Hampi - Demolitions Continue - June 2017

June 2017
The JCB's with government officers and police came to Sanapur and destroyed every single guest house - Woodstock (14 rooms) Gowri (18 rooms) Waterfalls (12 rooms) and Rock and Chill the restaurant.
In Hanumanalli they destroyed every guest house including the great place for climbers Baba cafe and Hanuman guest house run by our old friend Wenket. Even his family home in the middle of the compound where his father Ramswami lived peacefully all the years.
 In Jungli village all of the places in the middle of the village including the popular White Elephant and the ten rooms are gone.

 This is devastating for the people who slowly built these places up investing most of the profits from the high season into developing and improving for the coming year. It's also a sad shock for all the people who enjoyed staying in those places in the last ten or fifteen years and became friends with the owners and staff. It means that outside of Hampi island there are no small guest houses left. The big places on Hampi island itself are still standing but are existing on temporary 'stay orders' until a decision is made by the high court in Delhi.

  Wenkets beautiful family house is in ruins
The restaurant on the river side
This sent a shiver of sadness and memories through me and is all that remains of the wonderful and famous Baba cafe. Ouch.

The superb restaurant of Woodstock69 in Sanapur looks like this just now. The work of criminals.

Rock and Chill on the way to the lake.

Rock and Chill, such a waste.

Rambo (Jambavan) guest house and restaurant

Gowri guest house and restaurant.

The places you see lying in rubble and ruin were almost all of the best smaller scale guest houses and restaurants in the whole area. Especially for the people who wanted to stay away from the big commercial area of Hampi Island itself. The place is changed forever now with these terrible and unforgivable actions.
 If you were planning a trip and intending to stay in any of these places you will have to think again.

Hollow rock area - Info

Why go there?
When you look out from Paraport, the Catcave or the Eagle rock ridge you can't help your eyes stopping and staring at this hill. It looks full of potential so begs to be checked. After traversing all the plateaus on the ridge a few times on walks back and forth from Paraport I noticed a huge amount of boulders on multi tiered plateaus, some with quality problems, some with too much vegetation around the base and some with loose flakes...just like always. Like almost all the areas I choose to concentrate my efforts on it was one super special problem which got me psyched enough to go and stay there. Then the ball was rolling. It didn't stop for 2 or 3 years.
 People who make the effort (30 minutes walk from the canal) will find an excellent area. It's full of crimpy classics and the high aspect on the plateau make it feel special. You can walk around a lot in these hills looking for these special areas but to find such a strong concentration of quality problems in one place is always a challenge.
 If you stay for a while you may notice grunting growling sounds just behind the hollow rock cave.    That's the sloth bears which are almost always living in the big hill right next to you. If one actually comes to the cave it must like your lovely smell and energy vibrations but don't panic even if it's pushing you with it's nose in your back as you try and sleep. They don't steal human food preferring to eat natural berries, termites and ants.
 If you stay a while try not to leave without doing some new problems. Add some more quality climbing to the area, give names and make topos/maps. Then send on the info, jungliatpil@yahoo.com

LINK - Hollow rock approach and topo

Lefthand CAVE ROUTE  - long steep problem.

Falling awake - After pleasant crimp pulling on the steep bit the most nails crimpy mantle onto the slab is the crux. 7b

Paraport pinnacles on the hill behind

For the buzz 7a+ R-L Long traverse leaves fingertips buzzing and brain also!

 The first two moves of  'The growler' 7c are the most powerful and crux of the problem

The second 'easy crux' of  The Growler

The Hollow rock groove (above) has the Free Kishkinda powerful 7c traverse from the right along the break into this 7a groove

Super little alcove problem 6c  Above and L of Captain crimp.

Seemed to be checking I was still alive in the morning at hollow rock cave, cheers bro.
This is like heaven just going to get some water.

Sick man is nasty from sitting 7b standing 6b

The excellent crimpy classic on the backside of the cave boulder. Feel's so good.

'Slave of sensation' 7b+

Yes Karnataka rocks can be crimpy. 

left, Waterways - superb boulder and sleeping place with 5 good problems possible.(3 done 2 projects) 6c - 7c Not hollow rock itself but just across the valley towards Tamba.

You'll watch this boulder every time on the way with a classic traverse.
 The perfect wave 7a

Not too far to the top, one move but classic.        Slow motion 7a+ superb

So many types of fantastic looking owls  around the rocks.

The S groove is at the start of the next higher plateau from hollow rock, well worth seeking out. 

The 7a+ left version of the S groove*** R on
 the groove itself is6c

 Paint a Rainbow 7b+ 

Superb rainbow crossover move from the thin crimpy flake.

 One of the great 7b+ problems around here. 
It's The Turning point 

Waterway Superboulder linkup

6c+ from standing or this link from sitting on right at 7c both ***

Contorting across the Yoga Traverse 7a+

Hampi island - Demolition

 Hampi Island, Virupapuragaddi, Karnataka, India.

 May (off season) 2016

 It's not a normal day. The road to 'Hampi island' is now blocked by so many police some of them dressed in (Indian style) riot gear. The way is only open for JCB bulldozers and the powers that be. Virupapuragadi village itself will now be destroyed while the women and kids watch and cry. The big guest houses like Golden beach, Mowgli or Shanti will be magically untouched while this tiny little village is smashed. Why did they only pick the smallest poorest people to demolish their houses?
 What did they do wrong? They will tell them this is forest reserve land and in the UNESCO core zone. When they settled here four generations ago did anybody tell them such things? There was no 'Heritage site' or 'core zone' then. There are a hundred houses and they are doing no harm whatsoever to anybody at all. Why should anybody even care that they are living there never mind actually destroy their village?
 The most ironic thing about this is that these houses being smashed were actually here way BEFORE the big guest houses! It's the oldest and most 'real' bit of Hampi island. When I first came in the early 90's this was a lovely little village. There was no Mowgli, no Goan corner, No Lakshmi Golden beach, no anything touristy except Umashakar restaurant. One restaurant five minutes along the road from the boat, that's it. These were normal peoples family houses. Sure since then they had made two or three small homestay style places with no more than four rooms to rent to visitors but all the rest of it, just normal houses.

