Most of you might wonder about our experiences on the actual roads of India. Well, remember our post about the road conditions while we were heading south from Mumbai? Compared to the ones on the north, they were super highways. As we headed further north inland and the streets went from bad to worse, besides the crazy, undisciplined Indian drivers and the bad road conditions, we were now facing potholes where you can literally lose your car if you fall in them and… cows!!! Yes, you read right, they were everywhere, even in the middle of the street and as they are considered a holy animal (the messengers of Shiva himself) we had to obey to their moods. Crazy to believe but you have to experience it to understand it. Our maximum speed was down to 50km per hour so it took us almost a whole day to cover a maximum of 450 km. A constant 10-hour drive is exhausting, let alone the crazy cows, bus drivers and the homemade trucks that are bigger than a 747 plane!!!
Although leaving Bengaluru was pretty easy, the last 60 km before entering our next destination Hampi put our nerves to the test. Patience and about two hours for the last 60 km and we were in Hampi!!! Ok, I will stop complaining now and get to the real reason of this site, “travel information”.
Unreal and bewitching, the forlorn ruins of Hampi make up an unearthly landscape that will leave you spellbound the moment you lay your eyes on them. Heaps of giant boulders extend precariously over miles of terrain. Their shapes have as a background green palm groves, banana plantations and paddy fields. While it’s possible to see the ancient ruins and temples of this World Heritage Site in a day or two, that’s completely against Hampi’s relaxed pace. We didn’t base ourselves in the main travelers’ ghetto, Hampi Bazaar. Instead, we headed to the small island right across the Virupaksha Temple. This small settlement is crammed with budget lodges, shops and restaurants. Whichever one you pick, it’s highly recommendable to spend a few nights at Hampi, at least that’s what we did. Getting up early to watch the elephants’ bath was worth it, even though there was only one elephant from the temple.
With Hampi ticked off our list to see and always on our way to the north, we had our last glimpse of the ocean in OM Beach of Gokarna. A regular nominee among travelers’ favorite beaches in India, Gokarna is a more laid-back and less-commercialized version of Goa. Then we had a quick overnight in India’s berry-country in M-war or if you prefer the more difficult version Mahabaleshwar. However, what we would expect to be a pretty hill station was a jungle of mindless urban construction. Swarms of raucous holiday-makers throw the place into a complete decline. Mahabaleshwar’s only face-saver is the delightful views it has to offer over the plains.
Then there was Ellora, Lonely Planet reads: “Give a man a hammer and chisel, and he’ll create art for posterity. The epitome of ancient Indian rock-cut architecture, these caves were chipped out laboriously over five centuries by generations of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks”. Half monasteries, half temples, the caves served every purpose and they were stylishly decorated with remarkably detailed sculptures. Definitely a World Heritage Site, Ellora is composed of 34 caves in total: 12 Buddhist (AD 600–800), 17 Hindu (AD 600–900) and five Jain (AD 800–1000). The biggest and definitely most impressive, however, is the awesome Kailasa Temple, the world’s largest monolithic sculpture dedicated to Shiva. It’s among the best that ancient Indian architecture has to offer.
On our way to Udaipur, the bad luck and the nasty roads hit poor Voukefalas and a really creepy noise started in its front axle. We panicked but without many options available, we pushed to Udaipur. The city’s setting beside Lake Pichola definitely brings out a romantic atmosphere. Fantastical palaces, temples and countless narrow, colorful streets add the human counterpoint to the city’s natural charms.
Udaipur was for us the most romantic spot on the Indian continent as we both agreed. In the parts of the city near the lake, almost every building is a hotel, shop, restaurant, travel agent – or all four rolled into one. Try to take a step back from the hustle and Udaipur still has its magic, not just in its marvelous palaces and monuments, but in its matchless setting, the tranquility of boat rides on the lake, the bustle of its ancient bazaars and its lively art scene. We wished we had spent more time but as the news from the mechanic that checked the car got worse, we left in a hurry.
On the way to the capital we stopped in Jaipur, Rajasthan’s capital, a historical city and the gateway to India’s most flamboyant state. am Careering buses dodge dawdling camels; leisurely cycle-rickshaws and motorbikes give a crazy rhythm. Add to all that the everywhere buzzing auto rickshaws that watch for easy prey and you have the recipe for a chaotic city. This pink walled city holds a unique palace among the rest of the beautiful buildings that now suffer under the over polluted area.
Our stay there was cut short as the sound from Voukefalas got more and more frequent. It was time to head directly to New Delhi, to the Honda central service headquarters for a serious checkup…