture with his knuckles, a long ringing sound was audible from the sculpture. We visited a secret underground room of the palace where war tactics were discussed. Manjunath explained every aspect of the room’s design which had king’s security as a main priority. There was a secret passage from the same room just in case some one tried to break in.












We rode ahead to our next site, ‘The Lotus Mahal’. We bought our entry ticket and entered the premises and I realized why we were charged for the entry. This place was very well maintained. Everywhere I looked I could see lush green lawns, and the cleanliness was impeccable.

We were standing before the ‘Lotus Mahal’. It was a small but beautiful palace with number of dome like structured above. It is designed in Indo-Islamic architecture style. The palace was just 1 story high. Even from a distance, number of arches were visible inside the palace. Manjunath told me that this palace was reserved for royal ladies and was air-cooled. The last statement sounded little exaggerated. But then he explained what he meant. He took me closer to the palace and asked me to have a closer look on the inner wall of the dome. I could see arrangements made for the pipelines, and a broken piece of pipe was still visible. He then said that, in the morning, Queen’s servants would fill up the water reservoir on top of the dome. This water then would spiral down the pipeline. Evaporation of the water would cause the air in the dome to cool down and therefore become denser. This denser air would then move lower into the palace, and the void left behind by the cool air would then be filled up by the hot air that moved from bottom to the top in the ceiling. And this cycle would then continue. Another reason to marvel at the brilliance of architectural advancement in those times.

Very close to the ‘Lotus Mahal’ was another brilliant architectural site. We were at the ‘Elephant Stable’. This place was where the Royal elephants used to be parked. This structure was horizontal and had 11 huge domes. The central dome was of Hindu style while the remaining domes on either side were in Islamic style, a beautiful symbolic representation of the cultural and religious harmony of Vijayanagara.









After about 15-20 minutes ride we found ourselves at the underground Shiva temple. It is visible from the main road, yet it is called underground only because it is built at a lower height from the surrounding area. One has walk down series of steps to get to the sanctum. I entered the temple and could see the dark sanctum before me. Manjunath told me to walk ahead. We entered the sanctum. Shiva linga was hardly visible due to the low light. I could not walk further as the sanctum ground was below 6-7 inches of water. The statue of Nandi was deliberately moved aside so that visitors can get a good view of the ‘Shiva Linga’.

We followed a very narrow road. I had to take my bike off the road many times to make way for vehicles coming from opposite direction. Just on the corner of the road I saw a huge crowd and a big group of school kids with their teachers. We waited for the school kids to disperse after they were done taking their group photo. I had a small talk with the school teacher, she was from Pune. She told me how difficult it was to take responsibility of so many kids for the trip such as this one. No wonder, it is indeed one of the difficult tasks of a school teacher.

The place became quiet and peaceful after the school children left. I observed a square stone structure before me. It had a fence gate attached to one of the wall and the center gate of the fence was open. Manjunath and I walked near the gate. I could see a 3 meter tall ‘Shiva Linga’. The place was called ‘Badava Linga’. A canal like passage brings water to this structure from the Tungabhadra river and the ground of this place remains immersed in water throughout the year.

Next to the ‘Badava Linga’ was a magnificent sight. I saw a huge monolithic Lakshmi Narsimha sculpture. It was a 6.70 meter tall statue and was one of the most outstanding sculpture I saw in Hampi. Seeing this wheatish sculpture against a pure blue sky gave me chills. I could sense an invisible power in the air while just standing there and watching this magnificent piece of art. My mind leaped back into the the 15th century to look at the artists hammering out unwanted rock pieces of a boulder to see this hidden sculpt inside.

“Here Sir, this way”, Manjunath’s voice and a tap on my shoulder brought me back to the present world. He told me that we have to ride to the ‘Virupaksha Temple’.

As we came near the Virupaksha temple, the crowd grew bigger. I wondered, out of all the visitors coming to Hampi, how many of them come to enjoy the beauty of the nature and how many come there for pilgrimage. How many are god fearing and how many are nature loving. How many of them imagine their god resting in a rock statue and how many realize that the rock they are worshiping is a part of the Nature that is the God in the first place. And this God doesn’t expect any worship or prayers, because regardless of all the rituals, this God, the mother nature treats everyone alike. It showers its love and its wrath on everyone alike.

When I see someone praying before an idol, I see a school going kid praying before his teacher, and asks the teacher to give him good marks in exams, just because he is praying. The wise teacher never fulfills this wish and the teachers’ reply to the kids’ prayer would exactly be the same reply of the God to his worshiper, if there was a God in the idol in the first place. Behavior of a person is also called his/her ‘nature’. Is it a coincidence? I don’t really think so. The sight of a huge crowd I saw near Virupaksha Temple was answering many of my questions. I haven’t had seen such a huge crowd at any other place in Hampi.

On my left I could see the Virupaksha Temple and on the right I could see a beautiful hill, a big square shaped structure housing a big bull sculpture and series of similar but smaller and empty structures were spread on the rocky hill base. I naturally turned right, which hardly pulled any crowd, may be because the temple was in the opposite direction. I parked my bike near the big Bull statue and walked up take a closer look. The big structure with Nandi (Bull) was called ‘Eduru Basavanna’ which means a monolithic bull. The bull statue seemed incomplete as the details of eyes, ears, mouth were missing. The roof on top of the Nandi was supported by number of tall pillars. The hill behind it was called ‘Matanga Hill’. Sage Matanga was believed to have resided on this hill. Right from that spot I could see the Virupaksha on the opposite, west direction. I was having second thoughts about going to the temple. But the architecture of the temple was marvelous. Me and Manjunath climbed down and rode in the opposite direction, just to disappear in the crowd.

