As time ticks on India never ceases to amaze.
After a great time in Goa with the most attentive hosts we could have wished for, we took a sleeper bus to Hampi.
Hampi was what I'd been looking for without realising it. The dramatic landscape and ancient ruins were unlike anything I'd ever seen before.
We arrived early in the morning just before sunrise and were greeted by about 20 desperate rickshaw drivers. Tired and grumpy, we chose the least aggressive of the drivers and made our way through the dark to our hotel.
Later that day we explored the ruins. Monkeys were every where and as a guide told us the next day, "This is their kingdom, we just share it."
A 'security guard' took us up to the highest temple. Before we set off we made sure to ask if he charged for his tour but his answer was very vague. We saw other tourists without a guide and would have rathered explore on our own but he wouldn't let up so off we went.
He turned out to be a genuinely kind man who was very keen for us to get pictures at every possible lookout point. He also took us into a secret cave. "Secret place, secret place." He kept saying. "Without guide, people walk straight past." Inside the cave he lit a match so we didn't bump our heads and gave us a blessing. Afterwards he brought out a rusty old donation can. In the dim light we rummaged in our bags and I found some coins. He gestured that Melissa do the same so she extracted what she thought was a 10 rupee note. Later that night we discovered she had actually donated 1000 rupees (NZD $20) to the gods by mistake!
The next day we did a cycle tour of the rest of the temples. That afternoon we whiled away time by sitting under a tree by the river and chatting with the local children who were all very curious about where we were from. Hampi exists mainly for tourism so the children have learnt various phrases like "What is your country?" and "What is your name?" They were all so sweet and had lovely manners.
Many of the young boys sold guide books and postcards for pocket money. They were grand little sales people, greeting us with "My friend! Postcard? Very cheap, only RS50!" Despite the fact we had already bought postcards we ended up buying a more off one little guy whose persistence was extremely impressive. Plus we felt sorry for him because he had stubbed his toe running around the temples. "RS100 many happy me" He repeated over and over until we couldn't find it in our hearts to say no.
Despite Melissa's generous gift to the gods she fell sick that evening with a rather violent stomach bug. We decided to postpone our bus journey for one day so she could recover. Nothing is worse than having a stomach bug in a place with a broken toilet! We moved to a cheap and cheerful hostel that had monkeys on the roof, a gecko in the corner and a working bathroom.
When Melissa had recovered we set off to Bangalore by taxi to save time. Arriving in Bangalore after Hampi was like driving from Whangarei to Auckland. Suddenly my new camel leather sandals felt inferior under the glare of the branded neon signs.
We immediately hunted down a McDonalds and giggled at all the new Indian flavours on offer. I chose a McChicken Maharajah with peri peri chips. Unfortunately that night it was my turn to get sick and let me tell you peri peri chips are just as spicy the second time around.
Bangalore passed in a haze of sleep and nausea for me. Melissa explored the malls a bit during the day and in the evening we ventured out for dinner although I couldn't stomach anything other than a coke.
That night we took another sleeper bus to Ooty. This time I was so exhausted from the bug I slept deeply the whole trip. Ooty is lush and cool with rushing waterfalls and deep valleys. We discovered we could walk to our accommodation which meant we had the satisfaction of escaping the over-eager rickshaw drivers.
We decided to do some 'trekking' as thats the thing to do in Ooty apparently. So we teamed up with another couple of girls and took a guided walk up the highest point in South India. On the way up I discovered I wasn't feeling 100% which made for a challenging climb.
That afternoon we arranged for a driver to take us to a Tiger reserve. We chose to do a mini bus tour which lasted 45 minutes. 'Animal sighting is purely luck' the signs depressingly warned us as we boarded the stinking hot bus. As luck would have it the majority of the other passengers were over excited adolescent males. They hoicked and spat and laughed as my hopes of seeing a tiger quietly dissolved.
Barely 5 minutes into the tour our bus gave an unhealthy sounding hiccup and refused to move. So back to the depot we went to get a new bus. To make a long story short the tour narrowly avoided being a complete waste of money as we did see the blur of a leopard out the window. It was hunting deer and we disturbed it. The sound of people shushing each other was louder than the boys giggles.
So that was Ooty. Christmas eve arrived and we hopped on yet another dreaded bus to Mysore to meet our friend at her parents for Christmas.
Christmas day was very different from form home. We visited a palace in Mysore accompanied by our amazing hostess Ragini and her room mate Lalitha. We also spent some time at a beautiful little market. Later that evening Lalitha gave us henna tattoos and we relaxed in front of the TV.
So that's it for now! I hope this has been mildly interesting to read and I apologise in advance for any awful typos. I really can't be bothered proofreading it so please accept this in it's raw original form from the key pad of my phone on a mattress in Mysore.