Some of the best trips happen when they are unplanned, as they have occurred earlier with us. Though our journey to Hampi was not exactly unplanned, what happened after we reached there was what made it unforgettable.
After a 36hour sojourn, we reached Hampi weary and sleepy. Having reached by noon, we were hungry and in need of a good shower. This was also our first foray into CouchSurfing, and we were going to put up at the accommodation of Rajesh Chitturi, who came across as really friendly even before we met him.
Reaching ‘Hidden Place’ – our accommodation – a truly secluded location, we were certainly taken in by the beauty of the locale. Surrounded by boulders and fields, the plot is well-kept, with canal water that is well channelled to form a mini waterfall, leading to a cool pool. A hammock is tied over it so you can lounge in it while dipping your feet in the cool flowing water. A small shelter serves as the restaurant, which has mattresses and stone slabs serving as seating arrangement and tables. The instant impulse for anyone who visits would be to flop down immediately over the cosy pillows and snooze into a nap, listening to the gurgling water flowing beside; just as we did.
However, our immediate reaction to the surroundings was dull, as the place was empty with just a couple of napping guests and the staff around. Our enthusiasm was quite dimmed and we contemplated staying there just for the night and then moving out the next day to find a better place. We spent the rest of the day with some shut eye, followed by a bit of exploration around the rocks in the evening.
And this is where things turned around for us for the rest of the stay. Come night, and the entire place was magically transformed into the opposite of what we saw at noon. The place was suddenly filled with guests – some who were already staying there and had returned for the night, and others who were new like us. The air rent with the buzz of conversations, laughter, booze, and games. We too found ourselves quickly surrounded by people and were soon lost in the incredible fun.
Our host Rajesh arrived later at night and made sure that each of the guests was comfortable and enjoying. We befriended two young boys – Prasanth and Manoj – who shared our table. Pradeep, the manager of the place and restaurant, and his friend Gayathri also joined us soon. Megh was another company we had who joined us intermittently.
After an unbelievable night of good partying, we retired to our respective tents, the only form of accommodation at Hidden Place. While initially we doubted about it when we had arrived, there couldn’t have been a better arrangement, we went on to realise later.
The next night was even better, with us finding two more friends who would go on to stay with us longer. Sjors from The Netherlands and Jaspreet from Germany proved to be two great blokes who were also quite a pair. Boulderers, they were generous enough to take us out on one of their climbing expeditions and give us valuable tips on scaling boulders. Thanks to their patience, Megh and Prasanth were able to mount a 4a as their maiden successful boulder.
The following nights at Hidden Place were spent in great merriment, partying the nights away with games of UNO, several card games taught by Prasanth and Manoj, mesmerising card magic tricks by Pradeep, and unending conversations. Sjors and Prasanth struck an incredible wavelength of the exact same thoughts, so much so that it wasn’t difficult for me to guess our friend’s sun sign, which is the same as my husband’s! Brother from another mother, indeed! Rajesh came most nights and once he brought his brother-in-law and their family, along with another close friend, who is a local politician of the place. Mingling with each of them was a memorable experience as everyone was amiable and conversed most genuinely.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to spend much time with Bouchra from Morocco, who is a lovely person and would have promised intriguing dialogues. To top it all, the food at the restaurant was equally delicious, though a tad bit too slow.
Hidden Place was truly magical for us, as we met scores of new people from all parts of the world and had beautiful interactions. No two nights were the same and it was really a time that made us live in the moment, where we never thought of the past or future. Our first CouchSurfing experience had indeed turned out so astonishing, that we felt that Hampi, probably, took a backseat in the trip as we actually looked forward to the nights at Hidden Place! As Jaspreet, Sjors, and Bouchra walked us to the bus stop, something that was really heartwarming for us, we parted with warm hugs and heavy hearts. Riding out of Hampi on the bus that night, my mind rapidly slipped back into the past five days of super fun, desperately holding on to the memories that we will cherish forever.