Neither me nor the guy on the ticket counter of the temple had exact change on us. So he allowed me a free entry into the temple. I walked through a huge entrance of the Virupaksha temple. The entrance and the temple was amazingly beautiful. The amount of detail work done on the carvings was incredible. I saw some foreigners offering fruits to monkeys and trying to take a photos with them. To me, they seemed more closer to the god than the people lined up at the temple to make offerings to the rock idols inside. Me and Manjuanth first took a walk around the temple. We went into a small room just behind the temple. Many people were coming out of the room. I wondered what was inside. I saw a dark room and on one of the wall, I could see a shadow of the temple’s upper pediment. A look on the opposite wall of the shadow revealed a small hole in the wall, looking through which I could see the upper pediment of the temple. It was a pin hole effect, which was a magic for many who entered the room when we were about to leave.

Virupaksha means ‘The One With Misformed Eye’. It symbolizes Shiva. Manjunath asked me if I would like to go into the sanctum. Seeing the huge line standing out of the sanctum, I instantly refused, though I wanted to see the paintings on the ceilings of the sanctum.
















To Be Continued…
 

pranaymeher

Member
Day 3, part III, The Magnificent Vitthala Temple

CONTINUES FROM THE PREVIOUS BLOG, ‘THE ROYAL HISTORY’

We left Virupaksha temple and the crowd behind. The place where we were now, had really big boulders scattered around. Manjunath asked me to stop the bike and to have a look at one of the popular landmarks in Hampi. It was called ‘Sister Boulders’ in English and in local language, ‘Akka Tangiyara Gundu’. It was two huge, really huge boulders clinging on to each other. The boulder on the right had a perfectly straight cut onto it and the top part of it was kept from sliding down by the other huge boulder. There’s an interesting legend about these Sister Boulders in the folklore. I don’t want you to believe in the story, as I don’t believe in it either. But it’s fun to gather such legends during travelling. It helps us to remember the place longer than those which have no legend associated with them. The Legend also makes the place more interesting even if the legend is utter rubbish.

Well, the story goes like this. According to the legend, these Sister Boulders were once actual human sisters. They had visited Hampi during its most glorious days. Seeing the glory of the place, the sisters got jealous and said something really bad about the place. The reigning deity of the city learnt about these sisters ridiculing the town. The deity lost her temper and in the heat of the moment, the goddess cursed the sisters and turned them into stones.

Further down the road we saw cops standing against barricades on the road. They were stopping every bike and checking registration documents and licence. I was stopped too. I got down and presented my documents to the cop. He took the papers from me and asked me something in south Indian language, which made no sense to me. I looked at Manjunath, hoping that he would translate it for me. He just blinked slowly in a manner suggesting, “It’s alright”. The cop reading the documents asked, “Maharashtra? Mumbai?”. I said “Yes” with a decorative, cheek stretching smile. The cop did not say anything, he just glanced at me from head to toe and handed my documents back to me and gestured, ‘You can go’. I glanced around and saw three local boys making poor faces and pleading to the cop who had their licences. Clearly the boys had some important document missing. A common sight even in Mumbai.

We crossed the barricaded road and I saw stony open ground on the right. Two small structure were making their presence stand out from the rest of the land. These structure reminded me of the Pantheon in Greece. Manjunath told me they were Ganesha temples. The temples are usually built with a cone shaped structure on top, but these ones had a flat roof instead. The Greek influence on the architecture was pretty evident. However the temples were really beautiful. The first temple that I entered was more of a pavilion or a mandapa structure. It was open from all the sides with roof held on top by many stone pillars and a huge, 2.4 meter tall idol of Ganesha sitting in the center. It was called ‘Sasive Kalu Ganesha’. The literal translation of the term means ‘Mustard Seed Ganesha’. And no, it does not mean ‘The Ganesha made up of mustard seeds’. Even I got the same idea when Manjunath translated the term to me. He explained me that in Hampi, the mustard seeds merchants built this temple with the profit they earned in their business. We were walking around the temple when Manjunath was explaining me a unique feature of the sculpture. When we were at the back I noticed a back of a female with her legs folded, carved at the back of the Ganesha. Manjunath said that the sculptor had carved the image in such a manner that Ganesha is seated on the lap of his mother ‘Parvati’. The presence of Parvati against the huge Ganesha made her look inconspicuous.

The next temple, the one which resembled ‘The Pantheon’ in Greece, was called ‘Kadale Kalu Ganesha’. Which meant ‘Gram Seed Ganesha’ and had the same story behind its name as the former Ganesha temple. The Ganesha idol in this temple was 4.50 meters tall and carved out of a huge boulder. The pillars hosts some beautiful carvings with depictions of daily life of common man and various gods and goddess of Hindu religion. The temple is supposedly built in 16th century A.D.











We were at an open restaurant for lunch. Hours of riding and walking around, was taking its toll. I had completely forgotten about the mental note I had made while at ‘Chandrashekhsra Temple’ to get more water, and luckily I had very little water left before coming to the restaurant. I took in countless number of gulps of water while sitting under a hay roof of a small decorative hut of the restaurant. A big granite tile served as a table and two benches across looked like younger twin siblings of the table. I met an elderly Marathi couple at the restaurant, exchanged our travel stories and phone numbers and after about 10-15 minutes of talk with them, I left for my next spot.

