I am sitting in Leopold's Cafe on the main drag in Bombay. There is a constant flurry of shoppers, local and foreign, swooping past with curious glances shot into this famous bar. Jen and I have saddled in with some refreshing drinks, iced tea and lassi respectively, after three whirlwind days of adventure. I will be selective in retelling them or you would need to join us for our two day Golden Temple train ride to Hardiwar to read it all. We're skipping north to cool off and dodge the monsoons.
On our last day in Hampi we rented a motorbike from a convincing nine year old salesmen and took turns driving it around the nearby tourist-free villages. We were on a hunt for the Monkey Temple, a mountaintop temple to the monkey god, Hanuman. On our search we stumbled upon an inconspicuous sign denoting cave paintings. Turning up dust I swerved the bike down a sandy lane past fields of rice and sugarcane. We continued for a while, but with no follow up sign for the cave paintings we spun around to continue our hunt for the Monkey Temple. That's when a picturesque harvester from the fields gestured for us to pull over and he quietly but confidently breathed "Cave paintings?"
The barefooted, lungi wearing, old man left his pitchfork carrying friends and indicated we should follow him through the field, along a deteriorating path, through a gate, over a rocky ridge, along a surprisingly arid space to a rock formation. There, beside a sizable crevice between the ground and the base of a large boulder, he invited us to sit on the cool rocks which were oblivious to the 40*C + sun that was scorching down. Instead cool air glided up from the crevice past our sweaty faces and through our damp hair. That is where we saw our first ancient cave paintings of men, livestock, and a ferocious cobra eternally brushed onto the underside of the boulder.
Racing the bike along to create a cooling breeze, we quickly found the Monkey Temple complete with real monkeys creeping the 600 steps which wrap up the mountainside to the towering temple. Leaving our shoes with a baba, we had to skip like frogs across the blistering ground, but our damaged feet and show of respect to Hanuman were rewarded with blessed candies from the priest. On our way back down, dropping alms into the appropriate hands, we parted with a handful of rupees for a refreshing cocunut. A boy, months older than the bike salesman, with expert skill sliced us a coconut into a cup with straws dipping into its milk. When we finished the electrolyte replenishing beverage, he deftly sliced the nut further into two spoons and two halves of solid coconut ready for us to scoop out.
We made other stops to another temple and a quaint chai stand, but it was the plunge into the reservoir for a refreshing swim which put the cherry on top of our last day in Hampi. Or maybe the Italian style thin crust pizza, which we devoured, was the cherry?
Little did we know, as we reluctantly pushed ourselves onto a bus out of paradise, that more fun and adventure awaited us in Bombay.