The temples and terrain of Hampi were very different than anything we had experienced up to this point. We might have even stayed longer if we could have moved into a room. The pantry was okay the first two nights, but with no rooms becoming available anytime soon, it was best we move on. We had plotted a course that took us north with stops at what we believed would be exciting sites. Bijapur (now known as Vijayapura) looked to be interesting, so we packed up and checked out of the pantry.
The ride back across the river was just as harrowing as our arrival. Water edged so close to the lip we were sure the little bowl of a boat would flood, and we would have to swim to safety. The guitar and violin might serve as floatation devices, but our bags would surely wash downriver. We made it to the other side without this catastrophe.
Hampi Bus Station
The bus station was as busy as it must typically be, with people crowded around the ticket window. There is no organization of standing patiently in a line here. It’s like a scene from some impending disaster movie where everyone is trying to get out of town in a panic.
One must squeeze their way through the crowd to the window and jam their arm through the tiny portal. Soon, the ticket seller makes eye contact, and you tell them where you want to go. They write the ticket, and you give them the money. After this battle to obtain a ticket, you can sit and wait for some time for your bus. The rush is over.
After getting our tickets, we sat quietly, watching this scene repeat as new people arrived. The bus eventually pulled into the station, and we took our seats. As we departed, we watched the dusty brown town of Hampi disappear into the distance.
The Long Ride
Looking out the bus window, we sat back and watched as we passed fields and forests, followed by temples. Lots of temples, large and small. Sometimes, the fields were green, but more often, a light, orange-brown dust that seems to cover everything. As the bus rolled on, we came to more populated areas that were crowded with small businesses, houses, people, handcarts, and little yellow-roofed tuk-tuks rushing busily about.
The large trucks transporting goods from one place to another are psychedelically decorated with flowers, beads, and colorful paint swirls. They feature paintings of Vishnu, Krishna, Shiva, Ganesh, and other Hindu gods. These are rolling shrines dedicated to their deity of choice. Each seems to compete with the others for the “most outlandish decoration award.” Google image search for “Colorful Indian Truck Art!”
We passed by the impressive Tungbhadra Dam, which supplies electricity to the region. Onward, we ride past dusty villages of squat cement buildings in various stages of disrepair. We entered a long stretch of highway. The countryside appears ragged and worn in this flat, inhospitable landscape, with occasional bushes that are half-stripped of their leaves. All in total contrast to the vibrant colors of the trucks.
Arriving to Vijayapura
We nodded off for a while, hypnotized by the repetitive skyline, and awoke long enough to pass through a highway toll. Soon after, we crossed the Krishna River and continued into the afternoon. We were ready for this bus ride to end and to get to Vijayapura. At first, there are one or two squat cement buildings every 500 meters. Soon, the cement buildings appeared closer to each other until they became crowded together. The occasional truck had become a cluster of vehicles threatening to clog the road.
As the bus pulled into the station, we took a tuk-tuk to a guesthouse we had found in our guidebook and decided to check it out. It was close to our tourist destination, and as guesthouses go, it was simple but reasonably clean. The bed was well-worn but better than a pantry floor. There weren’t any red blotches on the wall near the bed, which would have indicated bedbugs. We had been warned to check for that when looking at a room.
We paid the few rupees for the night and locked up the room. Or tried to. I gave the handle a little shake to test it, and the door opened immediately! This wouldn’t do. I went back downstairs to request another room.
“No problem!” said the manager with a little shake of his head. He gave me another key to check a different room. The room was okay, and the door actually locked. This one even had a hasp so we could use our own lock. We moved our things into the new room, locked and tested the door, and ventured off to find the Gol Gumbaz.
We walked down the street through the dusty neighborhood. There weren’t any people out on the streets. They must all be in town, which was crowded when we arrived. Was the Gol Gumbaz this way? How many more streets did we have to walk to get there? The guidebook map seemed to be missing some streets. Then we turned left, and we could see it. The Gol Gumbaz was huge!
The Gol Gumbaz was constructed between 1626 and 1656 by Muhammad Adil Shah, the seventh ruler of the Adil Shahi dynasty, as a mausoleum for himself. It is regarded as “One of the finest structural triumphs of the Indian builders.”
Boasting the second largest dome in the world, after St.Peter’s at Rome, the Gol Gumbaz is impressive. Four octagonal towers, topped with a hemispherical dome on a petalled base, enclose a 100-foot tall square hall, 20 feet in length and breadth, which is enclosed by four lofty walls rising to a height of 100 feet. Contained within a walled enclosure are beautifully laid-out gardens. A hemispherical dome on a petalled base surmounts four octagonal towers.
The enormous dome, which has an internal diameter of 38 meters (nearly 125 feet), has a gallery around its base. To give you some idea, 120 feet is roughly 12 stories in a residential building, or 10 stories in an office tower. One hundred twenty-five feet, or 41.6 yards, is almost the width of an American football field ( 41.6 of 53.3 yards).
The genuinely unique fact about this enormous structure is that one person can stand opposite of another, across the distance of this dome, and whisper softly. The person on the other side can hear everything as if they were right next to you, whispering in their ear. Donna and I did it and were amazed at the clarity. It was interesting that if you moved to one side slightly, the other person could not be heard.
As people the world over tend to do, people scrawled their names, dates, messages, or initials into the dome wall. Some in English, some in other languages. As I walked around the immense gallery to get back around to Donna, I noticed someone had written, “Chanda!” I was surprised, that is my daughter’s name! Some Hindi people were nearby, so I asked them if this was an Indian word or name. They told me it meant “Moon.” We had no idea when we named her, as we made the name up!
After playing with the acoustic miracle of the dome for a bit, we wandered down to the lovely gardens. Someone had obviously taken good care of these plants. It was the most green we had seen since the Om Beach jungle. Everything since had been the color of light, orange-brown dust.
Back in town, we got a thali from a local restaurant and wandered around for a bit before returning to our simple hotel room. The door was still locked. Someone had checked into the other room and we told them about the lock. They complained to the management, and they sent someone up to replace the doorknob. We went to bed.
The following day, we decided that maybe it was time to move on again. India is big with lots to see. When you get a six-month visa for India, it begins the day you receive it. You must get it from your own country. We spent three of those months in Israel, and one month on Om Beach. With two months left, we felt a little pushed to try and squeeze as much travel in as possible!
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