We were headed for the ‘Vitthala Temple’. I was going to go to the correct temple this time, all thanks to Manjunath. I’m was glad I took Manjunath along. When we reached the spot, the same tea vendor looked at me and smiled to himself. He must have had guessed why I was back. I wondered, if he knew Hindi or I knew his language then my day ‘Hampi sight seeing’ wouldn’t have had started with a funny mistake.

We turned left from the ‘Gejjala Mandapa’ and came to a ground which had two open domed structures. Some people were seated inside and few were hanging around. Two women in uniform stood on the opposite side. Soon a two cart EV (Electric Vehicle) came into sight from the direction of the Vitthala Temple. Manjunath told me that we have to catch this EV, it’ll take us to the Vitthala Temple. The first EV was full. We got our seat in the next EV which arrived in just 5 minutes. There were total two EVs making rounds of the temple. The EVs were driven by only female drivers. The women managing the EV facility were not only doing their job nicely, but were also handling ill-behaved passengers very well.

The EV made it’s way out of the waiting area. Without making any noise the EV was on it’s way to the temple. I had a glimpse of the ‘Gejjala Mandapa’ going past from behind the fence and the morning memories flashed back. I pictured myself exploring the Gejjala Mandapa in the morning while other tourists were travelling in the same EV on the same morning. My eyes squinted, I realized I was smiling. The EV was moving on an elevated flat road. Few tourists were walking while others were cycling their way towards the temple. The route had small ancient ruins on both sides of the road. It was a great sight to observe these ruins from a slowly moving EV. After a slight turn a big tree came into view. Another EV, full of passengers, went by in the opposite direction. I knew that we are going to get down at the tree as I saw passengers near the tree eagerly waiting for our EV to arrive. Soon the grand entrance of the Vitthala Temple came into view.

The entrance of the temple said a lot about what is beyond it. Vitthala Temple is declared as one of the ‘World Heritage Sites’ by UNESCO. And I could see why. Just being there, transports you into a different era. While observing the entrance I saw a group of Americans chit-chatting. One face among them was familiar. “Hey man, it’s good to see you again. How are you doin?”, we both said the same thing almost instantaneously while shaking hands. It was Aditya again. He had just come out of the temple and waiting there to catch the next EV back. He told me how beautiful the Vitthala Temple is and built up my curiosity of the temple even more. We talked for a while, exchanged our experiences during the day. Before leaving I thanked him for his advice to take the bike across the river in a ferry.

As soon as I crossed the entrance, I was mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the place. I’m feeling little apprehensive writing about this place as I doubt my ability to express the grandeur of the place in words. No matter how long I kept looking at the entire view before me, I knew I could not capture the entire view in my memory. I could see many beautifully carved temples and carvings were in great detail. The open courtyard between each of these temples, the detailed carvings, proportions of the monuments were amazingly perfect and beautiful. Acoording to Indian mythology, Vitthala is believed to be an avatar of Vishnu. I saw a lone tree with a twisted trunk and a scarce presence of leaves, standing in the courtyard. This tree must have had witnessed the history of this place. I was imagining again. All the tourists walking in the courtyard turned into a 15th century crowd, wearing traditional clothes and jewellery. The place looked much more beautiful than it did a moment ago. I heard a faint voice of guy besides me wearing striped full sleeve shirt and a trouser. Manjunath was explaining me the history of the place. We were at a stone sculpture which looked like a chariot, with a pair of two wheels making their presence prominently visible. This chariot was in front of the temple. Manjunath told me that this was the famous ‘Vitthala Stone Chariot’. I remembered seeing photos of this chariot many times in the past. It was also called the ‘Garuda shrine’ because it houses an image of Garuda (Eagle), the vahana (vehicle) of Vishnu. It had two stone elephant up in the front, pulling the chariot and in the upper deck there was a small enclosure where the deity was kept once. Manjunath told me there used to be one more smaller structure on the top of the chariot which now lies on the ground few meters away from the chariot.

Up in front of the chariot was a monument with hundreds of slender stone pillars, sculptures of horses, lions and many other mythical creatures. The pillars of these monument were called music pillars. There was a sculpture of a woman, in front of each set of pillars, holding a particular musical instrument. Hitting on the pillars produces the sound of the instrument held by the sculpture of the woman in front of it. Unfortunately I did not get a chance perform my musical recital as the monument was closed for repair works. We walked around the courtyard observing many magnificent monuments such as Devi shrine, kalyana mandapa, utsava mandapa, a hundred pillared mandapa. We came across a small room which had two stone blocks in it. Manjunath told me that the famous idols of Vitthala and Rukmini which are in Pandharpur, Mahrashtra now, were once stood on these stone blocks. During invasions of Muslim emperors, these idols were shifted to Pandharpur, at their current place. When I was back in Mumbai, I tried to find out if the story of the Vitthala-Rukmini idols in Pandharpur was genuine, but came to know that there are lot of stories associated with the origin of the idols. But since it’s widely known that the Vitthala was south Indian, the story told by Manjunath made more sense to me, hence I believed it.

