photo by Jude Atkinson-Hill
We stayed on the other side of the river to the temples for two nights and on our second evening we walked up the path where people go bouldering. We walked amongst huge boulders that are somehow balanced securely on the rock slopes, looking as if they might fall but have probably been there forever, balanced on each other like strange rock snowmen. Walls of sandy coloured boulders and rocks, almost polystyrene looking, like Planet of the Apes or Star Trek, unreal, as if this is where the world started. Looking around it is easy to imagine that there was a big explosion and everything fell to earth as it was created, (even us, I whispered to myself.)
We sat on huge flat rocks that were so warm that I had to put my feet on my bag to stop them burning, and watched the sun set behind the clouds. I felt myself absorbing the sun’s energy, as well as the power and energy of those huge rocks.
I had meditated for a second time in the beach hut in Agonda, again dropping into it easily after a little yoga. I couldn’t help remembering that when I had meditated a few days earlier, the overriding sensation had been of FEAR. This time though, it wasn’t there and although I may have initially suggested it to myself (it’s hard in meditation to know if an idea has come from my thinking brain or from deep inside me), however it felt right and didn’t change, and this time the word was STRONG.
On the rocks was not exactly meditating, it was more reflection, mindfulness and energy absorption. But still definitely not fear.
Even though I am India I am still the same, of course. I still get anxious and have a bit of OCD, but loads of stuff is okay or much better than I expected. I coped fine with the heat in Hampi which was my biggest fear. (The weather reports said it was 39°C but felt like 42°C, whatever that means. Hot, anyway, hot enough that when I heard it was 32°C in Goa I thought that sounded good). I have even come to kind of enjoy the feeling of sweat pouring off me, as if I am being detoxified, which I suppose I am. I also like the sense of languidness that is absolutely essential in the afternoons and often includes a nap.
In the hottest weather my clothes work and I feel really comfortable: really baggy black linen trousers, white (well, they were when I bought them) shirts, a lilac hat, with a cream scarf draped over the top. As long as I don’t look in the mirror… When it cools down a little I do my best to look nice: shower, brush my hair and put it up into a neat bun, put on a fresh black vest top and black knee-length skirt, ditch the hat, drape my cream scarf over my shoulders. I have hardly any clothes, but they are all functional and they all go together.
My tummy is fine (although I have a new standard of fine since being here). I don’t care about products, I don’t seem to need to moisturise as much here anyway, and when I run out of Oil of Olay (which I have used every day for twenty years) I am just going to buy something else, anything. Likewise even with my beloved Body Shop hemp handcream I only experience mild anxiety re what I am going to do when it runs out.
Maybe it was Hampi, maybe it was PMS, but I found myself feeling so raw, so emotional, so happy I almost cried (well actually I did a little bit, discreetly). India is obviously so steeped in spirituality, and being here is such sweet sensory overload, that it would be surprising if I walked through it without feeling something. And Hampi is such a special place.
We got the ferry over the river each day, just a short distance, the man does this back and forth all day. We were reminded of Siddhartha. (Later, one of my favourite bloggers SMUT. and Self-Esteem mentioned Siddhartha in a really inspiring post called Atheism and Spirituality). In a similar vein, we met the man who takes the money at the main temple, he has worked there, caring for the temple for forty years.
At the huge Ganesh statue, carved from a single piece of stone, we arrived at the exact moment that the woman who works there cleaning and minding it arrived and opened the gates so that we could go inside and hug the huge warm belly of Ganesh and walk around him.
It was too hot to walk everywhere so we got a rickshaw to The Lion God Narasimha, stopping for coconuts when we got too hot.
Meeting Indian people was nice. We met people in Goa but that was largely a pop up population, there only for the season before packing up and going home to places including Kerala and Nepal. In Hampi almost everyone we met had been born there and lived there all their lives. Our rickshaw driver had lived amongst the ruins, before the people were moved out from there and his family moved into the town. There were lots of Indian tourists who were very friendly and even took our photographs and took selfies with us! A Catholic nun was concerned about us being too hot and advised me to wear a piece of onion in my hair to stop me getting heat stroke.
We fell asleep in the afternoon with the door open because of the heat, and a monkey came in and took my dearly beloved tablet (the one I do everything on, I decided not to buy a Chromebook after all). People from the rooftop cafe opposite saw it and a little boy retrieved it for me and came to our room with his father to return it. (The tablet was in a zip up plastic toiletry type bag, apparently they take things like that in case it is food). Our room was on the first floor, and the monkeys jump from roof to roof, I am so lucky that they didn’t drop it from a height and break it!) I was half asleep and bewildered at the time but later, after we had visited the main temple again, this time at dusk and seen all the families there, sitting with tea and food and seen all the monkeys again, we returned home and I bumped into the boy’s father and was able to say a heartfelt thank you and give the boy and his sister a small present.
I did this by myself and then went to join my husband and stepson in the Old Chillout restaurant downstairs (which has lovely seating and lounging areas, great food, super friendly staff, and looks out over the boulders and banana palms), and just, sat… I didn’t know at first what the feeling was, but it was so strong that after a while I took out my tablet and went on WordPress because otherwise I might have properly started crying. That feeling, of course, was love.
The next morning we left at 5.30am. It was still dark and we drove past people waking up and starting their days, past carts pulled by oxen, past all kinds of temples and shrines, and watched dawn break, feeling the cool night air through the open sides of the rickshaw. Magical.
We got the train back to Goa, an 8.5 hour journey in 2nd class ac, booked by the man who arranged our coach from Agonda to Hampi. So far we have been doing things the easy way, later we’ll also use local buses and book trains ourselves at the station, but it is the man’s business and it was nice to support him. The train was not quite as smart as the one from Delhi to Goa but perfectly comfortable and with a plentiful supply of people selling meals, snacks, coffee, water and sweets. Although we had booked sleepers people were in our seats/beds and we didn’t have the heart to evict more than one person so we shared a sleeper seat for most of it, not really a problem as it was daytime (although I did go to sleep).
We arrived at Anjuna Beach, which was a bit too holiday maker-ish for us so we decided to find somewhere to move on to. The next morning we got up early and went to look at Little Vagator. We didn’t really like that either and so ended up staying in Anjuna one more night whilst we decided where to go next. Arriving in Anjuna and Little Vagator after being in Hampi was like being pulled out of heaven. Also, we had experienced probably the best beach in Goa already and been spoilt: Agonda, with its tasteful beach side restaurants and bars, and beach huts, all of which are situated behind or level with the treeline so as not to spoil the beach. Whilst of course touristy, it was so perfectly done, and the beach so clean, peaceful and big I don’t suppose anywhere will compete with that.
But it is about the experience, after all, and it was fun, getting up really early to beat the heat and going off to get to Little Vagator, with nowhere open and no rickshaws around. We met two local guys who shared their cigarettes and drinks with us and persuaded an off duty rickshaw driver to take us, and invited us out to party with them. That evening we did what you do in Anjuna, which I found quite scary, down the backstreets in the dark, into a house with one, two, then three men appearing. Back to the guesthouse in a taxi to get cards and go to the ATM, having declined the offer of my husband getting a lift on the back of one of their mopeds and me staying in the house with one of the men and being made tea. We wouldn’t have done that in England, in fact I am sure that here it would have been fine, but if anything had happened we’d have looked like idiots for taking that risk. But they were all lovely, everything was fine, and now we can have another experience…