Blog 20: Where's the Beef

Trip Start Dec 10, 2009
Trip End Jan 14, 2010

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Where I stayed
Tom and Jerry Guesthouse

Flag of India  , Karnataka,
Saturday, December 26, 2009

           As previously stated, Hampi is the home of the old Hindu capital, but it is also the home of an estimated 3,000 temples.  Because of the staggering amount of temples, it is considered a sacred area, which means there is no alcohol sold in town and there is also no meat sold within the Hampi area.            
           To combat vegetarianism, a small town has popped up on the opposite side of the river, and is only a boat ride and a fifteen minute walk away.  We were told that on the opposite side of the river there were restaurants that offered chicken pasta and chicken pizza and two dollar beer, and it being Christmas, we thought it would be a great end of the day place to celebrate. We decided to tour the major ruins and temples and then go across the river to get our meat cravings fulfilled.  There was only one little caveat to this whole meat-ordeal and this is it: the last boat to cross the river leaves at 6 p.m. and if you are not on it, you pretty much have to spend the night on the wrong side of the river.

            We toured the ruins until we were all suffering from temple-fatigue and then at 6 we jumped on the last boat and just figured we'd find a way across the river at the end of the night.  I mean, beer and chicken were calling our names and how could we pass that up.

            We reached the other side, found a decent restaurant, and everyone ordered chicken lasagna and Kingfisher Beer.  We toasted to a Merry Christmas and at around 10 p.m. we headed back to the river.  Within minutes we found a giant coconut with a paddle (no joke) and as we were loading into it, a man came running up and said we would have to pay $20 to use his coconut.  We offered him $4 and he said no way. 

            Chad and the boat owner haggled over prices for 5 minutes but they would not budge.  They knew they had the only boat to cross the river and with it, they had a convenient little racket going. 

            Since we could not agree on a price, we decided the only sensible thing to do was to just swim across the river in the middle of the night; sounds safe, right?

            The boat owner pointed out that swimming the river was not safe and that 20 people in the last year had died trying to cross the river we were about to cross.  Annie pointed out that there were signs on the other side that said: "Beware of Crocodiles" and “Do Not Swim.”  Finally, the guy told us that the police would arrest us once we crossed the other side, but we came to a consensus that he was lying and went for it.

            I paid for Annie’s boat ride across and then yelled, “Hasta Luego!” to the $20 boat ride.  I led the way while Chad, Taylor, and Denise took up the rear.  I have to admit, as I crossed the river I was thinking about those fresh water crocs.  I had my head lamp on and about one third of the way I was able to touch sand and yelled to the others, “Nothing to it, I’m already walking.” 

            The walking did not last long.  I dropped back down and swam for another five minutes and made it about two-thirds of the way across.  The current started picking up and that was when I found the underwater boulder fields.  I gently tumbled along and made my way through until I came to the last third stretch.  It was the rockiest, but I slowly found my way through a maze of stones and arrived safely at the other side. 

            It probably took a total of about fifteen minutes to cross and as soon as I stepped foot on land two police officers yelled in broken English, “No swimming after 6 p.m.  No second chances!  No second chances!  You come to police station!  You under arrest!”

            I waved my hand to give them the Jedi-mind trick and I told them there was nothing here to see, but they would have none of it.  They kept yelling that I would have no second chances and that I would now go to police station.

            I told them I had to consult with my friends and I ever so gently turned off my head lamp and then booked it toward the river.  I dove back into the water and yelled to the others in Espanol, “La Policia estan aqui!” (The police are here!)

            Chad yelled back from the river, “Tu serioso?” (Are you serious?)

            To which I yelled, “Si, soy muy serioso!” (Yes, I am very serious!)

            At this point we are laughing hysterically because we realize we sound like Mexicans crossing into America who took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up in the middle of India just trying to cross the Rio Grande while evading Homeland Security.

            The police heard Chad and Taylor and high-tailed it down the river in their direction, while Denise and I dropped out of sight behind a massive boulder.  We sat in the river for another ten minutes just biding our time while Chad successfully gave them the Jedi-mind trick.  He told them he had not crossed the river but was merely swimming/wading in the water on the Hampi side and that he was no going back to his hotel.  They left him alone while more police descended on the river.

            Someone else from our group yelled to us that they were going to the hotel and for us to meet them there.  I watched as the (now) six police officers all went in different directions looking for us.  I whispered to Denise to get ready to move.  It all worked perfectly and happened quickly.  Rambo jumped into the gun turret and with the 50 caliber took out the B-220s helicopters circling up above, followed by the tanks and the tomahawk missiles :0)

As the police looked in different directions, we swam to the shore and then b-lined it over the sharp rocks and up the three flights of concrete stairs that led to Hampi. Half way up two police officers passed the top of the rampart, and like magic I ducked while they looked in the opposite direction.  I motioned for Denise to run and together we ascended the hill like refugees trying to make it into Vegetarian Land.

            In seconds we reached our group and before the police could see us, we threw on our dry t-shirts and stepped into formation.  We disappeared into the group and walked back to our hotel without being caught or arrested.

            I must say that this was way more funny than it was dangerous.  The people that drown in the river are Indian tourists that do not know how to swim and they try to cross the river after getting themselves plastered.  At the very most the river was a Class 1.5, which means your Jacuzzi at home has more current in it.  It was two to three times as wide as the Colorado River at Cornlake, but without the eddies.  We were all either seasoned rafters or kayakers and everyone in our group knew how to swim and no one was even mildly buzzed as the altitude here is low and we had only had one beer each.  As for the crocs… blimey, one hasn’t been seen in those parts in ages.  As for the police… well, the rule of thumb is, never get caught doing something illegal in a foreign country.  Having learned the rules I’ve been mostly legal—I found the black market for chicken in Hampi and have been enjoying “Special Pizza.” 

Where’s the beef? I don’t know, but the chicken is in my belly.  I take that back, I found a guy this morning that could get me some A-grade buffalo if I wanted it, but I smuggled in some smoked salmon instead.  Merry Christmas… and God bless us everyone!
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Mom on

Stay safe, be safe, safety first ... I love you, Mom

Christopher Sahnwaldt on

Monday, March 1 2010, the last day of Holi, the boat owners are either too hungover or for some other reason decide around noon that there have been enough boat rides for today. Stuck on the wrong side of the river, I find an internet cafe, read your blog article, and decide to try my luck. Trouble is: I've got a bag on me, with my phone and all my money and papers in it... In the dark, I clamber down to a lonely spot on the river, strip down to my underwear and try to wade through, holding my bag over my head, but the water is much deeper and the current is much stronger than I expected... I get out of the water, look for a better spot, when I hear someone yelling. They're a few hundred feet upstream, on the shore. Is it the police? I don't try to find out. In the end, I find a new room for the night on this side of the river and grudgingly pay another 300 rupees. Replacing a drowned cell phone would have been much more expensive...

In a nutshell: the river is not as serene as it looks, and even at low water levels you probably can't wade through it anywhere, but swimming shouldn't be too much of a problem. Use your judgement.

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