After spending about an hour and half, we walked out of the temple. Stepping out of the temple felt like stepping out of the history and stepping into the present. We took the EV to go back. That was it, the last site of my day in Hampi ruins. It was a memorable day. I knew right there and then that I’d be returning to Hampi once again. There’s just so much to explore here.











































I dropped Manjunath at his place, took a ferry to cross the river and was back at the Guest House. I sat in the restaurant area with Mohin and Sheikh and told them all about my experience. I was sipping a cup of hot tea. Mohin told me that he’s born here and yet has explored only seventy percent of Hampi.
“That’s why I’m coming back here again in future”, I told Mohin while taking the last sip.
“You are always welcome Sir”, Mohin replied with a smile.
“Sir, do you want to go to the Sunset point? Lot of Israeli people go there for the evening meditation. It’s really a beautiful place and you can view entire Hampi from up there”, Sheikh said.
I thought about it and was surprised that long hours of walking and sight seeing in Hampi ruins didn’t leave me exhausted. I had tremendous energy still left in me. A trek in the evening sounded like an exciting idea. There was still an hour left for the sun to paint the sky red. Meanwhile I just relaxed in the restaurant area.

The two Israelis at the Sunset Point
I parked my bike at the base of the hill. We started the trek. Sheikh was leading the way. The route going up was very narrow. We walked trough thick shrubs. I noticed many small stones painted in white, may be to show the route for the new comers. We reached on the top within half an hour of trek. The top was a flat rocky surface. On my right I saw a cave like formation. A huge boulder sitting on top of smaller boulders on either side gave it a cave like appearance. This cave was open from two sides. One side which we entered from and other side opens into the cliff. The boulder on the top was close to the ground making it impossible for grown up adults to stand. Sheikh and me sat inside and observed a beautiful view visible from the opposite side of the cave. We could see small villages down and other hills.

We came out of the cave and walked further ahead on the top. I didn’t see anyone meditating there. We did see few people sitting there and enjoying the view. Sheikh and I found a good spot near the cliff and sat there. The view was beautiful. I could see the Sun close to the horizon, many small villages, The Virupaksha temple and many other monuments of Hampi ruins were visible in the distance, slowly dissolving in the evening mist. I spotted few ponds down below. Presence of water on this landmark was as refreshing as water drops on vibrant flower petals. The whole scene was painted in red. Very soon the Sun cast its last rays of the day and disappeared behind a mountain. The moon was moving on the same trajectory. Presence of an old tree against the mixture of yellow, red and blue color of the sky was looking dramatic. Soon the celestial show was over. It was getting dark. Sheikh and I were about to leave when we met two Israelis who were walking back down. We said Hi to each other and exchanged smiles. They wore loose clothes. One of them asked me where I was from. After answering, I asked them the same and came to know that they are from Israel.
“So, how’s your experience in India?”, I asked them.
“Man, what can we say. India is a great country. We just feel at home every time we are here. Here people shower so much of love on tourists. The hospitality that we experience here is just incredible. We just keep coming back here whenever we get a chance. Thanks to this great country. And thanks to you two too, coz, you are Indians”, One of the Israeli guy spoke from the heart.
“Wow, thanks for saying that, I really appreciate that, enjoy your stay”, I said. I was feeling overwhelmed and proud after what I heard from this guy.
“Ok, guys, it was nice speaking to you. We need to make a move, it’s getting dark now”, said the other guy.
“Ok, bye, See Ya”, said Sheikh and I repeated after him.

After a while Sheikh and I also started climbing down from there. We met few guys who were pitching a tent and making arrangements for cooking in the same cave, we had been into while coming. It was pitch dark. Climbing down on a torch light was little difficult and took us one and half hour to reach down on the road where my bike was parked.




 

pranaymeher

Member
Day 4, Birthplace Of The Vayuputra

15th December, 2015, Tuesday

I got ready and arrived at the restaurant area by 7:30 in the morning. Sheikh had helped me with the day’s sightseeing plan and was also going to accompany me. But he had to go to a nearby village for the Guest house’s work, so he couldn’t come along. But before leaving he explained me the route and the places to visit. Mostly the places of interest around Rangapur were some temples and the Annegundi palace. I was not very much interested to visit temples but was interested to witness the archaeological and artistic glamour of the place.

After having my breakfast, I left on my bike for Annegundi palace. Anegundi was a small village just like Rangapur at a distance of about 7 kms from my guest house. The route was beautiful. It snaked through many small beautiful villages. On my left were beautiful hills with farms at the base, and the right side was covered with huge boulders most of the time. I was enjoying my journey with fresh morning sun, beautiful natural landscapes, unwinding road cutting through farms and small ponds, and was singing my favorite ‘Lucky Ali’ songs.

My bike’s odometer reading indicated that I had crossed nearly 7 kms, and I saw no signs of any village named Annegundi. I made an attempt to ask for directions to a local villager but due to language problem he could not help me. Two young boys told me to take a right turn after about a half a kilometer. As soon as I took the turn I saw a beautiful entry gate of the village. Passing through the gate revealed the hustle-bustle of the daily life in the village. Saw a big, dark and beautiful chariot with huge wooden wheels, standing near a road junction. In front of the chariot was a small structure that looked like a fountain. It was like a four oval disks kept on top of each other. I asked for Annegundi palace and three index fingers pointed in left direction. I took a left and then right and many turns after that. I noticed one peculiar thing about this village was that all the turns were perfectly perpendicular. Riding there felt like being in a 1982, block buster Hollywood movie – TRON.

I saw a man seated in a veranda of a beautiful house with sloping roof. Luckily this guy replied in English. He gave me directions for the palace but also advised against going there as the palace was closed for tourists due to repair works. I thanked him not only for directions but also for replying in a common language. I turned back and exited the village.