So now the whole village including small kids are made to watch while jcb's smash their homes. They have never known anything else, no wonder they are crying! 

 For some of us the question looming on this grim day is why these people have to lose everything now while the big purpose built guest houses a short way down the road remain untouched. The answer, money of course. The big guest house owners had enough money to pay huge lawyer fees plus extra 'fees' to judges then obtained a temporary 'stay order' until the highest supreme court gives the final verdict. This is truly horrible and a sad outcome and now just leaves people 'in limbo' waiting for their resorts to be demolished. It also puts people in a 'make as much as we can now' mindset making them seem more greedy than they actually are.

 Actually the places they demolished were some of the best and most authentic places to stay on Hampi island and still run by local families. The bigger restaurants and cafes get leased out for the season mostly to super fast and efficient Nepali teams. They know how to quickly make pizza, yankee burgers, falafal and Isreali pie. They can also make excellent North Indian food. It might sound strange but most visitors will stay the entire time in Hampi without ever tasting 'local food' or even 'South Indian' food. Now if you want to stay in these type of  homestay places and eat anything like local food you will have to go further afield or maybe in Hampi itself. Not much on Hampi island. It looks like a microcosm of globalization. 

Survival of the biggest. 

 Some of the big guest house owners and people involved in the business think it's inevitable that everything in the official core zone (7 km radius) of Hampi be demolished soon enough but there are also people who now think that they WILL be allowed to continue running after paying SO much money. After all where there is so much money being made they can always pay more if need be and keep the whole thing going. Otherwise some very complex questions will arise. Where will the traveller tourists that have filled all these rooms and restaurants for the last twenty years go if everything is demolished? Maybe they will simply stop coming to stay in Hampi and stay in Hospet. Think so?

There are certainly people in Hospet town 12km away from Hampi itself who would love to see this happen as they have big expensive luxury hotels already built in the last few years and sitting empty most of the time. These places are not ideal for backpackers, climbers or travellers as they are just too nice and expensive. Hospet itself is actually quite nice for such a big town but it just hasn't got the beautiful scenery and atmosphere of Hampi and the island. It's just for the top few percent who need luxury and comfort above everything else who will stay there. These are the people who would actually go 12 km on buses and take guided tours of the ruins or rocks to take photos then go back to the hotel and luxury room every evening.   

Not for you! 

All the rest of you who want to stay and enjoy the peace and the nature, the rocks and bouldering, the layed back vibes and friendly atmosphere created by the locals, well you can all get lost it seems. They don't want you there. Go to a far away village and stay in a family house or go to big hotel in Hospet or just go back to Goa (for travellers) or Badami (for the climbers).
That's what they want and that's what they are planning, The people with the big hotels in Hospet in partnership with the 'powers that be' that is the Forest department, ASI (Archeological survey of India) and UNESCO. 

The Derelict Hampi Bazaar - Ghost Museum

 In 2011 the JCB's arrived and completely cleared out Hampi bazaar of all the people, guest houses, restaurants and shops. At first it was said to be with the permission of UNESCO who are supposed to be protecting the site. However it seems the aims of the two authorities might be slightly different.  The actual idea to 'sanitise' Hampi bazaar came from the ASI which is a completely Indian organization. However it receives huge amounts of money to protect these heritage sites from UNESCO which is an international body. UNESCO was not in total agreement thinking it should remain a 'living heritage' as an important tourist destination. It maintains that it had NOT requested the eviction of the residents. So it doesn't take much to work out that corruption was at the heart of the decision to sanitise. So just who paid off the officials and judges to give the go ahead. 
The same people who are trying to push forward the demolitions on the other side of the river? 
The same people who will profit from the complete lack of any tourist infrastructure anywhere near Hampi?
The same people involved in the biggest illegal mining boom in India?
 Consider the decade before the demolitions began. 2000-2010.

 Hospet mining boom

 In 1999 the goverment of India opened it's immense iron ore reserves to private exploitation. China would buy as much as India could supply it seemed and the Bellary district is full of quality iron ore very near to Hospet. In a few short years the industry became huge. 

 The following paragraph is taken from a June 2006 Frontline article and shows us just how big it became in those 7 years since 99. Nobody seemed to mind that 90 percent of the mines were illegal.

Unscrupulous trade

Windfall profits have transformed Hospet's economy. According to V.G. Khanolkar, Assistant General Manager of the State Bank of India's Hospet branch, the tiny branch has seen a staggering 2,000 per cent increase in withdrawals since the boom started, from Rs.3 crores every six months to nearly Rs.40 crores a week. Real estate prices have gone up by 400 per cent in the past three years. The region's wealthy have developed a reputation for being the first in India to purchase the latest luxury cars. According to local press reports, Bellary will soon have Asia's highest per capita concentration of private helicopters. 

 During that decade new luxury hotels popped up around Hospet and almost everyone was in on the boom somehow from drivers to traders. It was plain to see (and hear) what was going on from our little vantage point in Hampi but all we could do was watch and listen to the destruction. In 2010 it was becoming obvious that some type of government corruption clamp down was under way so all the illegal mining was going to end soon and end it did. The change was unbelievable around Hospet with the roads that were normally jammed to a standstill with overloaded iron ore trucks out towards Hullgi and Hampi island with just a normal amount of traffic again.

