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.