Next up in the plan, as suggested by Sheikh, was ‘Pampa Sarovar’ but I went through the photos of the spot in the book, and I didn’t find anything attractive there, so I decided to skip it. Then there was ‘Durga Temple’ too. I wasn’t sure if I should really go to these temples. But while passing by, I looked at the temple up on the hill and felt like giving it a shot. I took a left turn and followed the road going up to the temple. What happened next was the most embarrassing, yet most funny episode of the trip.

I was walking on steps painted in alternating white and red strips. The temple was not much far, it was within my eyesight. I wondered where I have to remove my footwear as I was unable to read the signs written around on the boulders and walls. I was shooting a footage of my own shadow while climbing the steps. I arrived at a white door and saw three men. I asked them where I have to remove my footwear, they said I can go further in and can remove the footwear right in front of the Durga Temple. I walked in and saw large blocks of stones, painted in bright white stacked up on top each other. This setup was on both the sides for a little distance. Then I saw the temple. A tree stood right in the front of the temple and had colorful bundles of cloth tied all over the branches. I removed my shoes in front of the temple and realized I could not enter the temple. There was a big group of people consisting of men, women and kids seated on the floor with their hands folded. Two priests were singing devotional songs for the goddess and the crowd was swaying their bodies with the rhythm of the song. One kid turned and looked at me, then he mumbled something to his mother. And before I knew it, many among them were looking at me, while still swaying with the song. I felt embarrassed and had no clue why I was getting such attention. I decided to walk around the temple to explore the vicinity.

I saw no reason why this temple was a tourist attraction. The temple was definitely not ancient. It was a normal, regular temple that we see everyday. I could not understand why Sheikh suggested this place. I was back in front of the temple. Gladly the whole crowd was looking up front at the idol of the goddess. The priests were still singing. I felt like capturing that event on my action camera. I started recording. One by one head started turning again. I became the center of the attention again. I froze, my whole body went stiff, only my right hand moved to press the ‘Stop Recording’ button on the camera. I really tried hard to understand the reason for attracting so much attention. Was it my costume? Or my camera? Or else I failed to read a signboard before entering the temple that said, ‘Tall guys, wearing short trousers and carrying an action camera, are not allowed inside the temple……… – By Order’. As far as shooting was concerned, I was pretty sure that wasn’t an issue. I had seen few men shooting a video of their families sitting on the temple floor. You know sometimes you get that feeling that you are at a wrong place at a wrong time? Well, it was precisely that wrong place and exactly that wrong time, for the reasons I didn’t even know.

Just a day before, while exploring ruins of Hampi, my imaginative mind had showed me 15th century people living in the glorious days of the place while I was walking through. But today I was getting looked at in the same manner a 15th century crowd would look at a guy from the 21st century. That was it. That was the most embarrassing moment for me, so I decided to walk out from there. As I was about to step out of the entry gate I was tempted to look back to check if the people were still looking at me and guess what…………

I didn’t look back. I walked straight down from there. One guy asked for a lift as I started the bike. He wanted a drop on the main street. While riding down I had a good conversation with the guy. When he got down from the bike I asked him for his recommendation for my next site. He advised me to go to the ‘Anjaniparvat’. He also told me that Anjaniparvat is a birthplace of Lord Hanuman. It was named after his mother ‘Anjani’ who resided on the hill. I shook hands with him and bid goodbye.

‘Another temple, that too with 580 steps? No way, I’m not going there’, I thought to myself as I rode back to the guest house. Anjaniparvat was right on my way to the guest house. After the embarrassing experience at the Durga Temple, I decided to skip the Anjaniparvat and go straight to the guest house.

I was climbing the steps of the Anjaniparvat. I had read about the Anjaniparvat in the book I had bought at the ‘Queens Bath’ and also in one of the travelogue I had read while planning this trip. I was aware that the view from the top was amazing and also due to the historical significance of the place, I unknowingly turned towards this place and found myself climbing the grueling 580 steps in the scorching sun. The steps were deserted. I saw no one for a very long time. Then after a while I saw some people coming down and a lady climbing all the 580 steps on her knees.

The concrete steps had about a meter tall side wall, painted in saffron color and each vertical face of the sidewalls had ‘Shri Ram’ written on it in white. After many turns on the steps I came across huge boulders right in the way. The steps dissappered beneath the boulders. I ducked to have a look and saw a man coming out from there. I crawled underneath the boulders and came out on the other side. A Sadhu (Hindu ascetic) was seated on the sidewall. He smiled and asked me if I had drinking water. I had bought two bottles before starting the climb. I took out one bottle from my bag and gave it to the Sadhu. He opened it, washed his hands with it and gave it back. “That’s it? don’t you want to drink water?”, I asked him, to which he said “No”. I sat there talking to him for a while. I wanted to catch my breath before continuing further. After about 15 minutes I started again, and in next 15 minutes I was on the top.

The view from the top was indeed great, just like I had seen in the book. The blue sky was looking beautiful, and countless sun bathing boulders, hills, temples, rivers and ruins disappeared into the horizon into the blue mist.

I read about the history and significance of the place written (in very poor grammar) on the wall of the temple. I went in the dark temple. saw few priests and sages resting there. The temple had many rooms dedicated to many gods and godesses. One of the large hall had Ram and Sita’s idols. A priest was seated right in the front, with his legs folded and was reading verses from Ramayana. The priests’ sound was echoing in the temple. It felt peaceful there. I rested my back on a wall and sat there for next half an hour.







