Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Intoxicating nature and magical ruins at Hampi

For someone like me who is accustomed to traveling at least once a month the past year has been drier than the dunes of Sahara. So when the opportunity came to visit a place that I hold really close to my heart, it was like a much needed shot in the arm. Hampi was beckoning again and I was ever so ready...Well I was, but little did I reckon that I would still have to face the jinx that has kind of really active in blocking my travels for a while now.

We had made plans to leave by 6am, to reach there by lunch at least. We= me + Friend A +Friend B.
( Oh, I am not withholding names to protect anyone's identity, just respecting their privacy and space.)
Alarms were set, bags were packed, all I had to do was get ready and leave.
But my dear phone decided it was time to drain the battery and shut off. I woke up in alarm to realize the alarm had not alarmed me and I had a dead phone and a Friend with no directions to my place. All the numbers were safe in my phone which refused to boot up. It was 6 a.m.

I guess those were the most productive 45 mins of my life and we were finally out by 6:45am..(avoiding all details for the highest good of all concerned... :) ) Whew it did feel good to be out on the road again. Thanks to some excellent driving and the mercy of the universe to keep the traffic at an minimum, We did manage to reach our destination by 12:45pm.

On the way Friend A asked for some Fevi-bond to fix a loose sole and Friend B said "I also need some to fix a loose sole" and I hid a smirk and a sigh of relief that my footwear was brand new, bought just the previous evening so that was one less thing I had to worry about. Sigh!!!Little did I know.......

Stepping into the Nature camp, we felt like kids entering into a playground. This was home. We were greeted with an amazing lunch and the most beautiful Coppersmith Barbet which Pompayya Sir pointed out to us. He was our guide and companion for the next 3 days and I am sure everyone who has been there would agree that a trip to Hampi would not be the same without Pompayya sir around.

Coppersmith Barbet was waiting to welcome us into the nature albeit against the light.

Post lunch we took off for birding to click some of the treasures of this region.

Chestnut -Bellied Sandgrouse in a brilliant camouflage and so far away. We were lucky to get this beauty.

 Something just did not feel right as I stepped out of the car for a closer look at a yellow wattled lapwing. Something was flopping around and dragging me back. Hey wait, that was the sole of my less than 24hrs old footwear. Grrrr..... It flopped , swayed and came right off. Wow so much for the smirk on my face. The other's faces were painted with the widest grin ever as they had the most gala time watching me drag my feet around. Friend A promptly offered the Fevi-Bond to me, but my smirk was going to cost more than just that.. Well this trip was going to be different.

Who cares about a broken footwear when this beautiful female painted sandgrouse posed for us with such a delightful Background.

Where there is a female can her guy be far back. He was there as well, with the evening light fading off, they were ready to have the last feed before the roost.

Hey wait, this is my good side, get that on the cam too.....

A Baya weaver female steps in for her evening meal

And is soon joined by her friends the scaly breasted munia and the silverbill.  Unity in diversity.

Ashy Crowned sparrow lark joins in for a quick pose.

How do these guys hold on to their woolly necks in such a warm weather? Don't sweat the small stuff - he seems to be saying.

 It was late and getting dark, so we bid the birds goodbye, but we still had some time before we could roost for the day. That was when Pompayya sir suggested we could visit the Virupaksha temple. Having never gone inside the temple in any of our previous visits, this was going to be a new experience. The temple at night is so different from the temple during the day. It was so silent and the serene energy from the every stone in the temple was so vivid. The priests were preparing for the daily night ritual before the deity was moved to the resting chambers. The temple elephant was brought in, the deity was taken around in a palanquin, the resident macaques of the temple were ready for their dinner of rice that was a part of the ritual. Everyone seemed to know exactly what they had to do and where they fit in, as we and one visiting foreigner couple sat and absorbed the whole atmosphere in. The whole process took about an hour and for people who are not regular temple goers, this probably would be the best time to visit, do nothing, just sit, watch and soak it in. The energy in this temple is immense, it still holds the energy of the bygone era. If you are ready to feel it, it is there.

 End of day 1.
Day 2 - Friend B had earlier tried to help and fix my footwear with the Fevi-Bond, ( I still have to repay for that) but to be on the safer side as we started our day I took my bright pink bathroom flip-flops as a back up. It proved to be a wise decision. But then maybe bright pink was lucky as we came across this beautiful bird soon after.

What an incredible perch and pose - Eurasian Eagle Owl

And this one with babies. One of the little ones is already sitting on its parent's head. That's called starting early.

This beautiful Bronze back tree snake was rescued a day earlier by Pompayya sir and this was while releasing back into its domain.

We were mesmerized by its beauty so some more pics.

And a lifer for me to end the morning session with.

 After the morning session, we were in for a surprise. A visit to the Daroji sloth bear sanctuary was lined for us. It was a hot, well super hot afternoon to say the least and there was no saying how long we would have to wait for our hero to show up, so we headed for the sanctuary armed with all flavours of soft drinks and a prayer for an early sighting. Oh yes, I did visit the sanctuary in the bright pinks flip-flops too. I am sure all of are glad I am not posting a pic of those here.

