While planning a trip to Hampi (ruins of a glorius medieval kingdom) a couple of years ago , I was brushing up on history not to miss even an iota of what the place had to offer. It turned out to be a weekend packed with history, culture and coracle rides. History and culture apart, the Coracle Ride across the river Tungabhadra in Hampi is something I often reminiscence about.
Coracle is a saucer or bowl shaped primitive country boat which is generally rowed with one paddle. It is made with thin strips of bamboo which is interwoven in a lattice framework to build the base and then the same pattern is followed to raise the sides. The bottom is further strengthened with layers of hide, plastic and sometimes tar to ensure it is sturdy (heavier than the sides) and waterproof.
I stood beside the river side oscillating between fear and desire whether to take a coracle ride across the river or simply travel in one of those small and noisy motor boats.
Meanwhile, the coracles were engaged in brisk business, ferrying men and their motor bikes and sometimes multiple pieces of luggage. The men on the bikes appeared to be straight out of a regional pot boiler absolutely at ease on the coracle.
If that small thing could sustain the weight of 3 motor bikes, surely, I would be safe, I reasoned with myself. Minutes of indecision later, I decided to take the plunge, assuring myself that there were several people around to pull me out in the event I give in to my clumsy side and fall off the coracle. The coracle rower made some passengers sit on the base and a few others on the edge to ensure that the weight was somewhat evenly balanced.
As we moved, I got comfortable watching other Coracle’s float by, racing each other to cross over in the shortest time. The next 20 minutes was bliss, so much so that it left me wanting for a longer ride. As I got off for a promising sightseeing journey of medieval history, I did not mind being wet at the wrong place from the occasional water seepage in the coracle.
Coracle’s are popular in the southern part of the country, specially in the areas along the river Tungabhadra and Cauvery. Hampi is about 350 kms from Bangalore and is accessible by road and rail. It is a great 3 day trip from Bangalore.
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