Series :“Hampi – of what remains of the ancient Vijayanagara is hauntingly beautiful”
Part VI : Sunset from the Matanga Hill
“You are off to great places, today is your day
Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way “
– Dr. Seuss
Matanga is our ‘mountain’ waiting for us today. We did not know what to expect. From different trip reviews, all I could collect was it is a short but challenging trek and the view from above is a spectacular one. The adventurers in us were ready for the challenge. In the morning, while walking past Matanga, it had appeared to be a formidable one and we could not spot any trek paths from the apparent look of it. But again, from the trip reviews I had learnt there is a path from the Achyutaraya Complex. We had taken a 3 hour break in the days exploration, because the sun had become just unbearable. We had finished our lunch in Hospet and freshened up in the hotel. At 4:15pm , keeping the car in the Hampi Bazaar, we proceeded towards the Achyutaraya Complex.
We reached the complex by 4:30 pm. There were no other tourist to be seen at that point of time. The complex, located at the foothills of Matanga is said to have been built by Achyuta Devaraya in 1534 AD, after he was coronated in 1529 AD on the death of his elder brother Krishna Devaraya. The temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is one of the finest architectural works of Vijayanagara.
Anindya inquired the security guard at the Achyutaraya Complex, and he showed us the exit towards the trek path to Matanga Hills. It is on the wall on the right side of the complex. After going for 1-2 minutes along the trail on exiting the complex, we found the flight of stairs.
We started climbing the Matanga. The stairs would have been laid down centuries ago- slabs of stones fixed against each other. One has to be very careful while taking the steps. We stopped occasionally to catch breath and to catch the view which was becoming more and more interesting with elevation. The stairs have small landings at places, to help you rest while appreciating the grandeur of the view.
As we moved higher up, the stairs were steeper and narrower and was getting a bit dangerous. You will see small and medium sized natural caves on the way. If you are a Bengali and have read “Tungabhadrar Teere” by Shri Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay, you will realize, that the author made the courageous Arjunbarma, the hero along with Balaram, the intelligent Bengali friend to stay in one of these caves, during Devaraya’s rule. “Which is the one in which they would have been staying?”-I wondered, knowing pretty well that they were fictitious characters of the novel.
The trek path had become too dangerous and finally we arrived at a point, where from we did not find any path further up and there was a section of steps we had climbed, which I could not think of how to climb down . We decided that we have arrived at the top though we could see the actual peak was another 20 feet above us. Till this time, we had not come across any other tourist and we two were the sole beings there. We sat down on a rock and enjoyed the view, the breeze and our accomplishment.
After a couple of minutes, we spotted the stairs to go further up to the peak. It was right there, even before the part of the stairs where it had become too dangerous. We had missed it and crossed a dangerous set up of stones and arrived at where we were. And now we could not think of crossing that dangerous part again. We decided we will not venture any further up as it was becoming too risky an affair. Though Anindya was confident I could not imagine how we are going to get down. We decided to come down before sunset, while light is there.
We were taking photos, selfies, when a Korean couple appeared from behind a boulder , through a path which seemed quite impossible. They had climbed from a side opposite to the side from which we had climbed. They were exhausted from the climb and they also decided not to climb the remaining 20 feet. We chatted for some time. They told us that the path they had taken was a good one and not too dangerous. We thought we would get down the Matanga that way. An additional advantage for getting down that way would be that, the path is on the west side of the mountain. So there would be comparatively more sun light during dusk than the other side which we had climbed. But taking this path would mean we have to cross two bends, a path hardly a feet wide beside gigantic boulders with nothing on the other side, to be able to access the way down. A misstep and one would fall down and bouncing against the boulders would break quite a few bones before taking the final breath.
I saw a few others making their way across the path. Few more tourists had come from that side. I myself summoned some courage, and Anindya gave me some more. Anindya took the lead. He passed the first boulder ‘quite like a pro’ I thought. Now it was my turn. I simply could not figure out how I am going to cross. For a moment I thought that I am going to spend the rest of my life in Matanga – not a very pleasing thought, afterall. Anindya told, “Turn your back to the slope, lean on the rocks and slowly and carefully come forward “ . I did so. Halfway through, I realized, my sneekers are skidding and I am not getting grip. I was terrified. I was fortunate enough to make it to the other side and even more fortunate to find a small semi-cave in between the two giant boulders where I caved inside and removed my shoes and socks before crossing the remaining frightful half. It was time again to face the fear. Anindya taking the lead crossed over to the other side. This time bare foot, I found it easier. We arrived at a flat landing where we found around 3 small tourist groups waiting for the sunset. We relaxed in the clearing for some time, took photographs.
A girl from a tourist group took a few pictures of us which are the only photos in the trip apart from the selfies where both of us are together. Big thanks to her.
The view from the Matanga is extraordinary. You have the aerial view of the Achyutaraya complex. You can see over the Krishna Bazaar uninterruptedly till Tungabhadra, Rishimukh, Anjaneya Hill and further. You will also be able to see the Hampi Bazaar area and the Virupaksha Temple, Hemkuta. The geography of the place is extraordinary. The hills made of heaves of boulders, the Tungabhadra meandering its way through the hills, and amidst lies the remains of what once was a booming metropolis. It is spectacular to see the last rays of the sun leaving its warm embrace on the rocky hills and the remains of the Vijayanagara empire.
The sun was about to set when we started to make our way down. We had pre decided this ie. to leave Matanga before it gets completely dark. The idea of getting down the treacherous way in dark was quite unsettling. This path we realized was worse than the trek path we had taken from Achyutaraya temple. At places there were no stairs at all. Anindya was definitely doing much better than me. I employed my both hands and legs, sat down, slided on the slope, crawled my way through.
As we went down, the steps became easier. We stopped briefly sometimes to appreciate the view. It was from the stairs we saw the sunset. By the time we reached the foothills, dusk had set in. Virupaksha Temple could be seen at distance. We realized we had crossed this area many times before but never had realized this to be a trail for a trek path to the Matanga.
The climb to Matanga is a risky one. But it’s worth it. It will be a sunset to remember for us . We walked happily down the street towards Hampi Bazaar, hand in hand, proud of our accomplishment of successfully climbing up and down the Matanga. We deserved a treat of sugarcane juice we thought. But, the juice shops were closed and instead vans selling biriyani, chicken pakoda etc were roaming around. We bought 7up and continued to the parking lot where our car would be waiting for us.
Adios Matanga and our heartfelt gratitude for the wondrous evening you gifted us!
Continued in HAMPI – Part VII of VII – We Wander
See previous: HAMPI – Part V of VII – Ruins that inspire Awe