Charlie's angels - Yellow Billed babblers sharing our sentiments about the heat.

Our hero was taking his time to show his presence, in the meanwhile we were in for a treat. Rufous treepie making a quick appearance.

Of course the beauties of the sanctuary - Painted sandgrouse Male

And his pretty lady.

Francolin doing the catwalk

The cool dudes adding the cool colors to a really hot afternoon and still no sign of our hero.

and I guess this guy needs a bit more footage too....

Ah at last the hero of the sanctuary made his appearance. So so so very handsome, how does he keep himself so well groomed.  This fellow can easily add us to his list of fans.

Sloth Bear scape

The afternoon was really productive at the sanctuary,but we were ready for more. So after a quick break it was time for an evening session of birding.

Yet another glimpse of the handsome guy, but somehow I could not manage to get a shot of his pretty necklace.

Large Grey Babblers - I'll watch your back bro while you feed.

Could we get any more luckier? Jungle Bush quail Male coming in for a quick bite.

Hey look, his wife joined in too.

And they brought in their kids - Yup family who eat together stay together...:)

End of evening session with a Pied Kingfisher on its evening hunt.

Oh the day was not yet over....there was one more session left for the night, we still had to look for nightjars who for some reason were very silent this trip.

But we got the hunter himself in action.

and we got the nightjar too...:)

Maybe I should wear those bright pink flip-flops more often on birding trips. This by far had proven to be the most productive and fulfilling day ever, though Friend B made yet another attempt to fix my footwear. (His reputation was at stake.. :) )
We retired after the most amazing dinner. The night was warm, the insects sang their lullaby, clouds obscured the stars. Mercifully the electricity stayed put and the fan circulated the warm dry air with a monotonous drone as we dozed.
End Of Day 2.

Day 3 was reserved for the essence of Hampi, where the ruins never grow old (Pun intended). Mornings always are so pleasant and we chose to make the best of it by heading for the Matanga hills. How could we leave Hampi without a glimpse of the Yellow Throated Bulbul.
We heard them, saw them dive into the shrubs but just not for long enough.

One of them was kind enough to oblige for a precious few seconds, not before leading us on a merry dance jumping from rock to rock that would have made any macaque envious.

The market area - Geometric precision of the beautiful ruins. Missed the perfection of the shadows by a bit.

Worn out stairs from the river lead to a small Mantapa. How did they make this among so many boulders, so simple, fitting right in and so elegant.

Same 'mantapa' different view.

A view of the Virupaksha temple with the Tungabhadra in the foreground.

Not inside any temple, nor in any "mantapa' just tucked away in a niche is this simple yet beautiful carving on a rock that still attracts devotees to worship.

In the land of the talented the river becomes an artist too. Naturally carved holes by the river.

Surprisingly the only plum headed parakeet we could get a shot off in this trip, in Achyutaraya temple. Technically half a plum headed Parakeet.

and presumably mother and young Rose ringed Parakeets.

The tank outside the Achyutaraya temple with the pavilion in the center.

The pavilion in the center of the tank where idols of deities were kept during the annual boat festival.(presumed)

We were so caught up with the architecture that we almost walked into this Sirkeer Malkoha , who probably was so offended at not being noticed, decided to come and sit right in front of us, till we clicked a few pics.

A Blue Rock Thrush is true to his name.

Firangipani tree adorning the entrance of yet another temple

Open Billed Stork enjoying its flight in a scenic background

Mothers and Kids Gather around in what might previously have been a shop in the bygone era. Some respite from the sweltering afternoon heat.

Huddling to its mother, it is amazing to see the proportion of the young one's tail and paws to the rest of its body.

The shopping complex still attracts so many visitors, a white wagtail, winter migrant, hanging around for some last minute shopping perhaps

One of the last shots of our trip, a lone pipit to bid us good bye.

We were forced to wind up early due to the unexpected rise in temperature. Cool coconut water was devoured with frenzy.They can be real life saver. Much needed lunch at the 'Mango Tree' to restore the energy levels and a much more needed quick visit to the cobbler later we were back at the nature camp. This time there was no remorse about having to get back, since the whole trip was so satisfying and fulfilling. Our hearts were full and we would be back.
If I can describe Hampi in one word, it would be 'addictive' . No matter how many times you visit the place, it always has more magic to offer, more questions to think about, more curiosity aroused and more things to notice which have been missed in all the earlier trips. You can visit Hampi for a day, for a week, for a whole month even and can still have the most precious experience. the rocks still have those vibrations, lean against one, run your hands on any of the carvings, feel it with your heart, just listen, the magic comes alive. It is one place where the number of footfalls has not diluted any energy. We felt it and hope you can too.
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Photographs and work by Tharangini is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.