Plasticine Porters

Thursday we start a little earlier, hoping to see the temple elephant having a bath in the river. We have been assured that this happens every morning between 8:00am and 9:00am at the steps leading down to the river. We see plenty of Hampi’s human residents bathing and brushing their teeth, but the elephant is a no-show.

We return to our room to pick up our first consignment of books, clothes and souvenirs to send home. Part way down the street we are told the post office does not open until 10:00am, so we retrace our steps. Kerry opts to confine herself to the room, whilst Ian goes exploring. This first comprises many photos of the village, and then the trip to the post office.

Here, well after 10:00, I am told the sub-post master is a half an hour away, so I waste time in the local street. I return to the post office with no sign of the sub-post master, however this time I am given a form to fill in, indeed the same form to fill in twice. I am not the only foreigner going through this process either. The parcel is weighed, I get quizzed about the address, I have to add an email address to both forms and the parcel. I want to send the parcel sea mail, however I am firmly told there is only air mail from Hampi. The price of the postage rivals the value of the contents. All this takes a little more than half an hour.

Unburdened, I take a long-ish walk, and see a sign-post for some waterfalls. A man comes to find out my name, where I am from, and my level of interest in marihuana from Kerala. He tells me the waterfalls are another twenty minutes away. I pursue neither option. Back closer to the village I opt for a riverside shave. It’s thorough, and imperfect.

In the afternoon I take a boat ride across the river to see the small village there. There are two different contractors, based on either side of the river, and there is no return ticket – one purchases a ticket on both sides of the river.

In many things Indian there is no concept of safety. The boat trip is one. We have too many people on board, and after some discussion, a man astride his motorbike takes up position on the forward deck. Reversing from the mooring point we all but capsize, but thereafter the short trip is uneventful.

This side of the river is clearly where the cool kids stay. The village, at least what I see of it, is much smaller and less cramped, with bigger stores and bigger restaurants. As with Hampi, many here seem to be in for the long haul, and I see foreigners both walking and riding scooters to accommodation unknown, but clearly well away from the two streets I have found.

The return boat trip features four people seated on the floor in the middle of the boat, me included. A couple of others stand on the rear deck, along with a woman who has been collecting firewood which is bundled and balanced on her head. On both journeys it seems that not all local passengers have a ticket.

After dinner we finalise preparations for our trip to the railway station, around 15 kilometres away. First, we need rickshaws out of the village to the bus stand where our car will collect us. Our guesthouse host has told us this is a thirty rupee trip. The chief negotiator for the rickshaw drivers asks for 100 rupees each rickshaw. I suggest 100 rupees for both. I am told plainly: “Sir, if you do not want to pay 100 rupees, please find yourself another rickshaw”. He wins, of course.

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