 At that time Hampi and the Island was still intact, the demolitions had not started. After all why would the 'big people' of Hospet and Bellary be jealous of a few guest houses when they were getting so rich on mining. The cleansing of Hampi started the very next year. Was there any connection between these events? Let's face it most major decisions are made by the business leaders who can simply pay the politicians and law authorities as much as they need to do what they want. If they could pay their way through a decade of illegal tax free iron ore mining then getting a few restaurants torn down in Hampi would have been no problem. On 29th of July 2011 after being warned only the night before the demolition took place. DEMOLITION info

 Outside people are divided on the issue and some seem to think it's good to shift them all out for the sake of 'preservation' and 'heritage'. The locals are not divided on the issue and many of us who have stayed a long time agree with them. You could say we are biased because they have become our friends but the fact is that a lot of people loved Hampi so much not just because of the Vijaynagar ruins but because of what the first people to resettle the place had turned it into. They transformed it from an overgrown ruin into a beautiful little village, a 'living heritage' which was so nice to stay in that it became famous.

 Now when you arrive in Hampi it's just the dusty chaos of the bus/car park area and the main bazaar looks sterile, artificial and lifeless. It was SO much better before. There were loads of good restaurants some catering to foreigners but mostly with actual authentic local food for breakfasts; idle wada, poori, dosa etc and good thalis through the day and evening with everything totally vegetarian (no meat allowed). Quite a lot of visitors preferred to stay over in Hampi rather than the island as it actually felt like a real village with local food unlike the so called 'Hippie Island' which just felt like it was purpose built only for tourists ie. no local food (meat allowed). By the way it's made for consumers not hippies, you are not even allowed to make youself a coffee or wash your own clothes. In high season you will be evicted from your room after 3 days because you didn't use the restaurant enough. If you want to see 'hippies' to to any local village like Sanapur or Basapur and watch how the locals live. 

 There were also shops on the bazaar selling useful items and pooja items if you were heading into the temple. There was even a post office, a bank and the famous old bookshop. There are still a few guest houses left in the streets behind the bazaar but it's no wonder that most people go to the Hippie island. Now even the 'I'm certainly not a backpacker' type of person with proper luggage on wheels crosses the river straight away to the island.

3 beers 3 bears

Hampi – Wild area


I'm awake really early and psyched for a project that I have to be careful with as it does have just one poor gritty crimp hold. One foot slips and in the locked position my fingers slide off leaving me with a nasty cut on the pad of my fingertip. I'm angry as I know I can't try it any more or any other climb really for a day or so anyway. What to do? I think ....... just go for a long walk, explore and burn off some energy without the possibility of anything going wrong. After the cut finger it now felt like a ‘going wrong day’ for some reason. But nothing can go wrong by going for a walk and exploring right?

The walk was brilliant, as usual I found loads of good problems and even tried to remember where some of them were in the complex hills. But I was so far away from my cave now and so hot, tired and very hungry having already finished any snacks. I was actually closer to the road down Basapur way so decided to get there instead of back to my cave then jump on a bus the few km to Senapur to get my shopping a day earlier than I'd planned. I would also go and kill a few hours of the hot time in my favourite dhaba the cheap local ‘Royal hotel’ which serves very good spicy village style food returning to my cave in the cooler time after 4 or so. 

 Eventually I arrived in Basapur and hang around the place until a lift comes to Sanapur but by now it’s really hot and I'm completely exhausted after walking all day. As the dhaba is across the street from the only wine shop in the whole area I decided to drink just one cold beer. After lots of spicy snacks I decide on one more beer and by now it was about 4-30 pm. That would have been exactly the right time to leave the dhaba go and get my shopping from the general store and press on the 1 and half hours it would take to walk to my cave before dark.

 Tourists or climbers very rarely come to this local dhaba and today is no different but just then a local Indian friend came into the garden of the dhaba and announced that HE was going to buy ME a beer. I just couldn't believe it! It's rare that someone buys me drinks in Sanapur village as its really expensive and they all drink cheap duplicate whisky. So I couldn't refuse and started into the fresh drinks ordering some more food as well. The guy who runs the dhabba does like he always does reminding me that it was time to go and gave me a pretend worried look....“karadi will get you this time” then laughing at me and wobbling his head from side to side.

 A karadi is the Indian sloth bear and nothing scares and excites the locals more than any stories or anything to do with this animal. That’s because there are so many grim facts about village people being attacked and mauled or killed by them.

 Image result for 3 beers kingfisher An extra strong K.F. is a beer which has (not less than) 8 % alcohol and anything to do with this item greatly excites the locals of Sanapur as to have one in your hand symbolises success, wealth and less liver/brain damage than 'normal whisky' which is not normal.
 After 3 of them when I finally got to the general store it was 6-30 and almost dark but I didn't think much about it as I knew that my superb and very modern headtorch was in my bag. When I finally collected all my provisions and vegetables and blasted up to the lake where I turn off the road it was the last minutes of any natural light. Then I tried my head torch but remembered a bad thing. I always charge the batteries with a small solar panel but today was the special charging day. But I had been so busy all day and then forgotten in Sanapur. Damn it! An impossibly tiny light was all that was available and I decided to leave it off for as long as possible using the last minutes of twilight to get as far as possible. Up the first very steep hill and onto the first flat plateau was okay but it became totally dark there was no moon and I put the torch on hoping for the best. It WAS just enough to see bits and pieces but I knew it was not going to last long at all so I started to go really fast along the flat section just bushes everywhere not too many boulders on that plateau. The wind was quite strong and combined with the intense crunching underfoot as I thrashed along I couldn’t hear much in the way of outside sounds.

