Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hampi, day 5; the most amazing sunrise

This morning, I decided to brave the darkness and set out at 5am for Matanga Hill, where "one of the world's most amazing sunrises" was said to be viewed. By the time I made it through the bazar, the sky was lit enough that I could easily make out the path to the hill and up through the stones.

In university, I had a friend from the Middle-East. When I once described to her where I grew up, she said, "Oh no, what about the squirrels? I'm so afraid of squirrels!" I responded that I'm much more afraid of the people in the city than any animal I've ever come across in the forest, but she wasn't convinced. Squirrels remained a terrifying concept. In a similar but reversed way of thinking, I always imagined monkeys as adorably playful little creatures. They aren't. They can actually be down-right nasty, in any use of the word. I'd overcome the fear of being mugged, by now, but climbing up the hill, I found myself totally surrounded by monkey, including a couple from above, eying me up, hissing with long fangs exposed. As a few started coming towards me, I started slowly backing up, but then figured, "What the hell? I wanna see this sunset!" Remembering a documentary I'd seen as a kid (or was it  The Gods Must Be Crazy?), where a child held a piece of wood over his head to scare off a hyena, I held me arms straight up and let out a yell. It seemed to work, as they cleared the path and let me through.

A bit further up, I turned the wrong way , into a dark cave where an old man lay on the rock floor. Not wanting to wake him, I turned quickly back to the path and found a large stone jutting out beyond the larger pieces, where a stone stairway, as old as the ruins themselves, wrapped its way up the small cliff. From there it was just a short climb up to the Veerabhadra Temple on top.

Just a few steps from the top, I noticed the small, red, half-crescent rising from the mist. I was a bit disappointed with myself for missing it by that short a time, but as I came up the temple, the stone doorway framed the sunrise perfectly, and it ended up being one of my favorite pictures I've taken.

Finding my way to the rooftop, I sat with the small crowd of monkeys and a couple of other adventurers, who'd also gathered to witness the daily miracle. If it was the most amazing sunrise in the world, I have no way of judging, but it was a special moment. I'm not sure there are many other settings quite like this on the small planet we share.

Back at Gopi's in time for breakfast, Kiran called some people, hooked us up with some scooters, and we followed him and his friend through the terrain to his banana plantation, west of Hampi. I hadn't driven a bike in a couple of years, so I made some laps through the guesthouses until I was confident enough to let Shelly get on the back. It was hard to keep up with them, at first, but it's always a lot of fun driving though exotic places on two wheels.

On the way, we stopped to see a candy factory, where they were cooking up the juice from squeezed sugar cane and pouring it into large pools shaped in the ground, where they were stirring it until it settled.

The plantation wasn't so exciting to me, but we did see a giant alligator, which I definitely wasn't expecting and didn't know there were any in the area. I would have thought twice about boarding a basket boat the day before!

We climbed up a big rock to keep out of the mud and enjoyed each other's company. Kiran, at one point,  got a text message from his friend, which read, "American says to Indian, 'We recycle our toilet paper and sell it to India as newsprint.' Indian says to American, 'Yeah, we recycle our condoms and sell it to American as chewing gum.'" Kiran got a big kick out of it, maybe if I were Indian I would have, too...

On the way back, we stopped by a village that had a bunch of adorable kids who all came running to great us. We gave them the pens we had with us and they were pleased. We couldn't get over their beautiful faces and big smiles. It was refreshing to see such happy children.

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