It had been a dream of ours for a long time to do a photoshoot in Hampi. We were determined to have a weekend adventure in Hampi, and we did it and did it in epic style!
Here is what we got up to, where we stayed and why it was so important to us to do this photoshoot.
This place is magic, you can feel it! It is like you have gone back in time to the stone age, or the time of the dinosaurs, or maybe you’ve just landed on the moon. The landscape is like a scene from the Flintstones, and to top it off the granite boulders and monoliths are some of the oldest rocks on the planet. It is believed that Hanuman, the Hindu Monkey God, was born here so it is also quite a holy place in Hinduism. Rachel was once told by a legend he actually exploded from the earth when he was born and created the rock formations we see today.
Over the last year FARA has evolved and grown and we now have a small team of amazing women who make sure the business runs smoothly. One of these amazing women is our girl Alyssa. Alyssa has been a part of our journey in Goa for a while now and she has taken on so many roles: assisting and modeling in photoshoots and generally holding the team together when it has been full on! Now, her official role is Marketing & PR manager…thank the lord!
Rachel and Alyssa had traveled to Hampi separately many times and it had become a dream to get there together and create an epic photoshoot. When Alyssa’s sister, Anjali, a beautiful photographer, flew over to visit from New York, we all got talking about this as Anjali had been there recently and spoke about the changes happening due to the Heritage site becoming a tourist destination. It suddenly felt like now or never! Anjali decided she would fly back to Goa a couple months later, especially to shoot with us!
The vision for the shoot was quite clear and the choice of model was simple. We asked our boho queen and muse, Alisa Belochkina and our gypsy goddess Maxinne Bjork to join Alyssa in the first shoot of all three muses. These three girls are magic, like Hampi, and shooting for the first time together was making this trip even more exciting! Joining us would be Andrey, Alisa’s husband and Maxinne’s assistant Sophia – the team was complete.
We were very excited! We’ve done photoshoots and been friends with each of these women for a long time, but this was the first time we were all together working on a project as one. All seven of us on one epic, creative adventure that we all had manifested and dreamed of for a long time. The stars were aligning!
Travelling in India had become much easier with flights but, where is the fun in that?! We booked ourselves onto a second class sleeper train for the seven hour ride! Train travel in India is an overload of all the senses, in the best way possible. This particular train winds its way through the Western Ghats, past the famous Dudhsagar Waterfall and down into the flat and vibrantly green farmland of Karnataka. We obviously took this opportunity to do the first photoshoot of our trip! We tried our best to be as respectful and mellow as possible, but quickly realized we had half of the train taking turns watching our photoshoot! Many people giving thumbs up, taking their children to come watch, asking for selfies and even suggesting new locations on the train for shooting. Most importantly, alerting us to upcoming views and lookouts! After a couple hours of amazing shooting it was time to chill out and enjoy the ride, nothing better than train snacks, chai and samosa time!
We were on a mission now, Anjali was only in India for a couple days and we all run businesses and lead busy lives back in Goa so we had just one full day in Hampi. We knew we needed to be efficient and productive and take every opportunity to shoot and explore. Luckily both Anjali and Alyssa are very familiar with the landscape and the amazing sites, so we knew where to go and when. Getting seven people organized in such a hot and hectic environment could have been quite difficult but we were all committed to this project, plus we had Hampi’s magic behind us. Our energy and creativity lit up and supported!
Waking up at sunrise to shoot is easy when the excitement is flowing and as the sun peaked above the boulders we made our way through the emerald rice paddies and down to the river. The village was just waking at this point, so we had our privacy to dance around the massive rocks and winding river and create some beautiful photos.
As we made our way across the river to the temples, we realized that we were just in time to see Lakshmi, the temple elephant, getting her daily river bath. It took us a second to spot her because she was laying down in the river. She looked just like another rock peeking out of the water but her two caretakers climbing around her scrubbing her clean gave her away! We stood quietly in awe of such a powerful and sentient animal so close, but it was Alisa who was the most excited and she told us this was something she had dreamed of for a long time.
After taking a rest for the midday heat (hello 40C) we regrouped to get ready and to have some lunch. This is when we all decided that Goan Corner’s grilled vegetables with pesto was the best thing ever and so we ordered seven plates of it! Maxinne is super talented with makeup, so she got everyone camera ready and we were off to the sunset spot.
The further we climbed, the more beautiful it got and we were dancing around these ancient rocks, energized and inspired. Once we finally made it to the sunset spot, we stood in awe. The view, the light…everything looked and felt like magic! We only stopped once the sun had dropped behind the horizon and still on a high from the creative flow we stayed up on the warm rocks for a bit longer, taking it all in. And maybe we stayed a little longer because two kids came and sold us yummy chai and it was the only place with good cell reception, and we all work online, ha!