  Remember to remember

As always when I walk in the jungli areas after sunset I have one unlit juggling fire torch in my hand but for some reason this day I'd forgotten something quite important. Something to do with kerosene and the firetorch. 

Then quite suddenly I heard something just ahead nearby and to the right which completely stopped me in my tracks. Something I'd NEVER heard at close range before. It was a terrible high pitched whining interspaced with a fearful growling in between a kind of wimpering barking sound but it had registered in my brain very quickly. What the hell is it? I thought at first but then suddenly I realized what it was. It’s one of the bear cubs and sounds absolutely terrified and in distress! It’s really scared and it's all my fault. Just then I heard another sound but very different and from the opposite direction but quite far over to my left. That was a sound I recognized quickly as I've had meetings before with the bigger bear usually male but this was “mummy bear” grunting and growling. Intense fear set in very quickly and I started rummaging in my pockets for the lighter. Then I realized the important thing which I had forgotten. Not the lighter for that was now in my hand but the fire torch which was absolutely bone dry! It would never light! I knew very well! I tried anyway but couldn't even get a flame from the lighter such was the wind. Click, click, click, and no flame at all. These tiny clicks of light seemed to wake up but not scare the mummy bear who came to life with a huge roar and then there was just a tremendous thrashing and crunching as she started to move. With the clicks of the lighter I was of course just showing her the way directly to me. Then the growling roars increased in intensity and volume. I knew very well what was happening as it all got louder. She was running directly towards me! Any bushes between us would soon be flat. Just then I heard the sound of a babu again but from behind me somewhere then it was also getting closer. It was another one ,she had two cubs both in different places. I was in the middle of some kind of family event. They had been spread out all over the plateau.

Normally if I stay in Senapur too long or too late my friend in the dhaba reminds me to put a bit of kerosene on my firetorch wick as it’s good for my peace of mind to walk in the jungli at night but he had drunk many glasses of beer with us so had completely forgotten. I knew it was hopeless with the torch and it was too windy anyway but the beast was serious in its intentions and would be on me in a few seconds. Fear and adrenalin completely took over my brain. With nowhere to run I took as much air as possible into my lungs. Then I shouted. It was a sound unlike any other which I've ever made before. I surprised and scared even myself. It was almost louder and more gruesome than the beast. When I'd finished all the thrashing and growling from around me was changing direction and I just stood there with my mouth open waiting for the terrible thing to happen. On other occasions I have just ‘run for it’ when I met the beast and speed climbed up the nearest boulder but on this occasion I had no boulders nearby. I was trapped where I stood. The thrashing went around me and suddenly there was a moment when I recognized that mummy and babu was being re-united. They were all still thrashing around and growling but a few seconds later those sounds were becoming less loud. They were moving away from me! Then I could breath again and the fear started to subside. I was completely shaken but SO relieved. I felt like someone had injected some terribly strong stimulant into my blood stream and I walked back to my cave from there in about half the time as it usually takes shouting and singing the whole way. I felt like I’d been ‘born again’. That night back in the cave my mind was just buzzing and I couldn't get to sleep until just 2 hours before sunrise. I’d had such a huge amount of adrenalin from the fear caused by the attack.

For those more interested in the Indian sloth bear and its lifestyle habits here is a copy of an article from INTERNATIONAL BEAR NEWS  vol 15 no 4. by Naim Aktar, Wildlife institute of India. 

The sloth bear is assumed to be a cute and playful animal. However it is not what it seems. It is highly unpredictable and a dangerous animal. pic from bearnews, sloth bear.

 Villagers in Chattisgarrh area of central India are very much aware of the potential threat posed by sloth bears when venturing into the forests to collect wood or other products, to graze their cattle or simply to walk to another village. To avoid sloth bear encounters and protect themselves from attack locals will move in groups, carry an axe, bamboo stick, or torch and talk or sing loudly. In spite of all this many human-sloth bear encounters still occur resulting in injury and/or death of humans. In many cases sloth bears are also killed in retaliation.
In one particularly terrible tragedy which occurred in the Chuabhara forest near the town of Marwahi five people, including two women were killed in a single day by a female bear. One pleasant morning in January, Ms.Susheela Bai was passing through the Chuabhara forest on the way to the village of Khurpa when she was suddenly attacked by an adult female bear. She was unable to fight off the attack and was killed. Shortly after her death, Mr. Ram Jiawan and Mr.Nan Sahay were passing through the forest when they were each attacked and killed by the same bear in separate incidents. In a two hour period three people had been killed while others in the village were unaware of the events taking place in the forest. Later that morning, Mr. Lamchand was grazing his cattle in the same forest, and, as he crossed the spot of the previous attacks, the bear attacked. Fortunately he was able to fight off the attack. Hearing Mr.Lamchands screams Ms Shiyam Kunwar also travelling through the forest moved towards the screams to investigate. The bear had already badly injured Mr.Lamchand, and, when she arrived at the site of the attack, the bear turned and attacked her, killing her instantly. Villagers finally hearing the screams, rushed to the site. Upon their arrival on the scene, the bear moved off, and the villagers were able to rescue Mr.Lamchand. He was rushed to a hospital in the village of Marwahi but due to the severity of his injuries was moved to a better equipped hospital in Bilaspur. Information of the bear attack had by then reached the forest department, and the local majistrate with some forest guards arrived the next day to deal with the bear. They despatched the bear before it could attack and kill again. It was very sad to see this animal killed, especially in its natural forest habitat. Although many debate who was at fault, the bear or humans, we must not forget that it is humans who have encroached on the forests. Sadly Mr.Lamchand's injuries were too severe, and he died while in hospital.
In another incident, cattle were grazing in the forests adjacent to the village of Barbasan. At approximately 11am a man named Rampal was watching over his cattle when one of his buffalo was suddenly attacked by a female bear. The bear knocked the buffalo over by hitting the body of the buffalo with its forelimbs and head. Once on the ground the bear ripped flesh from the body of the buffalo. Seeing the bear attacking his buffalo Mr.Rampal began to shout loudly. The bear continued its attack and Rampal rushed to the village for help. Once Rampal and the villagers returned they found the bear had killed and eaten a portion of the buffalo. They tried to drive the bear away but without success, so they notified the forest department. Forest department officials arrived but when they attempted to drive the bear off they were chased and nearly attacked themselves. They avoided injury by hiding behind their motorcycles. Police from the town of Gaurela were called but the bear had retreated into the cover of the forest before they reached the site. Due to its aggressive behavior the villagers were on high alert. Elders of the village and forest department officials planned to push the bear further into the forest in an attempt to avoid further problems. When villagers, police and Forest department officials entered the forest to chase the bear off, they discovered a dead adult female bear. Those on the scene deduced that the bear may have died as a result of consuming buffalo meat and the stress of human presence.
These incidents suggest that female sloth bears have very aggressive temperaments and get excited easily when disturbed. Bears moving into human areas in search of food is a very common phenomena, and people often chase them off to protect their crops. When a bear has been pursued by humans, even once, a sloth bear will retaliate in future encounters with often fatal consequences. This is a very serious issue as far as conservation of the sloth bear is concerned. The institute has recommended that the State Forest Department institute programs to educate villagers on bear biology, movement, food and behaviour. It is also necessary to restore degraded forest habitat by, for example planting fruit trees for the bears. Unfortunately the forest department has yet to take necessary actions to launch community education or habitat restoration programs. Subsequently, there is an urgent need to take concrete actions for the conservation of sloth bears in the unprotected forest areas of India. Otherwise it will be too late to act.


