HERITAGE You need at least a week to do Hampi properly but don’t miss out on it. SUBASH N. JEYAN
There is an aura about Hampi that draws you in. An entire city in ruins makes for an oddly awe-inspiring presence. And, if you feel adventurous enough, it is within a day’s bike-able distance from Chennai.
While there are many routes by road, the one I chose went mostly through interior State roads with a bit of highway thrown in: Chennai, Chittoor, Palamaner, Madanapalle, Anantapur, Bellary, Hospet, Kamalapuram, Hampi. That would be about 585 km as the wheels turn.Hampi survives on tourism, so there are plenty of places to crash in, whatever your budget. Even in the winter months, when it is swamped by foreign tourists, there is no need to book in advance.
Once you settle down, start exploring. Don’t miss the haunting Vittala temple by the Tungabhadra with its magnificent stone chariot or the Virupaksha temple first built in the seventh century and still in use today, standing in surreal magnificence amid the surrounding ruins. There is plenty more including the Zenana complex, the elephant stables, the Anjaneya temple…Hampi needs at least a week to do it full justice but you can squeeze the more important monuments in two days.
While the city was destroyed in the Battle of Talaikotta (1565), who actually caused the destruction? The invaders or disgruntled local factions? There are no clear answers yet. Every broken stone you see will send you searching for answers in history. This open-ended nature of its destruction is part of the fascination of Hampi.
- While your regular 100cc commuter will have no problems doing a 500km-a-day rides, a 150cc bike will be a better compromise between the need to cover reasonable distances in a day and the need to experience places unhurriedly.
- With current road discipline levels, avoid riding in the night.
- Get to know the basics of your bike. It’ll be nice if you can repair punctures at a pinch. If not, it’s not the end of the world. Wait for the next empty truck to come along. There’s always a town nearby.
- Carry essential spares with you.
- Get yourself good riding gear and a good road atlas. The Eicher India Road Atlas is fairly comprehensive.
- Keep all the legal documents with you: Bike registration, driving licence, insurance.
- Remember, the barriers are in the mind. Once you cross those, distances, however long, are just numbers.
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