Daily Archives: 2012-03-17

Monkey Madness – Hampi, India

I woke up far too soon due to the crying babies just outside my door. I was sorely aware that the rock hard mattress had split in half sometime in the night. I was falling between two singles that had been pushed together to make a double. I laid there for a few minutes gathering up some motivation before making the first order of the day finding somewhere else to stay. I trundled arounimaged talking to guesthouse managers but still, no love.Some were downright nasty and I started having thoughts of leaving Hampi early.

I ended up choosing the best of the worst and in the end was pretty glad. It was a “resort” but it seemed no one else was staying there except for all the squirrels bounding around my terrace. I don’t know if it was because the place was empty or the owner felt sorry for me but I got it for 200 rupees which included my own bathroom sans hot water. Hot water is overrated anyway since I am cooking from the plus 34 temps.

I settled in and made the effort to try to like this place. I read for a while and talked to the nature that seemed very curious about me indeed. I wished I had some nuts to feed them. I wandered around imageHampi aware I wasn’t seeing the sights or even remotely motivated to. Maybe big rocks just don’t do it for me. Maybe I missed the sea.

It was noticeably hotter and without the breeze, I was getting sticky fast. I took shade in an internet café and puttered around online. I felt a little bad for not giving this place a proper chance but something inside me said “leave”. My train was still waitlisted for Friday and the thought of being stuck here even longer made me stress hard. Just for fun, I checked the Thursday train knowing full well there would be no seats this late in the game but guess what? There were! Something called Taktal which are last minute quota tickets were just released. I thought about it for a few minutes and decided to go for it. This also allowed me to change my bed preference to a normal upper bunk rather than a side uppimageer where the wandering grabby hands had molested me before.  I checked with my friend in Bangalore to see if I could come a day early and was assured it was no problem. It seemed like a no brainer. Done deal. Ticket booked.

Feeling relieved I had a sure way out, I wandered out back into the day now that the hottest hours had past. I decided to hike to the top of a nearby mountain and watch the sunset in a few hours. I only got a few steps before running into an Isreali couple I had talked to at Dudu’s the night before. They invited me to come to the Monkey Temple with them and I shrugged, Why Not? It would be smart to see at least one of Hampi’s main features before shoving off tomorrow.

We tossed around the idea of renting bikes but no one would give us a decent price for the two hours we wanted to use them. So we ended up with an autorickshaw that really soured the whole experience. They have some kind of bizarre system here for ripping off the foreigners. We were shuffled around between three different vehicles and verbally abused. Both of my new friends engaged in arguments with gang of drivers who all seemed to be in cahoots and we were all pretty pissed off by the time we ended up with a ride. As imagewe motored off to our destination, I was silently grateful I had booked that ticket for the next day. The energy of the locals here just sucks.

When we got to the mountain, Yonathan got in yet another shouting match with our driver who now informed us we were to be back within one hour or he would leave. We were annoyed because the whole deal revolved around watching the sunset from the mountain! I gave up and walked on ahead, resolving in my mind not to participate in any more of this silly game. It was rude and ridiculous at this point. If I had to walk home afterwards, so be it. It wasn’t worth the energy to fight with these scam artists. There was just no way to win or even find a fragment of fairness.

I was a good 50 steps into the 600 we were meant to climb when I heard some commotion behind me. Apparently Yonathan was being attacked by a pack of greedy monkeys who were trying to steal the bag of bananas we had just bought. He was yelling fearfully and hucking banana after banana at little monsters to placate them. The cheeky monkeys just threw the whole untouched fruits on the ground and kept on tomenting poor Yonathan. They wanted the whole bag!

At this point, I’d had it. Not only were we going to miss the sunset, but he was wasting all of our bananas on monkeys who didn’t deserve them! I marched back there angrily and snatched the plastic bag out of his hands ordering Yonathan to move along. He began to utter warnings when I felt a brazen monkey started climbing up my leg. I growled fiercely and the creature backed off. Just as I turned, another got right up in my face aggressively hissing at me and clawing at the air menacingly. I stomped my feet and hissed even louder, puffing myself up and mimiking a gorilla. I dared the monkey bully as we locked eyes. Just try it, I sneered at him baring my teeth. My opponents face turned from shock to surprise to cimageonfusion to defeat within about a millisecond. When I knew I had won, I grunted to make my point then turned and joined the others who were waiting up the trail. They seemed impressed that this seemingly docile and peaceful traveler had put those monkeys in their place. In all honesty, I didn’t know I knew monkey talk either but I told them I wasn’t about to let anyone terrorize me let alone some rude pests. Come on!

We trod up the mountain encountering a few more monkeys along the way. Thankfully they were a lot more polite and I didn’t have to go apeshit again. There was an adorable trio complete with new born baby which shyly watched us from the ledge. They were not scared enough to bolt as we passed only a foot away from their perch but they were timid. I found it so endearing to see how they both grabbed at and gently bit the baby to protect it.

At the top of the mountain, we were a little out of breath while we removed our shoes. I wasn’t chuffed about the idea of walking around barefoot in monkey doo but respecting the temple comes first. We wandered about admiring the stunning view of the mountains of enormous boulders and lush green rice paddies below. It was quite a sight and well worth the climb. We doled out our remaining bananas to the well mannered monkeys who would calmly take it from our hand. I even sensed a note of gratitude when one of them paused to look me in the eyes softly smiling just before I released the fruit into his possession. It was such a contrast to what we had experienced down below.

After taking some photos, I found the edge of a cliff and settled in to watch the sun set. My bottom was hot from the warmth emanating off the rock but it wasn’t unbearable. I was puzzled to hear goats and chickens way up here but then I realized that the sound travels well. I even heard a farmer talking way down below though I have no idea what he was saying. It was kind of surreal. I studied the many temples off in the distance and found it remarkable how similar they looked to Mayan temples.

When the sun finally sank in her rose petal sky, I breathed out a long sigh. I pivoted on my post to watch the glowing full moon make his debut. I decided to write a bit in my journal and realized that this was an old habit I want to pick up again. After a short time, the others called out to me to head back. Zohar and I made a quick trip inside the temple just to see what it was like. It was dimly lit but colorful and there were a couple men chanting from a massive book. I felt a little self conscious and left after just a couple minutes. It seemed there was some ceremony going on and I didn’t want to interrupt.

We found our shoes and slogged down the mountain to our waiting driver. He was there but most certainly wasn’t happy. He started complaining that we had taken too long and then started driving like a mad man. I told him very seriously that if he continued to drive like that I would “throw out” all over him since I wasn’t feeling well. I was sitting directly behind him so my empty threat seemed to calm him down a bit.

When we arrived to town and paid him, he cursed us and carped some more as we were walking away. My friend began talking about how awful he was and how it was so shocking that they could treat people that way. I surprised myself by remarking compassionately how difficult it must be to do that job.

Immediately the energy changed and we all felt differently. I sensed there is a lot of struggle and negativity going on here. I didn’t know it at the time but I learned that the government is kicking people out of their homes in parts of Hampi. The Archaeological Survey of India are displacing residents by demolishing their homes. It reminded me vaguely of Secret of Nymh or more recently, Avatar. In any case, I didn’t love Hampi. It was a bit of a let down as so many of my friends had really built it up.image

I ended up having another falafel then a quiet night. I went to a restaurant across the road to watch Into the Wild with the other lazy backpackers or tired climbers. Every night they show movies at the guesthouse lounge/eateries like Fight Club, Slumdog Millionaire, or some other popular favorite.  I was happy to have seen some of the sites but I was more happy to be leaving. I read for a while before drifting off to sleep.

Grateful for well mannered monkeys.

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