Check out the claws for digging termites nests

Man after bear attack 

Japan - Into the fire

I didn’t know how we would make it in Japan and was nervous. I was hardly even convinced they would let us in. This was not a holiday even though we were determined to enjoy ourselves but we needed to make a lot of money and fast, so it’s a lot of pressure. With such a high cost of living we had to be prepared and really get going straight away. If we start to fail or get stopped what the hell would we do? ‘Teach English’, Julia said, ‘bugger that!’ I said back. People had told us they would even check us on the way into the country to make sure we had enough money to cover the time of our intended ‘holidays’. Fortunately they didn’t do such a thing and we got a good feeling at immigration even with a nice smile back from the girl at customs searching our bags looking at our juggling fire torches and knives. It was a good first impression and they stamped our passports with 3 month visas no questions asked.

The philosophy of street shows

  The good thing about the street show plan of travelling is that you can always start right away anywhere in the world.  No looking for vacancies or interviews just find a good spot and go for it. It’s not easy though as you have to get a busy enough but safe place which can take time unless you have prior knowledge. Then you have to show that you are somehow special, unusually freaky or just very talented and good. You will get only what you are truly worth on any given day at any particular place, but that is your big strength and makes you try harder. People always love the thrill of watching something real. Maybe they have been in the office all day and will watch TV or be in a bar all night but for 15 minutes in between they might be surprised to be entertained by something actually happening in front of their eyes. Live entertainment! We were shouting, as we set up our props in this strange new country.

Confidence is the key. Even if you are not that good on a given day you still have to act like you are. An Isreali girl I knew from Goa just put her music on and danced in the street like she would normally at a party. She was so happy in herself and giving such positive energy that she made people feel good for a minute and they gave her some money then carried on. She was a fantastic dancer and very beautiful with a masses of blond curly hair which may have helped but it was still busking and as always an Instant reflection. Anybody who tries it will quickly learn that this type of performing is the most honest thing you can do as an entertainer. Unlike a gig which you get a pre arranged fixed amount so if you are not that good on the day it doesn’t matter. This way if you are not performing well or in a bad mood you won't get paid. It’s a very real and harsh lesson when it doesn’t work.

Psyche and burn

We ran around the city like headless chickens for a day or two and found a possible spot in Shinjuku, a lively red light area of Tokyo with lots of bars, night clubs, restaurants and love hotels. It was a slightly open area away from the traffic where we could gather a crowd so quite good and no one seemed to mind. We soon realized that every time we attempted to speak Japanese the crowd would start laughing. It was unlike performing in other countries and we also soon noticed that the people loved the dangerous bits more than anything! Just like England in modern Japan life had become just a bit too efficient, predictable and safe. This suited us perfectly and we became even more stupid and spontaneous than normal. So it would be comedy and danger packed in continuously for an intense 15 minutes. That’s what would work here, all action for the half drunk crowd and no dry moments. People should either be amused, scared or worried all the time so they can’t bare to walk away. They have to get to the next bar after all but we have to slow them down or better still, stop them completely for just 10 or 15 minutes.

We loved working at night especially for tipsy merry people. At one point in the show I would make a huge drama about putting a juggling fire torch down my trousers and slowly but surely bringing it out the bottom of the tight trousers still alight. What I said in Japanese translated as “there is a very hot stick in my pants!” It’s just not something a Japanese guy would say which is why it would always make people laugh. Making fools out of ourselves was key because Japanese can’t do that like we can! It’s a different style and a cultural thing. We were ‘exotic’ and different and I got the feeling like people actually even ‘liked us.’

