Years back, I asked a friend how she was able to commit to bouncing around Europe for months at a time without a care in the world. She plainly replied, “It’s simple Dan, just buy your ticket and the rest will fall into place.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but there was so much brilliance embedded in her simple answer. Whenever the travel bug rears its beady little head, that simple statement becomes my mantra. And when the day came to click the ‘Buy Now’ button on two one-way tickets to Bangalore, I was feeling no qualms about quitting my 9-5 and letting everything else just fall into place.
Our year-long overland journey begins in and around the city of Bangalore, India. From there, we’ll head up into the Western Ghats and stretch along the languid coast of Goa. We’ll take the ‘pilgrimage’ to the sacred sites at Hampi and Badami and head inland to spot some elusive tigers. Stops in the holy city of Varanasi and tea-producing Darjeeling will lead us to the mighty Himalaya. From there: Nepal, Tibet, China, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia. With a pack full of photo gear & a light sport rack, my girlfriend (Lisa) and I will travel by foot, carpool, rickshaw, train, bus and even the occasional yak. We intend to get down off the beaten track and live there…roll around in it…revel in it…photograph it…boogey in it…meditate in it and most of all — Climb It! Our goal is to let our only mark be left with the people we encounter rather than over the land and rock we travel.
Welcome to Hampi!
So, after a little deliberation and much saving, we decided to jump into the curry and chaos that is India. We spent our first three weeks bouncing around India’s southern beaches and towns but it didn’t take long before we were chomping at the bit to get on some rock. What better place to get back into the mix than legendary Hampi? From the moment you pull up to the bus stop, you are greeted by endless seas of granite boulders intermingled with hundreds of 14th and 15th century temples. As dabbles of drool began to form in the corners of our mouths, we knew this was the India that we had been searching for.
With such rich geological history blanketed by incredible religious significance, you can almost feel the grounds vibrate with energy. The bustling Hampi Bazaar is the sacred center, but if you’re not into the hustle in town, head straight across the river to Virupapur Gaddi (aka “Hampi Island”) – a much more laid back scene. This is where you’ll find the local climbing community swapping beta and sipping chai at Manju’s Guesthouse. If serene rice paddies spotted with palms don’t do it for you, a morning among your backyard boulders should. You could spend years in this place and never climb the same rock twice! Everything from simple 5a (Font) or V1 warm-ups to ludicrous high-balls greet you only steps from the hammock outside your thatched-roof hut.
Peak season to visit Hampi falls between November and late February. During these months, guest houses are full and home to lively scenes, the temperature lingers around the 28º C mark and most hours of the day are available to play on the rocks. However, if you would like to skirt the crowds and find off-season rates, try the shoulder season. Cheap and pocketed with a few climbers who refuse to leave the party until the bitter end, Hampi in March is truly something to experience. It is crucial to rise with the sun when the rocks are cool and forgiving. Otherwise, if you end up out there in the great, tan nothing during the forbidden hours (11am-4pm) you will surely lose your mind, shrivel up and die. During this time, days are ushered in by 38º+ C temperatures and humidity created by the surrounding rice paddies clings to every move you make. This combo creates an energy zapping concoction that will surely squelch any desire to leave your hammock, never mind climb a sick highball. Bring a good book or three. But if you stick to getting up with the sun, resting mid-day then venturing back out a couple of hours before the sun plummets below the horizon, you will be rewarded – handsomely.
Head through the rice paddies and up to The Plateau to explore any of the bountiful boulder collections that riddle Hampi’s landscape. Areas such as Cosmic Cave, Egg Boulder, Sandwich Roof, and Little Cave offer a nice range of easy 5-meter warm ups. Bigger challenges like the deceptively pocketed Access Denied (6c or V4) or seemingly endless Torture Traverse (7c or V8) await you around every granite corner. Farther across the rock field is Double Tap (7b or V7) - a monstrous double-arête that boasts a tendon-ripping dyno finish. One more stroll through a rice paddy brings you to Baba Café – the stand-alone boulder that finds its way onto every pilgrims’ checklist. And at the day’s end, cross the river and enjoy a crimson sunset from Hemakuta Hill. Here you can climb amongst the 15th century ruins that were quarried from the same granite boulders we scale today.
Whether you are a history buff, soul searcher, yogi, gym rat or seasoned boulderer – Hampi truly has a little something for you. We even came across a few stout bolted climbs (sans rap anchors). Just don’t let the monkeys run away with your gear!