On any long trip there’s a mixture of good and bad, but the day spent driving to Bijapur and the night at the Shashinag Residency combined to feature as one of the absolute worst experiences ever. So perhaps the travel gods were redressing some karmic balance the next day. Once I left Bijapur, things kept improving. For starters, while the roads weren’t exactly good, they were a great deal better than the day before, and we made Badami by mid-afternoon, having stopped for another “will this make me sick” veg thali on the way.
The Spanish couple’s driver had agreed with Lonely Planet that the place to stay was the Badami Court, and while I felt it was a trifle overpriced, given the absence of competition, and the marked improvement over the Shashinag, I could hardly complain.
After I checked in I visited the cave temples, finding the late afternoon light absolutely perfect. Massive, rocky hills surrounded a big tank, and standing in front of the four nicely carved caves on the west side, I watched the rounded cliffs and the pretty little shore temple opposite glow in the slanting rays of the setting sun. For once, I used a guide for the site, and among a wealth of forgettable data, I learned that several of the statues were of “combined” gods – one deity forming the left half of the body, and a different deity the right half – in a bid to reconcile religious differences.
The next morning I noticed that the hotel owned a big wall map of the state, and had the staff explain the route to Hospet to my driver. Then we headed slightly off course to visit the south Indian temples at Pattadakal. Mostly built during the 7th and 8th centuries C.E., the temples illustrate two different styles, but are worth seeing even if you’re not interested in the architecture. There’s another, older, group further on at Aihole, but I chose to get on the road instead of visiting them.
The only good thing I can say about the NH13 between Ilkal and Hospet is that a new road is under construction. The existing roadway is at best one, ragged, lane wide, access to which is contested by a constant stream of trucks in both directions. Not that the alternate route via Gadag is said to be any better. It’s a shame, because Badami is really worth visiting. Supposedly there will be a train from Hospet at some point in the future, but then you’ve still got to get to Hospet, inconveniently situated many miles from anywhere else of interest.