Julia and I were good in different ways but we matched each other in ‘let’s just try it then’ experimentality. We were making between 200 and 400 US$ every night and when the weekend came we made more. Every time we counted the money I would gloatingly convert it into Indian rupees in my head then imagine how many veg thali’s we could get. They even closed the big main road in Shinjuku at weekends just for buskers it seemed so we could work during the day as well. There would be a dozen or more performing artists and groups (mostly Japanese) turning up on that day. It was great to see the local performers and so the show got better as we tweaked it for Japanese tastes. Both Julia and I agreed that Japanese people are surely the best in the world! Not just the nicest and most polite but also the most generous the like of which we had never experienced anywhere before. We went to get more kerosene from a garage and had a line of six smiling girls bowing at us saying arrigato thank you on the way out. In England or India that just couldn’t happen.

After a few drinks people usually like being brave in front of their friends so we would always make someone a hero by putting them in the middle of a passing pattern with 6 dangerous items. They have to stand totally still and usually get mesmerized as knives and fire sticks fly spinning past just 2 inches from their nose. As the volunteer if you instinctively move your head backwards the one going behind will hit you instead so it is fairly brave and trusting. Fortunately up till then we or the volunteer had never messed this trick up otherwise we would be in big trouble. We had to take care and really concentrate when we were ‘slightly tipsy’ that we’d pull it off. But no matter how many drinks we’d consumed we were never anything other than ‘slightly tipsy.’

To try and get extra laughs we sketched out a Laurel and Hardy type routine where I would balance an unlit fire stick on my nose then like a dragon she would breath a huge cloud of fire over my head lighting the stick and propelling it into my juggling pattern which would at the same time give me a light shower of kerosene. I would pretend to be serious and concentrating on the juggling pattern while completely oblivious to the fact she was sneaking up behind me. Then she would repeatedly roll one firestick over my head which would set my head on fire for a few seconds each time while I pretended to be annoyed. Sometimes, to everybody’s amusement my hair kept burning and she would have take measures to put it out. Even though I suffered the crowd always laughed and thought we were going bonkers. They were right of course. We would risk injuries and possibly permanent damage just to get people excited.

Julia was becoming more fearless about putting hot and flaming things near and in her mouth. Soon she would learn the double fire stick eating manoeuvre and I would master the double hot stick in the trousers trick. We were obviously trying to ‘out double’ each other.

It was always good to rehydrate between shows as it was hot so we would go to the vending machine for a can of our favourite Sapporo lager which I would gulp down before the next show. After all the kerosene Julia seemed to prefer gargling coca cola for a while then a jar of sake but I would always go for the lager. Little did we know about Sapporo but we would soon find out. We had to be make sure to be only tipsy not drunk but such was the effort and adrenaline of the show that we had simply ‘burned away’ any effect from the alcohol each time.

On the way back to our spot one time a guy who had been standing around watching some shows called us over. When he showed us his hand and made a gesture covering one finger we got scared and skulked away. He had one finger missing also. Somebody had told us if you make a mistake with the Yakuza people they might chop off one finger only. The Israeli’s who sell Indian nic nacs and jewellery on the streets told us they have to pay them so maybe everybody who works on the streets has to. If they ask we should pay, we both agreed. Otherwise our climbing grades would go down and the juggling would be harder also.

The guest house was a big place and full of people looking for money, scams and work. Unlike India or Thailand where travelling folk ask each other where they are going next here people would ask “what do you do?” or more like “what are you trying to do?” and “how much have you made doing that?.” Not many people are going ‘backpacking’ or travelling for fun at least not until they leave Japan. Teaching of course is the big one as the whole world wants to know English but for girls there may be better paid jobs in the night. Some friends we knew from India were hostesses and were making a lot of money. If you happen to be blond, smiley, outgoing and pretty it’s guaranteed to get a good job as a hostess, barmaid, escort or if they want extra money… well. Some girls will leave Japan $30,000 richer after just a couple of months. That’s enough to live pretty well for about 3 years in India or 12 years if you cook yourself.

We had been going mental every day since our arrival so decided to take a couple of rest days from shows and gave ourselves 2 choices. It was a toss between a trance party in the forest people were talking about or a climbing area just 3 hours south of Tokyo. I really wanted to see a Japanese trance party with all the happy and beautiful people jumping around but I also was desperate to climb and we knew If we went raving it would be a costly trip that’s for sure. We went for the climbing option as were then guaranteed a quiet relaxed time away from the city and would save money only camping in the forest near to the crag and cooking ourselves. The well known crags on the coast at Jogasaki were the obvious choice so we jumped on the train.

It was mid week and really quiet so we crawled into a dense area of forest to camp in a secret place as it’s not allowed to camp out in this national park. The climbs were quite good and yes, it was so refreshing to be away from the city for the first time. The cliffs were deserted being mid week and the coastline and forest was beautiful. We were loving it but one day we woke up to hear happy family type voices on the path 20 metres away and realized Saturday had come around already. 3 days had quickly flown by so we bustled together our things and tent to rush back to Tokyo for our best days of shows which is usually at the weekend.

Stinking and drinking

We always came back to the guest house exhausted at night after rushing around all day but we had lots of money to count and beer to drink. It was the middle of summer and we were getting really hot especially while playing with fire all the time. As Japanese people are the most unsmelly in the world we were really self conscious going around on the always packed Tokyo subway trains stinking of kerosene and sweat from the shows. Sometimes people would move away from us which made us cringe and a bit ashamed. It’s funny how traces of culture rub off on people but I could feel myself trying to become more Japanese in that respectful type of way.