While going down I sat with the Sadhu again and had a really long discussion with him about our views of the mythology. As I expected our views did not match with each other, yet we both heard each other out, every single word of it. Having disagreement with someone is not wrong, what’s wrong is stating our views in such a way that it offends the other persons views and beliefs. Believing that our views are always right is a sign of egoism. Thankfully, travelling let me meet with so many people I can agree with and so many I disagree with, and it also teaches me how to be receptive for all kinds of views. Unless we learn this art, we will always remain in the shadows of ignorance. My conversation with the sadhu will go down on my memory lane with the same humility. It was a good experience chatting with him. I was feeling hungry. I rode straight to the guest house from the Anjaniparvat.

While having lunch I was feeling sad that it was my last day in Hampi. I wish I had stayed longer to explore this place even more. I knew for sure that I was going to come back to Hampi once again. This place had already earned a special place in my mind and heart.
“Sir, you had told me that you wanted a ride of Korakal in the like, right? Do you want to go for it? I’m free now, I can come with you”, Sheikh told me. I didn’t realize when he came as I was lost in my own thoughts. I jumped at the idea. It would be really great to have one more adventurous experience in Hampi before I leave.

We met Moses, the Korakel owner in the lake. He was the same guy who had taken Aditya for camping across to the opposite shore of the lake during the meteor shower night. I asked him how much the ride would cost. He said 150 ₹ per head. I told Sheikh to hop in to which he said, “Sir, you go, I’ve taken ride many times. It’s not a new thing for me. You enjoy the ride”.
“He’s lying, he hasn’t taken ride in Korakel, I’m sure of it”, Moses said.
I realized what was going on. I said, “Come on Sheikh, don’t worry about the money. I’m paying for you. You’ve been very helpful to me, please allow me this favor to you. Now jump in”. Sheikh smiled and sat in the Korakel.

Moses and Sheikh knew each other very well, I guessed by the way they were speaking to each other. In such a small town everyone knows everyone else. Sheikh asked Moses if he can take the oar to ride the Korakel, Moses agreed and handed him over the oar. It must be difficult to steer that round boat with a single row. Even by following Moses’ instruction, Sheikh was having trouble propelling the boat. Moses took the oar back in his hand and propelled the boat with strong strokes in the water. As the Korakal left the shore, everything went silent. I could hear only splashing water all around me. It was a calm and pleasant ride. The place looked even more beautiful from the middle of the lake. Moses showed me the shore where he had gone for camping with Aditya. A family of foreigners were having fun swimming in the lake at the same spot. I saw a man diving into the lake from a boulder on the lake shore. Many had lost their GoPro camera’s in the lake in the past, when they had tried to capture the similar dives with it. Moses had found four such GoPro’s in the lake almost a year later while swimming and had parceled it back to their respective owners. Moses stopped rowing, Korakal stopped moving. We all just sat there enjoying the beautiful nature. I was observing the rhythm of the swaying of the boat and the sound of the splashing water. Our planet is so beautiful. I wish I get to explore the entire planet in this lifetime. It’s a long shot, and a huge dream, I thought.

By the time we came back to the shore, I had earned one more friend in this trip besides Sheikh. It was Moses. He was a nice guy and I had a good memorable conversation with him and Sheikh during the Korakel ride.

After the Korakal ride, Sheikh showed me the Hampi market area which was a very busy market with many hotels and guest houses. It appeared like a mini Goa with abundance of foreigners roaming around. By the river side we spotted a crew shooting for a Hollywood movie. The Virupaksha Temple looked beautiful from the other side of the river. Hundreds of people were taking a boat to go across the river to The Virupaksha Temple. The temple steps looked beautiful next to the river Tungabhadra. As it started getting dark I thought It was time to call it a day, go back and pack the bags for the next journey.







While riding back to the guest house, I reflected back on the memories of the last three days. This place offered me so much. This place was so damn beautiful………

End of Day 4
 

pranaymeher

Member
Day 5, Meeting My Childhood Friend

16th December, 2015
Hampi to Bangalore (343 kms)


I was ready with the first ray of the sun. I loaded my bike with all the bags and sat in the restaurant area to have my last breakfast in that beautiful town. Met David who was from Sweden. He gave me his advice and suggestions for my upcoming France roadtrip. Mohin and Sheikh sat nearby while I was having breakfast. I told them that I can’t thank them enough for the the kind of hospitality and favor they offered me. It was indeed a great experience meeting them. Even after this trip I stayed in touch with them. Shared my trip photographs and blog with them.





I wore my jacket and other riding gears, bid my farewell to the staff of the guest house with a promise of coming back, and hit the road. It was 8 am in the morning. After following curvy roads going through many beautiful landscapes, I left the beautiful boulders and magnificent ruins of Hampi behind. I was soon on the highway. As the gasoline fumes rushed through the engine, so did the adrenaline through my veins. I was back on the open highway after many days. Bryan Adams’ song “Life is An Open Road” echoed in my head. I had to travel 343 kms today to reach Bangalore. My friend from Mumbai, Rahul, who shifted to Bangalore a while ago before my trip, invited me to stay at his place. He had shared his address and GPS location with me. I did not know that despite having the address it was going to be so difficult to find the place. Since I was going there on weekday it wasn’t possible for him to receive me at some known place in the crowded city. I realized that he must be commuting to his office as I was riding on the open highway at the moment.

