Our traveling has continued, if you can believe it, though we have been a bit of the proverbial beaten path the last few days, journeying through northern Karnataka. Staying in Hampi was quite nice, we ended up "living" there for exactly a week, and while we were amazed by the natural rock formations and the temples carved out of them, we had more fun hanging out with a bunch of nice people, our friends Liat & Moran, and Ron & Reut, from Israel (that we met in Gokarna), and Iain & Claire, who are from South Africa, whom we met a long-seeming time ago in Athens, Greece. We also had a crazy time for Holi, the national holiday of color, which translates to crazed tourists and Indian children of all ages throwing dye everywhere in the street! We wisely armed ourselves with 2-L full of water and a water gun, so we caused a lot of mayhem spraying people down! The actual parade lasted a few hours, before the police shut it down when things started getting too hectic, but Liz's hair will definitely be dyed pink (& blue, and green...) for at least another week or two, and the clothes we were wearing that morning are a bit more colorful.
After Hampi we spent 3 nights in Badami, and one day each at Pattadakal, Aihole, and then Badami itself. The local bus timing slowed us down more than we had hoped, because we wanted to do Pattadakal & Aihole in one day, but we spent hours waiting at a bus stand, before postponing our trip to Aihole by one day, which meant we spent the afternoon visiting with people in the village, which was fun, so of course we had some tasty chai and some chats (tea and snacks). Anderson also got an amazingly cheap silver bracelet, (18g @ 18Rs/g = 320 Rs), and we took more than a few "one photo" requests from the excited village children (who also wanted school pens and the increasingly popular "ten rupees, please?"). The temple complexes in all 3 towns were quite impressive, containing a vast array of structures from the 3rd century through the 9th, but the 4 carved caves at Badami were probably the most amazing sites we saw, with ornate ceiling and pillar carvings, plus giant images of the god(s) all over the walls. The camera has been quite busy lately, hopefully we can find some decent internet soon, so we can begin the tedious task of uploading them all!
We left Badami yesterday around noon, taking one bus to Bagelkot and then a 2nd to Bijapur. To be honest, this place is rather dirty and dingy, there is dust everywhere and the streets quite often reek, but the people have been very nice to us, and the archeological sites are quite fantastic. We've jumped forward 1000 years (and more than a few conquerers) to the 16th century, and have switched from Hindu & Jain artists to Muslim artisans, but regardless we have been awe-struck... our favorite site here in Bijapur is without a doubt the Golgumbaz, an enormous dome, built as a mausoleum, that has a psychedelic whispering gallery at the dome's base (six stories up), such that a whisper, or a yell, is magnified 10 times. It is doubtful that our low-light videos will do it justice, but the acoustics were dazzling, with echoes bouncing in one ear and out another, and claps and yells resonating all over the walls. We were also mobbed by school children, with Liz bearing the brunt of things since all 50 or so schoolgirls wanted to shake her hand, ask her name and country, and smile and giggle nervously! It was a little crazy being surrounded, at the top of the dome, as noise bounced every which way, while at a vertigo-inducing height!
The other big tourist draw here in Bijapur is the Ibrahim Rouza, which while another mausoleum, is totally contrasting in style, much less imposing but focused on detail, with many fine Persian characters etched all over the walls. The style is similar to the Taj Mahal, just dark in color instead of the Taj's distinctive white marble, but architectually the two are "same, same but different."
Tonight we will take an overnight bus to Bidar, which is supposed to have a very nice fort, as well as being the home of Bidriware, a traditional functional art form where metals are mixed to become black in color, and then silver is inlaid over the top. We saw some examples in Mysore, and they were impressive, so we are hoping that things will be even more impressive at the source. So tomorrow will most likely then be our last day in Karnataka, which only partially thanks to Luke has become our favorite Indian state thus far, and then we will head north into Maharashtra after that.
Our sincere apologies about the lack of photos and such, but we simply cannot find reliable internet, in Badami the only place we could even locate wasn't connecting, and now here in Bijapur there is only one internet cafe, and while it can handle email and a little surfing, that's about all it can handle (plus there is a 1 Rs/1 MB surcharge, which is new and a little outrageous!).
Hope all is well wherever you are - Peace A&L