Leaving Hampi, I had left the badminton set for the daughter of the Hostel owner, since she seemed to enjoy playing so much. So we bought some new ones on the way through Hospet, the next town. On the way out we got lost, so Aidan found a shortcut (!) back around to our road. It turned out to be a hard sand road with ruts and potholes so deep, they swallowed whole trucks. You basically drive into the hole and then out the other side. Of course it never looks that bad on pictures (other riders who have tried to take photos of difficult off road tracks will testify to that)! Nothing our little toss-around bikes couldn’t handle though, so we had some dusty fun. Truck drivers struggling to carry their load through the holes on broken suspension waved us past and we emerged on the other side with huge grins on our faces 🙂
We reached the town we thought we’d stay the night in far too early, so we decided to ride on to the next one. The road was good, so we reached that one too early as well. All right, Huliyar it is then! Of course we couldn’t find a single hotel in that town. Lodge, actually. For some reason they call restaurants Hotel here, and there was plenty of those. We asked a tuk tuk driver (they usually know where everything is), but he just smiled at us confused. Hm…. Well, we could always wildcamp… I had seen a few promising looking places on the way, so I suggested it to Aidan.
We pulled over at a little kiosk and I carefully contemplated the biscuit and chocolate assortment before making my choices and grabbing some crisps and water as well. A healthy dinner! The shopkeeper must have worried about that too. He popped a couple of bananas into the bag, confirming “there are two of you, right?” while counting out one each. He asked about our trip and sent us on our way with a big grin.
We rode back the way we’d come, keeping our eyes peeled for those likely spots I’d seen. But it was dusk and the seemingly empty landscape had filled up with workers and shepherds coming home from the fields. Each previously empty dirt track now had someone walking down it. And they’d no doubt be curious and bring all their friends if we attempted to pitch a tent. About to give up, we found a deserted dirt road and quickly turned down it, only to find mini bus had followed us. We pulled over and I pretended to be busy with my bag but of course they stopped. Was everything ok? Were we lost? Real nice of them of course, but for once not needed. We managed to convince them that there was no problem and we’d be on our way. As soon as they’d turned the corner, we gunned the bikes through a shallow dry ditch and into the bushes and giant grass bushels on the right. Engines off and breathe!
Aidan’s foot had swollen and was hurting quite a bit now, so I had to hold his bike while he climbed off. We waited if anyone would follow us or if the shepherds in the distance got any closer. Time to munch our dinner. But no one came. So when it was dark, we picked a spot for the tent and Aidan hobbled about putting it up, limping about, while I carried all our stuff over and pushed the bikes deeper into the bushes, breaking off branches to cover them. In the dark there was just no telling, if they’d be seen if someone decided to shine a torch in our direction.
“There is a light over there!” came a whisper from Aidan. We froze and peeked through the branches. It was further up the path and the grass swayed in the soft breeze. Was the light moving, someone walking with a torch maybe? Or did the shadowy brush just make it seem so. We decided not to hammer the pegs into the rocky ground, it would be too noisy. Instead we lay by the tent, watching the stars. After a long time the light still hadn’t moved. Sod it! We moved into the tent and curled up writing diaries. The plan was to stay awake till 11pm, when most Indian people tend to have disappeared to bed, just in case. But we passed out long before that.
Undiscovered, we woke in time for a pretty sun rise. In daylight it transpired we’d been better hidden than we thought. Packed up in no time, we struggled the bikes back out of the brush. How the hell had we gotten in here last night? I was really loving the fact this bike is small enough for me to handle on my own, even in difficult places! With the BMW I would have needed Aidan’s help for sure!
Back in Huliyar Aidan pulled over to check the way on the Navi. A little man arrived, proudly announcing over and over that he was an ayurvedic doctor (could he see through Aidan’s shoe?!?) and trying to convince us to ride to his friend’s place. Said friend has a camera so he could take a picture of us. In the end we got our camera out and took down his address, promising to send him a picture. A crowd was forming, so it was time to make our escape.
The ride to Mysore was fun. Aidan was high on painkillers and I’d had too much coffee, feeling at peace with the world a silly grin on both our faces. We’d got away with a night of wildcamping! We passed by some pretty awesome termite mounds. I’d never seen one before and these were hip high! I had to take a closer look.
You often see kids here playing with tires like they used to do in the old days back home, before TV and computer games. Of course this kid stopped rolling the tire along with a stick as soon as I pulled over to take the picture.
The sky started clouding over and it began to look a lot like rain. I was starving, but maybe we could just get to Mysore before the rain, if we carried on. This morning’s high was wearing off, so we gave in and stopped for a cup of tea (in the north they drink the spiced masala chai everywhere, here they just drink normal milky tea). To my pleasant surprise the tea walla threw a couple of yum mildly spiced deep fried chick pea burgery type things in with it. Sweet!
The road turned hell busy, but duly refueled we reached town no problem. Finding an affordable hotel that wasn’t smelly was a challenge. I got shown a tiny stinky room, no window and with a turd floating in the loo for 1000Rs! Yuk! And then the guy followed me back to the bike claiming “good room!” We finally settled for the first place we’d seen. They were full except for the most expensive room. But when I walked off, a booking magically got cancelled and an ok room for 400Rs became available. Now that we were back, an even nicer room with much cleaner bathroom and twice as many windows was suddenly free for us for the same price.