After hours of pleasant riding on the highway I saw a city far on the horizon. I told myself, ‘The Fun Ends Here’. Bangalore traffic is infamous. I entered the city, rode on many flyovers and finally landed in a traffic jam. When I left in the morning I had hoped that there won’t be traffic in the afternoon as in any city the peak hours are during start and end of the working hours. I was wrong. In next couple of days that I spent in Bangalore, I learnt that Bangalore traffic is totally unpredictable. The main reason for the jams is the absence of railways in the city. In a city like Mumbai, trains carry the huge burden of commuting passengers therefore roads are relatively less packed as opposed to Bangalore. But this city would have never had imagined that it will become an IT hub of the country and would see a sudden boom in the population and it parks. Now the Bangalore city is incapable of handling such a huge crowd. Yet the city is functioning properly despite such huge hurdles. “The Show Must Go On…”

It took me a while to realize that I was lost. I turned on voice navigation on my phone but that too got confused in such a complicated web of roads of the Bangalore city. I asked a policeman for directions, he said, “Go straight from here, you’ll see a circle, take a second exit from there, and then take a third right from the signal, take a center lane to go under a highway then take the outer ring road”. I thanked him for the directions, but in reality I felt more disoriented than before. I did not understand a word he said. I reached at the next signal and asked for directions. And this trick seemed to work. I stopped at every traffic signal to ask for directions and finally reached the destination.

I was in AECS layout, a residential township in Bangalore. It was quite amusing to see such a silent locality well within a crowded city. Bangalore’s weather is pleasant throughout year. As I entered the AECS layout I felt a drop in the temperature. All the gates of the residential premises had an identical boards hanging on them, with their unique IDs displayed on it. Rahul had sent me a photograph of the gate of his residential complex. I matched the design of the gate with the one I could see in the photograph, then I matched the ID on the board…, both matched. A young lady spoke to me from behind a window and asked me if I was Rahul’s friend. She said Rahul had left his apartment keys for me. I took it and went in Rahul’s apartment.

Rahul’s apartment was really big compared to Mumbai standards. His living room was big enough to fit a One Room Kitchen apartment in Mumbai. He had kept his bicycle and camera tripod in the living room and a computer lied silently in the far corner.

I called up my childhood friend Manasa (We call her Dibbu though) to inform her that I have arrived in Bangalore. I’d been looking forward to meet her, her younger sister Shweta, and her mom. We grew up together, played together like siblings. Then her family moved to AndhraPradesh (A state in India). And we never met since then. It was almost 25 years. Thanks to Facebook I was in touch with them again. I had decided to meet her and her family when I was planning my South Indian Road Trip. She gave me address of her home and told me her mom, I call her Kaku (Aunty), was in Hyderabad with her younger sister Shweta, hence I won’t get to see her. I was going to meet her husband and son Darhas for the first time. We decided the time for my visit to her place in the evening, and then I took a well deserved nap.

I was once again lost in the alleyways of Bangalore. It was dark and and getting colder. I was searching for Dibbu’s place. I stopped at a shop to buy cookies and sweets for her family, especially her son. I missed the correct turn from the main road and found myself riding a never ending alleyway. One fellow, carrying a small kid on his arm came to help me. I told him the address but he did not know it. I called up Dibbu and handed over the phone to him. They spoke in South Indian language and then the guy gave me correct directions. I went straight, again came on the main road, saw an under construction temple little further down the road and turned left from there, just like the guy had told me. At the end of the road I saw a girl lit by my bike’s headlamp, standing with a phone. It was Dibbu. I saw her after 25 years. There’s something special about meeting your childhood friend. It brings back all the innocent memories of your childhood. It does not mean that I have turned into a mischievous rascal now. I remembered all the silly games we played together, all the fights we had, caring nature of her mom and dad. How she was a part of our family and how me and my brothers were part of her family. I wondered if her younger sister, Shweta, would even recognize me after all these years. I rode further down the road. I was travelling forward in space but my mind was travelling backwards in time. I had mixed reactions in my head. I was happy to see her but at the same time was feeling emotional. I kept smile glued on my face.

I stopped the bike near her. She had hardly changed after so many years. Twenty five years is a big, really big time. We greeted each other. I conveyed the warm regards my family and cousins had sent for her. She introduced me to her father-in-law who was standing near her. Then we went to the parking space where I parked my bike. We walked to her apartment. I walked in and met her husband, Ratan. Ratan and I sat in the living room discussing my road trip. He seemed very eager to know about my travelling ideas and my previous trips. Soon we were accompanied by their son, Darhas. Meaning of Darhas is smile. He was very quiet and shy in the beginning but as the time went by he revealed his innocent mischievous childhood.

Dibbu setup the dining table. It was time to continue our conversation over dinner. We brought up our childhood memories, she asked me how my brothers, parents and rest of the cousins were. Born and brought up in Mumbai, Dibbu could speak fluent Marathi but I was surprised to hear her speak Marathi with same fluency after 25 years. The conversation between three of us was multilingual. Dibbu and I conversed in Marathi. She spoke to her husband in their native south Indian language and me and Ratan spoke to each other in English. Soon we had company in our conversation, Ratan’s Father. I learnt from Dibbu that he was a retired Doctor.

During my travelling I stick to strict veg diet. Dibbu had cooked chicken for dinner. I decided not to tell her about my veg diet and go ahead with the non-veg dinner. It was going to be my very first non-veg meal of the trip and also the first time I was going to have food cooked by Dibbu. Before serving the food, she apologized saying that the chicken has gone too spicy. But when I tasted it, it was just perfect. I was glad I broke my veg diet plan. The food, especially chicken was just too delicious to miss.

