Of course we had heard a lot of the legendary boulders paradis Hampi. But above all we wanted to see a different culture. This culture, however, gave us a shock. On the outskirts of Mumbai (the former Bombay ) we saw more poor and homeless people than I ever could have imagined. Many of these people have no idea, how they are going to survive the next day.
Homeless people on the streets of Mumbai
Where do they come from and why are there so many of them?
India going through a period of industrialisation. When European countries went through this stage they were able to export their rapidly growing populations to other countries and continents such as America and Australia . But there are no countries left to which people can be “exported”. India is a democracy and so it is not possible to act as China does: to permit only a single child per family. In addition the climate has plays a huge role in the shifting population. The dry season now lasts longer and so there are not always the common three harvests per annum anymore. The farmers earn less than a Euro a day making it impossible for them to save money for bad times. Many farming families without debts, money or land are pushed to seek their fortune in the sparkling cities, where all goods seems to be plentiful.
Working on the paddy fields means standing all day in the water
But there are no jobs at all. People settle down on the outskirts of Mumbai in the largest slums in the world. I've been around the world: Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Egypt, Thailand, Algeria, Morocco and saw all the favelas, barrios and slums there, but India showed a level of poverty that truly shocked me. It also made clear how rich we are and how important it is to share our wealth with others.
Mumbai, Gateway of India
Map of India
Tourism is an opportunity to bring money into countries. It also makes it possible to see different people and learn about their lifestyles. Even though the ordinary people are poor they are open minded and cheerful. We were always asked “Where do you come from?” and “Where do you go?”
We left Mumbai on a sleeper train to Hospet, a lively little town (24 hours away). A bus or motorikscha brought us to Hampi, which is only 16 kilometres away. Between 1336 and 1565 Hampi was the capital of one of the largest Hindu kingdoms of India . Muslim warriors destroyed and most of the vast temple remains in this state. Some parts, however, are going through a process restoration. Some of the central temples have been rebuilt and are back in function. Religious people from all over India come here as well as the ubiquituos “lonely planet tourist herds” that we belong to as well. Between and around these temple areas stretch rock plateaus with innumerable boulders with heights up to 50 metres.
To stay away from the masses and be closer to the main bouldering area it is a good idea to cross the Tungabhadra River on the little ferryboat and rent a little hut on Hampi Island.
Dali Boulder, Hampi.
Riceteraces at sunset
He who likes international flair should check in at Goan Corner, whoever prefers authentic Indian food and likes to pick up the handmade topos should go to Begams Place . These topos are made by Harry Vierroth, a guy from Berlin who has come here every dry season for 15 years and is an important part of the climbing history of Hampi. He showed us the best areas and even though his little finger was broken he managed to boulder quite hard with us.
Harry Vierroth on the famous 90-degree edge
Map of Hampi. (download at end of article))
It is a good idea to boulder only in the early morning and in the late evening since the heat during the day can be torturous. Spend the midday hours at the reservoir for swimming or just do nothing. In and around Hampi you can walk almost everywhere and barely need a car or cycle. You can also rent a crashpad at Begams place, so just bring your climbing shoes, chalk and tape. The rock is a rich structured orange granite with high friction. You can find vertical walls, slabs, overhangs, roofs and cracks. The hardest boulders are finger power problems on little edges.
Arete boulder on the rock plateau
Hampi is a world-class bouldering destination that requires at least two weeks to see properly. There are also some routes; most of them are trad cracks. Climbing the central Rishimuk rock (50 metres, some bolts and nuts) is a must, due to the breathtaking view from above.
Panoramic view from the Rishimuk rock
… is about 200 kilometres fom Hampi. The train trip takes at least 4 hours. The climbing area that starts just at the rim of the city offers enough routes for a one-week stay and is a really nice alternative to the hardcore bouldering in Hampi.
The orange and red coloured sandstone offers unique rock formations. Like Hampi, Badami is home of some very famous temples that are part of the UNESCO world heritage. These cave temples are the reason for the many Indian tourists in the town. Compared to Hampi there are fewer foreign tourists, so prepare to be in the focus of the local people.
Sandstone rocks of Badami
Highball-Boulder at Badami
The monkeys are cute and kleptomanic
At the end of our trip we needed to relax from all the climbing and so visiting one of the Goa beaches was a must. We decide to go to Palolem Beach , where it is more silent than on the party beaches in the north. By chance there were some rocks on the seashore and I just had to do some more moves even though my fingers were already finished.