After another delicious dinner of grilled veg, and okay – maybe a couple pizzas, Rachel sat down with Alisa and Andrey to start the first of a series of interviews she is doing about all the inspirational women FARA has worked with, you can read it here (link to alisa’s muse interview). What a wonderful way to end a beautiful day; talking all things FARA, boho and learning Alisa’s and Andrey’s love story, we fell even more in love with them! Filled with pizza and also immense gratitude for a memorable adventure with a circle of our FARA family, our beds called us and back to Goa we went.
Details of our trip, so you can take one just like it!
HOW TO GET THERE:
We took the VSG-HOWRAH Express train. It starts in Vasco de Gama in Goa, and takes about seven hours to reach Hospet, but is definitely the most exciting way to get to Hampi
Once you reach Hospet, grab a rickshaw to Hampi.
The rickshaw dropped us off on the temple side and we took a short boat ride across the river. If you want to drive straight to the island side, you can convince a rickshaw to take you all the way, but this will triple the price of the ride.
Once on the island side of the river there are many places to stay right in town. We chose Goan Corner, located in a quiet spot further into the rice paddies, outside of the main tourist zone and worth the extra 20 minute walk!
WHERE TO STAY:
Hampi has had some dramatic changes over the last few years. In 2020 the India wildlife heritage won a court case to remove all structures on the heritage site which means many of the place we all used to stay were demolished to make way for the area to stay preserved as a nature reserve.
Rachel recently revisited on a trip with her family and found an incredible place to stay called Boulders. Little castles nestled into the rocks. A perfect stay for all, a sweet swimming pool built half into a rock formation, wonderful home cooked food and wonderful staff who will help organise boat trips, safari jeep tours and anything else you would love to do on your stay.
HEALTH + SAFETY:
Like most of India, the water in Hampi is not safe to drink and we also recommend eating only cooked foods here, which is quite easy as there are loads of wonderful restaurants. The food at Goan Corner is some of the best! Since it is very, very hot here, try to drink 3 – 4 liters of water per day, one with rehydration salts. You can find rehydration salts at any chemist in India, and these little packets of electrolytes are truly life savers!
THREE MUST DO ACTIVITIES IN HAMPI:
- There are hundreds of sites to see but for us, the most epic and our favorite, is to climb up the rocky slopes behind Goan Corner, to the sunset spot. This is also where there are many bouldering routes so it’s quite hard to miss. There are young kids selling delicious (and a bit overpriced) chai at the top and it is quite breathtaking to watch the sunset over the rice paddies with views of the Sri Virupaksha Temple in the distance.
- Rent a scooter and go to the lake just outside of the tourist track in Hampi. The “lake” is actually a reservoir, so the water level does fluctuate a lot, but normally it is high enough to swim. It’s extremely refreshing as Hampi is quite hot and dry! Afterwards you can refresh with a thali and lime soda at one of the local restaurants around the lake.
- There are so many temples here that it would take months to visit them all, but hiking up to Hanuman Temple for sunrise is quite extraordinary. It’s a short scooter ride away from Goan Corner, and takes about half an hour to hike up to. There are stairs (600 of them) so it isn’t so hard but, be prepared for a full half hour of stairmaster! Take any refreshments you might want with you as there is only the temple at the top…and LOTS of monkeys. The monkeys will likely ignore you but be careful with any valuables or food.
WHAT TO WEAR:
Hampi has a very hot and dry climate, perfect for our silks and raw silks. You’ll need to cover up during temple visits – grab a silk scarf to throw around your shoulders. Our monkey scarf is a nice pick as in addition to the many monkeys running around the landscape, Hampi is also known as the birthplace of Hanuman. We like to take our Dhoti Trousers and Everyday Tee on trips where we know we’ll be in temples, as they cover the necessary bits, but also keep us cool as silk is temperature regulating and quite breezy. Our Silk kimonos are the perfect light and easeful cover ups
It’s actually quite hard to just give a short history, as Hampi is really one of the most historical sights in India, but here are the basics of it.
Hampi is a totally unique town and tourist hotspot located in Karnataka, India. There are many ancient stories about this special place and its unique landscape. Most of Hampi’s temples are dated to be over 2000 years old, It was once the Vijayanagara Empire capital, and the largest and richest city in medieval India circa 1500 CE. After the Vijayanagara Empire was defeated by Muslim sultanates in 1565 CE, Hampi lay in ruin only to become the sprawling UNESCO World Heritage Site it is today.