Happy Ganesh

Hampi

Since our arrival in India, we’ve been told to go to Hampi. “Hampi is beautiful, you should go” the Indians tell us. “I’ve planned two days and stayed a week”, other travelers tell us. So why not? Let’s go to Hampi.

Hampi is a collection of ruins of a once mighty Hindu empire (Vijayanagar) and is surrounded by giant boulders and palm trees. You expect any moment someone screaming ‘Wilmaaaaaa’ as this must be the place where the Flintstones have ever lived. 100% sure!

The boulders are huge and old. Very old. 2,500 million years, Geologists estimated. When the earth’s crust solidified, molten magma – pushed up from the earth’s core – hardened under the crust into granite. When the crust eroded the very hard granites were exposed and weathered millions of years into their present impressive formations. Good, so far, the geography lesson. 🙂

>>Watch the Quick Story of Hampi in a day <<

The little village next to the main complex is no more than a few streets inhabited by 2.134 Indians, a handful of travelers, lazy cows and naughty monkeys. No cars, no meat and no alcohol. At first sight you wonder why people would stay here longer than a day. It’s beautiful and relaxed, that’s for sure, but, unless you are the kind of person who loves to explore every single stone in detail, you’ve seen it all in a day. And still, there is something about Hampi. We stayed for five days, in the end. Why? I don’t know. What we did? Don’t really know either. We just stayed. Hampi makes you stick. ‘Don’t worry, be Hampi’ the locals would say.

The day we leave coincides with the start of the 10-day festival Ganesh Chaturthi, in honor of the elephant God Ganesha. The God of wisdom, good luck and best of all, the patron saint of travelers. 🙂 It’s a festive event. People call “Happy Ganesh!” out to us. Everyone is smiling. People are dancing in front of a float with Ganesha. Drawn mandala’s in front of the houses. People lighting firecrackers, more than we like. Remember, it’s a 10-day festival! That’s a lot of firecrackers… BHAM! Happy Ganesh…

Goa

We’re off with the night train and arrive early morning at Palolem Beach. It’s a postcard-perfect beach, enclosed by palm trees. And it’s so tranquilo! Even the cows are chilling on the beach. Don’t worry, go to Palolem Beach, I would say. At least in September, the ‘in-between’ season. Off-season everything is packed in plastic to welcome the heavy monsoon. High season everything is unpacked to welcome the tourists.

Goa is said to be different from the rest of India. It’s a former Portuguese colony, which isolated the state almost 500 years. Besides, it is ranked as the best quality of life in India. We also have nothing to complain in that respect. The days are laid-back. You know: lazy wake up, breakfast at the beach, ‘bakkie koffie’, beach stroll, watching the fishing man, beautiful sunsets, great food. And like in Hampi, we extend and extend. Hmm, will we ever make it up North?

We explore South Goa by scooter. It’s so green. Palm trees everywhere. Colorful Portuguese houses. Sleepy villages. Villagers wishing us ‘Happy Ganesh’ and most surprisingly we found a deserted beach! In India! One of the most densely populated countries in the world. The only life we come across is an Indian family enjoying a BBQ on our way to the beach and the lifeguard. Crazy. “What do you do?”, “I’m a lifeguard of a deserted beach”… Well, at least he can keep an eye to keep it deserted to give way to the turtles who lay their eggs here.

After all the chilling we miss the action and rent two out of the five available bodyboards in Palolem. The waves are small, but clean and perfect for some fun. After a while some Indians want to give it a go too. With a body board in their hands they stand next to us and say, “teach me”. And so we did, without any success though, but with lots of fun. On our last day we even managed to get our hands on two surfboards. In no time we were the attraction of the beach. So funny.

We eventually let Palolem beach go and make our way up to North Goa. We end up in one of the epicenters of Goa: Baga Beach. Man, the laid-back life is over! Loud music everywhere. Beach shacks competing with each other for the loudest sounds. Western and Indian music mixed up. Shazam was completely confused… We kind of knew it but wanted to see Goa from all angles. And we did! What a difference to Palolem. Loud party beats till late night and loud Bollywood songs from 09:00am. Time to move on!

Now we are stuck in Arambol (still Goa) since a few days, because we failed in getting a train ticket to Mumbai. The trains are full. It’s the end of the Ganesh Chaturthi and many people go home over the weekend. The bus is an alternative but given Wouter is 1.95 meters and we’re not really impressed by the Indian driving manners, we opt for the train. Unfortunately, it requires some patience with so many trains, classes and moments when tickets are becoming available and at the moment they are sold-out in minutes, as if it’s a famous music concert. Maybe tomorrow. Fingers crossed. Third time lucky, they say. Don’t feel sorry. Arambol lacks the loud music, has a nice long stretch of beach and I’m writing this blog on a comfy balcony with sea view. 🙂 Love the traveling life!

Happy Ganesh.

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