One night we were sitting drinking and stinking as usual in the communal living room of the guest house counting our money from the night. We started talking to an American guy who thought we were mental beggars or petty criminals. When he found out we were performance artists he gave us a brilliant idea. Last year he had been on the island in the north of Japan called Hokkaido in the middle of summer and said it was much colder, packed with people escaping the heat and there is a huge beer festival which runs for some 3 weeks. For us it must be ideal we thought. Escape ‘up north’ from the heat and get an audience with all those crazy beer drinking groups of people high on summer. Even though we’d only been in Tokyo for a little over three weeks we immediately started to make our escape plan. The beer fest started in a few days.

Beer, beer and more beer

Japanese people love beer. We didn’t know quite how much until we saw the first day of this festival. Every company in Japan and some from other countries will set up a ‘drinking garden’ and compete with each other. Each garden can have 1000 or more seats and there are a lot of them! Of course with this being Sapporo and having a famous brand they would have the biggest tent and drinking garden. The whole city is taken over and dedicated to one thing; drinking beer. I didn’t think it could be possible without it degenerating into violence and chaos. It’s amazing that Japanese people will get absolutely inebriated but hardly ever misbehave. We’d see girl gangs so drunk they had to link arms together to manage walking with the whole group swaying left and right only stopping when one of them had to vomit. They were hilariously cute and so different to the dangerous fat slag girl gangs I remembered from the Biggmarket in Newcastle.

The festival was absolutely perfect for us. The Sapporo beer garden was so big that they set up in one whole square of the park leaving an empty square that everybody had to walk through to get back to the main area of town. We had tried it before but it wasn’t really busy enough. Now it was really buzzing and so would become our regular spot. There was no other performers or buskers except for an older American musician singing along to sixties numbers on his guitar a few hundred metres away. He was good and we would sit and listen sometimes just for a rest and a smoke. Almost every time we asked him how he was doing he would laugh and say in his strong American accent “too much brown man.” He sounded stoned but wasn’t talking about heroin but money as every coin less than 100 yen is brown. We didn’t like brown much either.

When 10 o clock came around we changed from the park to the closed off streets in town. We had loads of space and got huge crowds, bigger than the park. The bigger the crowd the better we’d perform so we were pulling everything out of the bag, even marginal tricks we could only just do. This gets really fun, trying to do back to back fire club passing and 5 club cascade while tipsy and pulling it off most of the time. The crowd knows when you are pushing your limits and they encourage you more also. They loved the finale which was scary and dangerous enough so nobody could walk away.


Joolz would have a lit firetorch in each hand and lie on the ground with her hands out to the sides with the torches giving more light for me to work with. Standing astride her torso I would scratch the knives together like a bloodthirsty butcher and tell everybody I was sharpening them. “Oki Knifu, shapu knifu!” When I started juggling the flashing blades looked great with the fire light and I would announce ‘choppu!’ I’m not sure if the audience thought I was going to chop her up because the girls always gasped and went deadly quiet. The trick looked great with the knives chopping rapidly into the centre of the pattern and her body above the flames. When everybody had calmed down I would start the finale. ’doburu’ and start to throw double spins. Julia would usually close her eyes at this point as she was ‘pretending to be scared.’ Then finally ‘toripuru’ and high triple spins would fly until I threw one too low on purpose and when I caught it 2 or 3 inches above her neck she would scream with fear and the crowd would cringe and squeal. In that moment of relief and euphoria she would jump to her feet and start collecting the money. Arigatto, arigatto, domo arigatto. She was so brave and trusting I’m not sure I could have done that trick the other way around.

We would usually get home to our new apartment at 1 am with piles of notes, loose change and some Sapporo beers. Julia loved putting all the different coins into their separate piles and getting eventually to the final total. On weekends it took hours as we were making between 80,000 and 140,000 yen but we were celebrating like crazy on our best day as we counted 180 thousand yen which we were so pleased with. Nearly 2000 U.S. dollars was great for a nights work which had started at 7 pm. If we didn’t feel like it then we didn’t have to go but we really wanted to milk every day of this festival.

One night while we were performing I noticed some police outside the circle of spectators and half knew what was coming but amazingly they waited till the show was finished before coming over. He spoke in English and told us sadly and politely that we just can’t do this here. We agreed and were so respectful just packing up and going to our favourite street corner bar to think about it.

They were the nicest police we’d ever seen so we didn’t want to annoy them but agreed to stop. Let’s give it a rest, have a drink then change the spot and see what happens we thought. It was fine and we got no more trouble in the rest of our time in Sapporo. Soon the beer festival was finished so after a few climbing days on some stunning coastal cliffs we got on the ferry boat back to Tokyo. Our time in the country was coming to an end but it had been better than either of us expected. Now we had jumped well ahead of ourselves and yes, we could go climbing for a while.

Hampi Nature Sanctuary

The climbers or just people who like wild and quiet places are almost amazed to know that such a huge uninhabited area of hills and boulders is there north of Hampi and Sanapur, Basapur or Mallapur. They don’t even know that leopards,bears and all type of other strange and wild creatures live there. “Bears? Leopards? In a place like this? No.” is the common response. But it’s a perfect place for them to live even perfect for tigers who have stayed for a very long time here. Most of this wild area has now been exploited for trees and rock blasting by people who sell those materials.

The Sanctuary Project

LINK TO  'Valley of Kings'


 An Indian guy called Bobby who runs ‘Hampi boulders’ guest house near Basapur has somehow gained control of a big chunk of it which he has turned into a wildlife sanctuary. Talking to him its obvious that he has a real love and respect for the nature and has therefore stopped the rock blasting, live tree cutting and hunting in the area now known as the sanctuary. He was clever enough in the beginning to employ the main people involved in the tree cutting and stone blasting as guards so they didn’t lose their livelyhood which means 30 or so people with green shirts and pants armed with whistles and sticks stopping people who want to cut live trees, blow up rocks or go hunting. One time a guy whistled at me while I was carrying 20 litres of water back to the cave but I had a better whistle and just whistled back twice as loud. Then I talked with them later and arranged to go and properly meet Bobby.

