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Published: August 29th 2018
After not sleeping on the overnight train from Jodhpur to Agra, it's fair to say that I was really not looking forward to taking another one. However, this one was lovely! I arrived at the train station, did the usual security thing, got on the train, made my bed and settled in for a night sharing a compartment of 6 beds with a family. The only downside was I wasn't sure whether the train stopped at Khajaraho or not: my ticket said I did, all the train apps I had downloaded said it didn't! Not having much choice but to chance it and see what happened, I settled in for a good nights sleep. Waking up 5 or so hours later ready to get off, I noticed we were stopped in the middle of the countryside (not unusual on these trains i've realised!) and, thinking we must be close to Khajaraho like my ticket said, I found a guard and asked him what time we'd be arriving. He looked at me a little puzzled and told me we were still 2 hours away at least and therefore our arrival time was more like 8am, not the 6am I was expecting! Oh well, back to bed it was!
I'd arranged to stay in a homestay in Khajaraho and so asked them to pick me up from the station. I'm so glad I did! As soon as I got off the train, I had to fight my way through tonnes of people asking me if I wanted a rickshaw or where I was going or that they wanted to take me. No one would take no for an answer! So we began the 20 minute journey down fairly empty road (a luxury in India) and avoiding the ubiquitous cows who seem to make their own roundabouts in obscure places. We then turned off down a dirt track and I began to wonder what i'd gotten myself into. This feeling only intensifier as we bumped our way through muddy pot holes, past one room houses, dodging the usual cows and goats and occasionally getting stuck in the mud. Eventually, and with my nerves fairly shot from nearly falling out the rickshaw several times, we arrived at the most beautiful homestay at the end of the colony of small houses and with views for miles over fields where they grow 4 different types of oil for lanterns and incense. On arrival, I had some breakfast and was then invited to the girl who works there home for her birthday - she turned 23 the day I arrived.
After a short nap and a shower, I set off trying to remember the route down the mud track and into town. It took me about 20 minutes to get to the main road as local children constantly ran out of houses shouting 'hello', 'money' or 'chocolate' and then wanting to touch me or walk with me for a while. The mum's would seem to encourage them to follow me which was a little odd but I soon got used to it! Khajaraho is pretty much a one road town with a few guesthouses and a central market area opposite the Western Temples - the UNESCO site which the area is famous for. I headed to the market to get a birthday present for the girls whose home I was heading to but soon got fed up being chased into shops by owners who wanted to show off their designs/sell one of the only foreigners in town something. Having fought off several attempts at being physically dragged into shops, I bumped into an Italian guy and we sat having chai with some locals who were keen to tell us the scams to avoid in the area - very useful! I love meeting other travellers in India; unlike in other countries, backpackers here are generally travelling for months or have been all over the world and therefore have really good stories to tell! After this, I tried to find somewhere for lunch and ended up in an Italian restaurant (I know...) just off the market.
I'd just settled in, got my book out and chosen what to eat when an American girl from the only other occupied table approached me and asked if I wanted to join them for lunch. I accepted, got chatting and they were a family of Indian-Americans who were coming back to visit family. They were super nice and answered lots of my questions about India which I couldn't really ask the locals. The dad then paid for my lunch and said it was as a treat for travelling solo through the country and he could imagine how hard it was. I proceeded to bump into them many more times as, with a full stomach, I braved the shops and the bargaining again in search of a present! I then headed back to the homestay where the girls' parents were there ready to pick me up and walk me to their house. Passing the 3 cows tied up outside, we entered through the main door and then through an indoor porch kind of area with a hole in the ceiling that the rain fell through and onto the motorbikes parked below. We then entered one of the 4 rooms - two bedrooms, a kitchen and a storeroom - that made up the house. Rosni (the girl whose birthday it was) was busy taping balloons, banners and her name to the wall so I helped with this with a few children. After, she gave me a traditional outfit to wear and then wanted to do my hair and make-up - apparently birthdays aren't really celebrated in India and this was the first time she was going 'all out'. Some more local children arrived and we sat on the floor eating some kind of curry and roti made by her sister-in-law. Interestingly, Rosni and her mum didn't eat, instead making sure the children and I were fed, including with the special birthday cake! After dinner, the children went home and she took me back through the rain to the homestay. A wonderfully interesting day!
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