Monday, February 07, 2005

Freeze Police!

Last night I hiked up a hill near the main temple to watch the sunset - which was beautiful. I ran into a Dutch fellow who had been staying in the same huts as me at Palolem. He had an American guy with him (only the 3rd yank I have met on this trip) and we decided to hike up to the temple on the hill I found the other day - to watch the sunrise. This was cool because I was going to go alone and the guide mentioned there had been some muggings on the trail as it was isolated and dark.

This morning they failed to show up at our rendevouz spot outside the main temple. I waited for 10 mins and then I headed off on my own. After a while it was quite dark and I was a bit nervous about the possibility of being robbed since there were so many good places to hide and there was only one route to take to get to the top. I had a small folding knife and my LED keychain flashlight with I could blind them and then cut if! But it made me feel better not being totally defenseless. I also wore my trail runners so I could make a quick get away if trouble arose.

I had just crossed a small hill and a minor temple when I heard some people below me on the path to the view point. The were speaking Hindi and started to come my way. I wasn't sure what to do so my first instinct was to hide behind some bushes, but they must have heard me because they started calling out to me.."..hello...hello...hello friend...friend come here..." It sounded wonky to me and I was looking for a better spot to hide, but I didn't see any. They started coming up the path towards my hiding spot. I figured they would find me as my bush was not very big and quite close to the trail. So I started running back up the trail the way I had come and they started yelling and chasing after me. Damn - I thought what bad luck to end up as a footnote in a travel guide book! I had to be very careful as the trail was all large loose rocks - easy enough in day light at walking speed - quite another thing in the dark and running in a panic.

I made it back to the minor temple and noticed there were two western travelers sitting on top waiting for the sun to rise. I said hello and they seemed friendly so I just waited there figuring three against two seemed like reasonable odds and I had my light & knife! Just in case things went wrong I hid my digi cam on a shelf of rock behind the temple.

When the two guys got there they turned out to be local wanted to know why I as running. I told them that there was no way I could tell they were police and I was afraid they might rob or attack me in the dark. I pointed out that I stopped running as soon as there were other people around and I felt safe. I also pointed out that robbers were not likely to yell "....stop we want to rob and kill you!.." They would try and seemed safe - like being policemen for example.

They were quite suspicious and called into the main station. Then they told me I had to come with them to the station. I told them to piss off and that I was going to the top of the hill to watch the sunrise. I said they could join me if they wish and then we would go to the police station. They said no that wasn't okay - so I just grabbed my camera and started walking away from them and up the big hill. They didn't try and stop me.

I made it up to just below the top of the hill with no problems following the same stairs I had discovered on Sunday. I found a guide and his tourists lost at that point because he couldn't find the way up - great guide!! So I showed him the rest of the way to the ruined temple on top. I asked him a couple questions I had about the various ruins I had visited and he couldn't answer any of them. It made me happy I had not bothered to hire a guide.

The sunrise was spectacular! Easily one of the top 10 I have seen in my life. The colours were fantastic and the changing light bathed the ruins magically as the sun came up. I had a good chat with a few people who were clustered on top and then went back down. I didn't see the cops again.

I had spotted some ruins from the top that I had not visited yet so after a nap and some breakfast I went and checked them out. So far I have only been to ruins within walking distance of Hampi. There are several more sites I would like to see, but there is no way I can do them justice in the time I have remaining today so I decided to just leave them for another visit.

Now I am off to do some laundry and pack my things so I can catch the 8pm train from Hospet to Bangalore.


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