India: Monkey Bastard

Next day in Hampi was just as wonderful as the previous, but because I’ve once more fallen behind on these diaries I’ll run through it quickly. Or at least, try to, because we all know I can go on a bit once I get excited about something. And by ‘we all’ I mean everyone who reads this, which is like, me, and my mum, and the occasional old man from rural Tibet who is searching for a recipe for goulash or something and through several misspelled Googlings winds up lost forever in the digital foothills of World Hangover.

I got up at 5am to meet Sarah and Mandy and Hanuman, who had offered to take us to the monkey temple for sunrise. Every city or town seemingly has a monkey temple, but this was the first one I’d visited. Dave and I tried to find the monkey temple in Jaipur but got a bit muddled and, through a convoluted series of events, ended up careening down the wrong side of the highway on a motorbike. And thus the monkey temples have eluded me.

We drove through the cool morning air to the temple, which sits atop a very big hill made of very big rocks. There are 575 steps to the top, which I leapt up like a beefy gazelle because I am young and sprightly and despite the fact that I have been drunk for a month straight I still retain a modicum of fitness. At the top I took off my shoes and flung them away, and padded around taking in the view. I loathe describing views because it always ends up sounding the same: vast, green, beautiful, humbling, rolling, unfurling, light, shadow, twinkling rivers. Yes, this view had all of those things, plus a lot of very big heaps of very big rocks, and it was really quite lovely.

As I stared out across the landscape doing my best to look ponderous and brooding, a procession of medium to large monkeys strutted past me, each in turn trying their luck at rifling through my pockets. I’ve never had to bat a monkey’s hand away before. One climbed on my head. It was surprisingly light, and its little hands were baby soft with tiny immaculate fingernails.

Hanuman led us away from the viewing platform and out onto the rocks, hopping over crevices with indifference. He taught us how to perform a sun salutation, and I tried it out, pressing my palms together above my head, lowering them to my chest, and dropping them by my side, while breathing deeply. I probably did it all wrong, but it felt nice and calming. Hanuman then produced a bushel of bananas and five thousand monkeys swarmed us. One of them nicked my water bottle, unscrewed the lid, drank the lot, and tossed the bottle over its shoulder. Littering bastard. I sighed and plodded over to pick it up and put it in a bin.

While we bathed in the gentle sun that crested the rocks of the monkey temple, I wandered away and sat alone to soak up the view and think about things. I found a pond full of frogs and wandered how the hell they got there. I saw hawks circling high above. I watched a dog and a monkey have a brief tussle which the dog won. I saw herds of goats far below in the valley, and heard their distant weird screams on the wind. The strangest animal I saw was a long, low, fluffy creature that looked a bit like a ferret or weasel or mongoose or a feather duster with legs. It scurried onto the rock below me, paused to look at me, and scampered away. Nobody else saw it. Hanuman had no idea what it could have been from my description. Maybe it was the only one in the world; a little silver furry magical thingamy, just for me.

Back down the 575 we stomped, and drank from a coconut each at the bottom. Hanuman took us back to Goan Corner, where we met three friends of Mandy’s; two Greek stoner guys, Steff and Spyros, and an American called Alex or Dom or Kyle or something; I found him quite ignorant so didn’t exert myself to remember his name. We hired bikes once again – I got a higher cc one this time so I could actually drive up gentle slopes without having to get off and push – and we set out on a long day of cruising. We visited the waterfall, had beers in the sun, and jumped off rocks. I really liked the Greek guys, especially Steff. He always had a smile for me, and spoke English with a gentle Welsh accent on account of one of his parents hailing from there.

We zoomed around a huge reservoir after, and I sort of caused a motorcycle crash, but it was fine, mostly. These three Indian teenagers were zipping about all on one bike and were reaching out to hi-five us as we passed. I reached out but withdrew my hand at the last second so I could steer. The driver of the other bike lost control and skidded into a bush. I looked back over my shoulder and they’d all got away without a scratch, and it was mostly their fault, so I didn’t feel too guilty.

We stopped to buy petrol out of a curious roadside shop – the cashier came out and handed us water bottles filled with petrol which we poured into our tanks – and carried on to the festival town I’d visited a couple of days earlier. I told everybody about the ferris wheel and, unheeding of my warnings, they all paid the 30 rupees to go for a ride. I sat smug at the side and watched everyone’s expressions turn from joy to terror as the engine started burping and the whole contraption began to whirl like a pinwheel in a gale.

We rode to the river after and smoked a joint atop a heap of rocks straight out of the Lion King. We headed back to the hostel after, where we scrambled up a rocky hill to catch the sunset, hopping over cracks in the rock that fell fifty feet deep. A misstep would have meant death. It was scary as hell and I couldn’t enjoy the sunset in any real capacity because I was very aware that imminently I would have to hop back over the succession of two foot wide gaps between the rocks and I had endless sickly visions of that scene from 127 Hours floating around my skull. I didn’t die though, it turns out.

Later that night we said goodbye to the Greek guys and the American who was maybe called Alex, and with Conor and Lily in tow, Mandy, Sarah and I got the night bus to Bengaluru.

See? Reasonably concise, right? I told you I could do it!

2 thoughts on “India: Monkey Bastard

    • Ah I wasn’t really the cause, more of a spectator – they just oversteered after trying to hi five me. Too much weight all leaning to one side. But they were only travelling at 10mph or so, so nobody was hurt!

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