03 October 2008

Spending some time at Hampi

Hi Folks,
Hampi in late September is a quiet place. The monsoon isn't "officially" (according to Lonely Planet) over there until mid October, so the droves of tourists haven't invaded yet. The rice paddies are exploding green, and the morning air is cool fresh breezes, clean to smell. Hampi is the ruins of an old (I hesitate use "ancient"; it's only 600 years old) Hindu holy city in South India, so the ruins of stone buildings still stand everywhere. While the city is primarily known for it's ruins amongst tourists, there is another group who considers Hampi sacred for another reason: rock climbers come for the boulders. Ever since climbing legend Chris Sharma filmed the movie Pilgrimage and named a number of routes, boulderers from across the globe have followed.
I was brought to Hampi by the triple-force pull of climbing, ruins, and country-relaxation. I found a cheep bungalow with a shared bathroom, climbed in the mornings and the evenings, and read Midnight's Children and played chess through the day. I taught a few yoga classes to friends and fellow climbers. I take it this life sounds pretty good, and I admit that it was.
While I was in Hampi, there was only one day of bad weather, one dark day with only rain all day. It was the day after my Grandfather died. He had suffered from Parkinson's and died under the vigil of his wife of over 50 years and his three children. My grandfather was a good man, had a good life and a family that loved him. He was good with his hands, a wiz at crosswords, a bit of a grinch about Christmas, scientifically curious throughout his life, with a good memory from his youth. He will last in my fond memories of him telling stories at the table during holidays, and after watching football, and often asleep, in peaceful snoring sleep, my Grandpa. There is no doubt that he will be missed by my entire family, but he was also released from a terrible disease. So I am sad of for the loss, and glad that it's over. I took a rainy day of depression, but when better weather came around the next day, I went out climbing.
So here are pictures from about ten days in Hampi. I hope, as usual, that the photographs I show you will take into the experience I had. Please enjoy.

Welcome to Hampi... rice feilds: check, massive boulders: check, temples and ruins: check.

Looking good so far?

Mornings and evenings the rice fields absolutely GLOWED their green color. You could almost dive right in... sure, one time, I did.

This is Steffi going for a long reach to a finger crack...

And here is Owen facing off with "The Arrete."

Climbing and local culture mingle at Hampi where boulders are sometimes near local footpaths.

See all the dragonflies like gold in the air? See the crane perched high on the boulder stack? This is a place of imagination.

Rice kernels up close in the morning light.

Classic India: men holding hands. It's not unusual, it's not homosexual, it's just culture.

Another photo from my study of the rice paddies. I like the simple pattern here.

Here Owen looks at the top hold of a high, hard problem. He stares at the feature, not sure if he can move his hand from his current position, keep his balance, and grab the top-out without a long fall. Does he? Yes!
I was lucky to have Owen and Steffi to boulder with as they were both really good climbers. They showed me around the rocks, and when they got on the really exciting problems that got too hard for me to even lift off, I found the angles to be photographer. To get this perspective I balanced a bit precariously at the top and held the camera out at arms length over the edge to shoot down and into the overhang.

Owen had a good reeeeaaaaach.

This was about as hard a problem as I got on, and while I could put a few of the moves together I never made it to the top. There were lots of good climbs for me, too, just none as photogenic as ones Steffi and Owen could do.

Morning gossip on an incomplete bridge.

Washing at the river.


People rocks ruins...

No, I don't know these people, but you can imagine they're anybody.

Legend is that the Hindu monkey god Hanuman threw all these boulders down in a show of force to his enemy Ravana. So here's my homage to Hanuman in the form of a Langoor Monkey silhouetted by the setting sun. Beautiful right?

Also beautiful.

More "WORLD TOURISM DAY" (whatever that is!) festivities.

What if it was your job to wash an elephant every morning? This is a big job...

Splash splash wash wash

Scrub scrub scrub

I think the elephant, who spends the rest of his days at the nearby temple, eating bananas accepting rupees and giving blessings, mostly enjoys his morning bath. But the mahout gave a nasty beating to the elephant when he rolled over too slowly, and I thought that wasn't very nice to do to a holy elephant.

Your guess is as good as mine.

India's children are still so beautiful.

But what are you doing in the road all alone?

Street scene walking towards the temple and bazaar.

The main temple of Hampi at sunset.

Well that's it folks. I'm back in Mysore now, back to where I started the trip, for one last month in India. I'm living here with my old friend Andrew from my years at Furman and who's as unlikely a yoga accomplice as you could expect to find from my past. It's cool though; we have a nice apartment with two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a nice living space including internet and HBO, but most fantastic is a blender to make never ending smoothies from all the fresh fruit at the markets. I've got a motorcycle again, and have started class with my old teacher Bharath. By living like this I'm working on a partial reintegration to American culture before I get home. We'll see how well that works in November when I fly home on election day...
Love you all,