They took pity on Aidan limping about and helped me carry all our stuff upstairs. Then they offered safe parking through the lobby and out in the back courtyard. On the way to the restaurant we found Aidan a cane in a fake antique shop. The hotel just so happens to be on the fake antique shop road.
selling prayer flowers
The chicken tikka was amazing, as suggested by our guide book, but the rest was so-so. After dinner a tout, who had latched on to us on the way down, was waiting for us. He was nice enough and so we were happy for him to call a tuk tuk for us and take us to the incense workshops. He’d mentioned a bazaar but that is just a line to lure the tourists in.
Anyways, I was quite up for seeing how they make incense sticks. He took us into a small building with incense sticks drying in the sun out front. A lady sat on the floor rolling a molasses essential oil mix onto thin bamboo sticks on a stone table. She had me sit down and try it too. She made it look super easy, rolling one every few seconds. But it’s actually quite difficult not to roll the molasses too thick or too thin so it tears off. She took my hands and rolled for me to give me a feel for the amount of pressure needed. I finally got the hang of it and made two pretty decent sticks, which I got to keep. It was lots of fun.
….then I was getting the hang of it 🙂
I watched, tried and failed….
The people here in India seem to LOVE my tattoo…. real ink! not henna….
….so she took my hand and rolled with me….
Then they showed us the all natural ingredients and finally sat us down on a sofa in their little shop The guy gave us a fact sheet to read about all the different oils, which we could buy in an unbreakable vial as demonstrated by him smashing one onto the floor. It was quite funny, he soon forgot all about his sales pitch and started talking about bikes, questioning us about our trip. Our tout reappeared, curious about the girl who rides a big Pulsar too. We had actually run out of incense sticks, which are used as quite effective mozzie repellent here, so we bought a few anyways. Bit pricy of course, but hey…. And he promised they’d burn for an hour each. We’ve tested them since, they actually burn a bit longer 🙂
Back outside our tout talked about bikes some more and then got ready to suggest the next hand craft place to show us. It may well be quite interesting, but Aidan’s foot was killing him, so we hopped into a tuk tuk back to the hotel. On the way we stocked up on beer and they even had the nicer port wine we’d only been able to find in Goa so far. That was us sorted for the night and we settled in.
In the evening we went out once more. It was Sunday, so the Palace would be lit and looking stunning, we were told. But when the tuk tuk dropped us off, the gates of the surrounding park were closed. We were too late. Bummer! On the way home we found a great little food bazaar. They were closing up now, but it was fun just to wander through anyways.
shelled peas, but not frozen
The plan was to have a leisurely breakfast (which we did) and then see the Palace and also an art gallery we’d heard about. We went to the art gallery first as we found that more interesting. Aidan tried to hobble there. But despite the walking stick it got too much and we caught a tuk tuk.
The art gallery is in an old palace and there are strict no-camera rules. Downstairs had some old furniture and statues and the like, amongst other things a calendar clock with little soldier figurines saluting every quarter second, marching every hour, music chiming every quarter hour, and so on. A mad step up from the cuckoo clock! Then there were countless paintings, mostly of the oil kind of pompous important people back in the day. In some perspective was non-existent, giving them a surreal abstract feel. They even had a European section with paintings and furniture the various invading important people had brought.
The next floor up was my favourite. “Modern” paintings from around the 1930s depicting normal people and every-day scenes and landscapes. The styles varied from the Impressionists to Japanese silk paintings. There were loads of pieces I really liked. So I made a plan to buy some post cards of them later, to remember them by.
The third floor had mainly musical instruments and board games. Some of the boards were in fact made of elaborately stitched cloth. The best bit was the actual room itself though. What seemed like a flower patterned super colourful 1970s wallpaper turned out to be hand painted directly onto the wall! With amazing symmetry and accuracy all the way round the big room!
Back downstairs I went to the post card lady. She sold only two sets of 12 cards each for a measly 45Rs. But neither had a single one of the paintings I liked so much in it! I was so disappointed! My memory sucks at the best of times, as my friends will happily confirm. So I would surely forget all these nice paintings! On the way out there were several memorabilia displayed, including two sets of old knives, daggers and the like, spluttered with paint when the hallway was redecorated. Ah India!….
Something cheered me up a little bit though…. We found Munki. A pink little monkey girl with super long arms and a perpetually confused smile, who has asked to travel with us. Of course we agreed! She doesn’t like bananas but loves cookies. And she doesn’t drink booze (yet), she’s only little. Though yesterday she got shitfaced when Aidan gave her sweet port, telling her its grape juice!
Aidan wasn’t quite ready to limp around another palace quite yet, so we decided to take a break and eat at the famous RRR restaurant, where they serve yummie all you can eat thalis and byrianis on a banana leaf, to be eaten by hand and made a mess of. The place was packed and people were queueing at each table jumping into the seat as soon as the previous person had eaten their last bite. The que for the air conditioned part of the restaurant wasn’t as bad and the grandmother-mother-daughter team let us join their table since there were five chairs. The food was good. But the waiter was so busy, he disappeared before Aidan could ask him to top up my curries as well as his. It seems as a couple it was Aidan’s job to ask, since the guy ignored me completely.
Aidan’s foot had ballooned again from all the walking and the heat and it was killing him. No chance of seeing the apparently amazing palace. Oh well, shit happens! Aidan and Munki collapsed onto bed in our slightly-cooler-than-out-in-the-hot-sun room and watched crappy TV on the laptop. They sent me to the wine shop for more booze. Nothing like relaxing with a cold beer on a hot day 🙂