Temples of Khajuraho

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February 19th 2016
Published: February 22nd 2016
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It was the dawn of a fresh day and the auto rickshaw dumped us off at the tiny Orchha train station. We purchased two general tickets onward toward the small town of Khajuraho. Although the distance wasn't too far, it was slated to take about five and a half hours. Each ticket cost us only 20 rupees. We boarded the crowded train and since it was a public train, it was every man for himself type of deal. We stood with our bags for a while and then two gracious passengers offered us both their seats. I sat by an older bearded man and had a view of the window and the outside world. The train passed along from station to station, often stopping for quite some time, while people disembarked and boarded. The old man I sat by tried to communicate with me in extremely broken English but I just wasn't understanding anything he was saying. He kept motioning to the back of the train, and saying the word "Khajuraho". Then he kept repeating the word "bogey". It took a little while but finally it clicked and I realized what it was he had desperately been trying to tell me. The train we were on would split and be heading in different directions, and we were on the wrong carriage! No one told us this when we bought the ticket, or maybe they just didn't know how to. I managed to understand that this would happen at the city of Mahoba, so we still had plenty of time before we had to move to the back carriages or bogey as they seemed to be referred to. We got to observe some incredible things. Train vendors would get on the train or pass from the outside, singing and trying to sell various food items or wares. Sadhus and beggars would enter at stops and ask for donations or money. A blind man walked down the carriage isle and sang while holding out a pot to get some money. Several men came through the train and began chanting and blessing everyone. The train became very packed at one point and then stopped at a station for almost a half hour. I watched a man collect branches and eat the leaves off of them. I could now understand why it would take so long compared to the actual distance we had to get through. Our legs became crushed as up to seven people were crammed into one bench. A general train ticket really is part of the Indian experience!

Finally we reached Mahoba and then jumped out of our carriage and crammed onto one of the ones at the rear, assured that we'd at least be getting to Khajurajo now. We stood practically outside the train initially, and then were pushed further into the carriage as more and more people got on. A young guy offered to split the seat he was on in the isle and I was only able to fit one butt cheek onto it. He then rested his head on my shoulder and fell asleep. The seat right across me had a woman with two children on it staring at me intently. The train eventually reached Khajuharo and I high-fived Bev stating we had survived yet another Indian train ride! We grabbed a rickshaw into town, and the driver was quite insane, speeding around barriers and other vehicles and honking like a madman. He did get us to the newly opened Zostel in this place.

We smelt something awful but since it was the early afternoon and we hadn't even eaten anything yet, we figured there was more important things to take care of, like getting some food. We walked to a cafe around the corner and ate some veggie burgers. Then Bev ran into a fellow traveler she had met back in Delhi, so we chatted with him for a bit. We were intent on getting the most out of this day, so we had rented some bicycles that turned out to be surprisingly decent, and then set out to the western group of temples situated a few kilometers away. The small town of Khajurajo holds many Hindu and Jain temples that date back more than a thousand years. They are Unesco world heritage sites and feature intricate carvings and sometimes erotic designs. I hadn't been on a bicycle in a while and it felt really good to sightsee on one again. We rode along main streets, then into smaller roads, and then through bumpy dirt roads towards Khajuraho village. Kids played cricket as we passed. We stopped by our first temple outside the village and I was quite impressed by the carvings along the outside walls of the temple. Then we cycled through the colourful village as kids called out and waved. The main group of Jain temples was just beyond. After spending some time there, we continued down to some of the outlier temples. A young boy ran behind us and ask for some money, and when we refused, asked if he could jump on the back of our bikes for a ride. When he was on the back of mine I joked to him that the ride would cost him fifty rupees. He immediately jumped off! The sun was coming down and we were cycling through another village. We decided to head back before it became too dark. On the way back we passed onto some of the busier roads and then cut through a flock of sheep being herded through that very street. That night some of the other travelers at the hostel put on the famous movie Forest Gump. Life really is like a box of chocolates.

Bev had woken up early in the morning to look for Parakeet feathers (bird nerd). I woke up later on, but we ended up going to the nearby eastern group of temples. It was a hot and humid day, and we needed to take shelter from the ruthless sun often. A few hours later we returned to the hostel and had a very late breakfast, and then went up onto the roof. By the evening we went out towards the small stagnant lake present in across from us and watched the sunset as a colourful kingfisher bird kept swooping across and eating insects. We then went to this nearby place to eat called Lassi Corner and then ordered a whole bunch of Indian food. We hung out there for a bit and then returned to the hostel as we still had some time to kill before having to catch our overnight train. A few other travelers at the hostel were taking that same train, so we all hung out and watched television. I met this Japanese guy who had a very cool little Yamaha travel guitar so we passed that around. At about 2300h, the lot of us took some auto rickshaws and departed for the train station.

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