I took the second-class sleeper carriage from Varanasi to Jhansi. The beds are definitely not built for someone of my height. 😛 I’d left it too late to book so had to get one of the 10% emergency ration of seats, and that guaranteed me one of the beds along the side of the carriage. Unfortunately these have solid ends to them so there’s no way to stretch your feet out if you’re too tall.

From Jhansi I jumped onto one of the shared tempos headed for Orchha, at the princely sum of 20 rupees for the 45 minute journey. When I arrived it wasn’t what I expected. It was a stunningly beautiful little India town, but there was rubble everywhere on the main street as if a bunch of tanks had rumbled through.

Turns out people had been building their houses closer and closer to the middle of the road, and the government eventually came through and literally knocked them all back to where they were supposed to be built. So there are all these half-houses with exposed rooms and staircases, and you can see directly into peoples’ kitchens and lounges, it’s crazy.

I got myself a room for 200 rupees in a nice little place off the main strip. The other people in the check-in book had all paid 500 so I felt pretty good about that.

From the middle of town you can see all the sights, it’s a very small place. I wandered across the little bridge that leads to the Raj Mahal – the royal palace of the local raja. It looks like something out of legend when you approach it. Of all the temples and buildings I’ve seen so far, this is the one that most made me feel like I’d been transported back to an ancient time. I actually felt like some early explorer coming across this huge palace rising out of the forests surrounding it.

There was a 250 rupee entrance fee to look inside. I (wrongly) thought it wouldn’t be that interesting, so I opted to just wander down the road that led off to the right. Pro-tip: If you don’t want to pay the 250 rupee entrance fee, just wander down the road off to the right, and there’s a second entrance to the palace which is open and has no ticket office!

So I get into this palace for free, and it is AMAZING inside! The whole place is completely open and you can walk anywhere inside. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have lived there in its heyday but even now I couldn’t help but be awed by its grandeur. I don’t have a good picture of it, but the landscape surrounding the palace was incredible – an enormous flat land with ruins poking out of the jungle in any direction you look, and mountains on the distant horizon. Off to the south I could see an amazing looking river with a big stone bridge across it and decided to go get some photos.

Just chilling in my palace 🙂

The rest of the buildings in Orchha were much of the same and I got distracted by a lot of people and loud music heading for the river I was planning to check out. I got down there and there was a huge celebration going on. It was the final day of the ten day festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. People were taking these huge statues of Ganesh down to the river, having a huge party, and blowing things up.


Everywhere I go, as soon as people find out I’m from New Zealand, I get involved in a huge discussion of cricket. This would be a lot easier if I had even an layman’s knowledge of cricket. Unfortunately I am essentially clueless, but I’m getting really good at bluffing my way now. So this guy Sanjay starts talking to me and it’s in that fantastic old-fashioned style of Indian English that I thought only existed in movies. A small sample, spoken extremely loudly as if addressing a crowd of hundreds:

But sir, you are from New Zealand, and New Zealand are most honourable people!! You must know Ross Taylor, for he is most honorable in all of cricket. It is my great and most lasting pleasure to meet such a fine and upstanding gentleman as your good self!!
 Eventually a crowd of around 30 people gather to witness our discussion of the most honorable merits of New Zealand and her people. And that’s the other fantastic thing about India – whatever happens a huge crowd of people will gather to watch. I put my backpack down on the side of the road at some point on the way to Khajuraho and got out my phone to look up bus times, and by the time I finished I counted 17 people all crowding round trying to look at what I was doing on the tiny screen. Love this place.

Sanjay and a bunch of my spectators

All this time tempos were arriving in full force packed to the brim with revelers. There were these trucks filled with speakers all blasting out Indian music and followed by a huge crowd of dancing people. They dragged me in there, and never one to turn down a good dance I joined in. This is met with huge cheers and everyone comes to dance as close as possible to my general vicinity. India really knows how to make you feel like a celebrity. 🙂 People passing by in the tempos were throwing pink or yellow dyes at everyone which was all well and good until I remembered I was carrying my camera. Crap! I got out of there fast and had a look. The case was almost completely blue but had taken the worst of the damage, and my camera was fine.

That night I met a couple from NZ who had been travelling for 4 months, and they gave me a bunch of tips for places to visit going further south. In turn they were heading east through Asia so I gave them a bunch of advice in return. The backpacker system at work! 🙂 A truck arrived with a bunch of partiers and they came to drag us in. Even the armed police there were urging us on. I got up and had a great time but my recalcitrant countrymen gave it a miss.

Night-time dancing on the streets!

In the morning I decided to head to Khajuraho. I was going to follow my Rough Guide’s advice and head east then south down through the national parks. The east part worked out fine, but I just found out that the national parks are closed until November! Never mind, might be able to hit them again on the way back up. I wander down to the local bus stop and grab a shared tempo heading back to Jhansi. I tell the guy 10 rupees and he says 20. That’s fine with me so off we go. When we get to the Jhansi bus station, he tries to charge me 200. No way brother! He wouldn’t accept the 20 either, just kept demanding 200. So I just walk off. Yeaaahhh…. didn’t really think that one through did you guy? 😛

1 x free palace and 1 x free ride to Jhansi, not doing too bad!!

From Jhansi it was a simple matter of catching a local bus to Chhatarpur, then  transfer to another bus going to Ghura, then jump off that bus at a random crossroads and take a tempo up to Khajuraho. Ok not so simple, but one of the coolest things about India is how helpful everybody is. It’s amazing!! At every step of that journey someone walked me to exactly where I needed to be, pointed me to the right bus, or got someone else to do the same thing for me. Just super friendly and super helpful!

I roll into Khajuraho at around 8pm. Another thing I’ve already noticed about India is that accommodation recommendations are completely pointless. There are a ridiculous number of options for any price range. I went into about four of them before finally settling on this room right in the centre of town for $3. Oh yeah, those are marble floors….

Don’t be jealous now

Tune in next time for the most public nudity I have ever seen in my life. But for now, here’s a picture taken from out the window of the bus as we drove to Chhatarpur:

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