THIS MAP (below) IS FROM GEOQUEST CLIMBING GUIDEBOOK ‘GOLDEN BOULDERS’ and shows the sanctuary but he is trying to gain more of the area for the animals to continue existing somehow. The border that was most important for us was the deep valley we collect water from and so an obvious natural dividing line line. It separates  the protected area from the unprotected area to  the North (Paraport etc.)


Bobby is doing amazing things to save at least a part of the wild area and now we have agreed with the local villagers of Yahadeli (adeli) who never see 'tourists' except when we appear like lost in time saddhus from the forest and have always been ultra respectful not mentioning the blasting except in a casual type of non judgemental way. When he told me that Paraport was not in his protected area I was devastated.

 When I asked him if I can go and climb alone or in a small group without harming or changing the nature (bolting, chaining, painting rocks etc.) he said yes and seemed suprised and happy that one person wanted to live there. No humans stay for any amount of time in these wild hills in the last years except me, some friends and the tribal shepherds may be there for the 2 or 3 months when there should be easily available water everyhere, July to September. But he also said he doesn’t want big noisy groups of climbers making huge fires because they are scared, drilling metal bolts and safety chained walks and screaming like excited little kids in the night therefore 'annoying' the animals.
 Large groups of people doing trance parties or drumming is also not part of the plan. There are loads of other places to do parties or floodlight climbing. He has obviously witnessed big groups of idiot foreigners before and thought it's a bad idea for that area. Places where they do the illegal blasting which is done mostly at night anyway would be ideal for raves as the animals are already scared from the explosions. The huge lights people now use for night climbing in Hampi are almost the same as the ones used by the poachers so the animals won't be able to tell the difference. If anybody wondered why there was a big gap in listed areas between the lakes and Paraport that is the reason. Even though there are 100’s of problems we all agreed to leave it out of the Golden boulders guide book. Anyway most people alone are too scared to exist there. My local friend Ragu said, "you must stay awake all night and burn rubber tyres" I found the image quite funny. I've seen people who went with a week of food and came back the next day gibbering about about boa constricters and bears. They would be better off in the safety of Goancorner resort with the formidable Sharmilla (no bear will get near you with her as a protector) or Lakshmi goldenbeach resort with nice Prasad. There are enough boulders near to the resorts to keep most people busy for 2 or 3 seasons anyway.
YAHDELI the first time I visited (2001)

The people had never seen a foreigner in their village before but had known I was in the forest as some woodcutters had seen me, looked at my cave and asked for water and rice and dhal which I gave. When I appeared one day the whole village especially the kids wanted to see what type of creature would stay near to their village in the ‘dangerous wild area’. They soon found out about the whole climbing thing and began to understand.
The village is about 3km from the bouldering areas of Paraport. Paraport is an hour or so walk from Sanapur lakes. 

 They are much less wealthy than the people over here in Hampi or Sanapur as they don’t have water for irrigation but plenty enough good drinking water. It’s in a very dry area so the cash crops like rice, bananas or sugar cane etc. are just not possible. But we were desperate to stop the blasting at that one hill Paraport which is just out of the sanctuary so not protected.

  It’s a sacred hill and well developed with concentrated areas of superb boulder problems and some special quality stone. I lived just in that area for 5 or 6 years without using guest houses doing the classics often joined by Squib, Hari and others. Then I moved on to the next hill and new areas in the protected Sanctuary to avoid watching the destruction. 

 We were happy when they agreed that’s it’s better left for climbing and have since then stuck to their word. They just blast somewhere else as there are rocks in every direction from the village so don’t lose out even one rupee anyway. They didn't know the rocks were important to us and others until more climbers came.

 We respect them for that as it means they actually respect us and what we are doing there.
When I had first asked Bobby "What about Paraport" he informed me that it’s only just outside the sanctuary so he can’t do anything to help us. It’s in the control of the forest department who seem content to turn a blind eye to blasting as long as they get a decent amount of the profit. I was gutted to learn this and started to imagine all the plateaus of Paraport turn to boulderless treeless quarried areas in a very short time. But we could do something as they knew us and by asking them nicely they took it seriously. They like us much more than department people with authority who tend to always act from a position of superiority talking down to them.
 On the other hand we treat them as equals even trying to make them feel better than us. They are the locals after all and we don't want to spoil their livelyhood.
 This cave is free (of humans)


 The blasting goes on at night so the nocturnal bears, leopards etc. are scared and will run away and go to quieter places like the new blastless Paraport which borders the protected area so is essentially now part of it, the actual sanctuary or places where tractors just can’t reach at all. The nocturnal animals space gets smaller and smaller all the time.
 Without the trees and rocks there will also be no animals living there. When I first moved to Paraport there was bear shit everywhere and I would hear them all the time and sometimes see or meet them at sunset or early morning. They also have a strong sense of smell and a special sense which enables them to feel your energy and if you are afraid or dangerous. Maybe they 'smell the danger'. Also at night come out huge amounts of termites and ants which pleases the bears greatly as it’s a major part of their diet. I could have never imagined people turning up with tractors in the middle of the night blowing up all the rocks. 

 I glimpsed the future and thought the place was finished and would become another wasteland plateau like so many others with every rock and hill gone. The fact that we already had good relations with the villagers helped us and maybe some respect for us living there for so long in peace with the environment and the animals.. They never touched our luggage in any of the caves even when we were gone for ages and we knew they had passed by. Nearby to the real Hampi areas that just couldn’t happen for very long.....locals would realize somebody is staying in a cave and you would be robbed.

LINK TO  'Valley of Kings'