I told them about my next day’s plan. I had planned to visit ‘Pyramid Valley’ which was 40 kms from Bangalore. I had seen photographs of the place in my friends Facebook album. Ratan and Dibbu both advised me against it. They both had been to The Pyramid Valley. They said that it would be a waste of time to go there, instead, they told me to visit Nandi Hills which was a 60 kms ride. Nandi hills was famous Sunrise spot. I made a quick search on Google for Nandi Hills and was quite captivated by the images I saw. Their advice was going to be proven very valuable in next couple days which will be elaborated in next day’s blog. Nandi hills turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of the trip after Hampi.


Dibbu, Ratan, Darhas and me
Our discussions stretched long after dinner. It was getting late. I took leave of them and left. Dibbu, Ratan and Darhas came to the parking space to see me off. I waived goodbye and before shifting to the first gear, took a last glance at them. I had no idea when I’ll see Dibbu and her family again. A smile lingered on my face.

END OF DAY 5
 

pranaymeher

Member
Day 6-7, Surprises At ITPL, Bangalore

17th-18th December, 2015

The day started with a breakfast at a nearby underground restaurant, Sai Bhavan. Rahul and I walked down to the restaurant. According to Rahul, this place served the best food in the neighborhood. Even though it was underground, half of the ceiling had a open view of the street and allowed the sunlight to illuminate the place. The place was small but clean and tidy. We bought our coupons and handed it over to the staff at the delivery bay. The entire staff was in black uniform. While I waited for the delivery, Rahul got the tea for us. I glanced at the menu hanging on the nearby wall. In the lunch and dinner items there were many items ending with ‘Bath’. Usually in Hindi rice is called ‘Bhaat’, but here in Bangalore it was commonly called, ‘Bath’. Usually when we hear or read ‘Bath’, the first thing that pops up in our head is a closed room, soap, shampoo, tooth-brush etc. But here the story was different. I read a dish called ‘Masala Bath’, which in English translates to, ‘Spicy Bath’. I laughed at funny thoughts in my head and took the delivery of the served breakfast items.

We grabbed the nearby table and stuffed ourselves with delicious breakfast. I had ordered ‘Medu wada’. And it was so crispy and delicious that I ordered a second round. We returned to the apartment and Rahul left for office. He suggested me to visit ITPL, which is one of the biggest IT Park in Bangalore. This IT park had many animation and vfx studios where many of my friends including Rahul were working. At one point of time in the past, we all worked in the same company. But now as the CG and VFX industry grew in India, everyone scattered around. It was a good idea to catch up with them after so many years.

In the afternoon, I rode again in the crazy traffic of Bangalore. ITPL was merely 14 kms from Rahul’s apartment but it took me more than an hour to get there. I crossed the heavy security at the entrance, filled up the visitor pass form, deposited my pan card at the security which I was to get back while leaving, found a good parking spot for my bike and called up my friends one by one. While I was walking towards the mess hall I bumped into Pankaj, my ex-collegue. He was surprised to see me and when he learnt that I’m on a solo road-trip he was astonished and wished me good luck for the rest of the trip.

I met my friends at the mess hall. It was great to see them. For a while we just stood there chitchatting. Then we realized they have a limited time. They had to finish their lunch and get back to work. While I was ordering my food, the guy standing next to me quickly turned around, he found my voice familiar. It was Rajrajan, my ex team lead. We both were shocked and surprised to see each other after almost 10 years. After talking to him for a while, I joined my friends for lunch.

We were shortly joined by Naren during lunch, another friend of mine. I had no idea how many of my friends worked in ITPL and how many of them I would bump into that day. An hour went by without us realizing it. I decided to take a group photo before they all head back to work. We came out, stood in the sun. One of my friend handed over my camera to his friend to take a photo. While he was clicking a photo, we heard loud voice, “Oye Pranay”. I saw one more friend of mine. I asked him get in the group for the photo. Then the guy clicked another photo. Again we heard it, “Oye Pranay”. One more friend, one more click and one more shout. And it reapeated again several times. It was four of us in the beginning and now it was eight. We all laughed whenever we heard the same shout again and again. It was a great coincidence. I was delighted to bump into so many of my friends that day. My visit to ITPL paid off. While I was leaving, I bumped into two more friends of mine. Took photos with them and spent some time talking with them. Everyone went back to work, except Manmath, my old friend. He invited me for dinner on coming weekend.





In the evening I met Dilip, who happens to by my close friend Avinash’s elder brother. He had shifted to Bangalore few years ago. I called him up and we decided to meet up. We went to a nearby restaurant. He explained me the differences that he observed in the lifestyles of Mumbai and Bangalore. He liked it here more than Mumbai. He was going to go leave for Mumbai the next day for spending holidays with family, otherwise he was eager to show me around in Bangalore. After delicious dinner we strolled around, observing the night life of the city. As he was just mentioning that the owner of a furniture shop on the street has a big and fluffy cat, we just happened to get a glimpse of it right then. The cat really was big and fluffy but was very lazy. It didn’t even move while I was taking photographs. It was getting late and Dilip had to pack his bags for his departure to Mumbai. We called it a day.



I spent the next day just lazing around and planning my next course of action for the trip. I had planned to leave for Coorg but since Waynad was so close by, I decided to take a detour to Waynad in Kerala, visit ‘Edekkal Caves’ and then go to Coorg. I also had planned to see the famous sunrise of Nandi hills which was a suggestion from Dibbu and her husband. Rahul had been there several times but he wanted to come there again with me. So we decided to go to Nandi Hills on coming Saturday.

END OF DAY 6-7…
 
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