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Published: March 10th 2015
I dragged myself out of bed and headed to the airport to meet Ruth, they charge people to get into meet their loved ones but I didnt bring any money so I had to wait outside. When Ruth arrived she couldn't see me waiting out there and security wouldn't let me in so I grabbed a man entering pointed her out and asked him to send her out. We returned to my hotel so Ruth could have a wash then began the long drive to Orchha stopping a couple of times along the way, the second stop was at Datia where a child magician put on an entertaining show just for us in the shadows of the stunning hilltop palace, it reminded me of the young tightrope walker I saw a few weeks before in Bihar.
We continued our journey south arriving in the very pleasant village of Orchha once capital of the Bundala rajas and the custodian of some stunning historical monuments. As we arrived late in the day we checked in to our hotel then went out looking for the Hotel Sheesh Mahal, we didnt realise it was located within the Orchha Fort but after some searching located
a stunning old world hotel. Beer and wine with freshly roasted cashews while watching the sun set over the Rah Palace. The waiter was a pleasant kind man who showed us the Maharaja's suit which was, as expected huge and sumptuous we could not believe that it cost only $100 a night. As dusk settled over the village we made our way back over the five hundred year old bridge connecting the island fort to the mainland and returned to hour room.
We rose with the sun had a leisurely breakfast and then began exploring the village which is completely surrounded by a four kilometre wall with a number of gates. Orchha lies on the Betla river and like any ancient capital has a number of stunning temples and tombs, we had a quick look at the livng Ram Raja Temple before continuing on to the wonderful Chaterbhuj Temple where Manoj the caretaker took us on a little tour of the place. The man is manic but very pleasant and showed us all the best photo spots, all the resident wildlife and basically made us smile, as we left we gave him a couple of key rings for his
kids and another for the deaf dumb lad who catches the bus to beg at the temple each day.
Next we crossed the old bridge to the fort and picked up a guide who educated us in regard to the various palaces and other structures including the wonderful Raj and Jehangir Palaces, the Camel stables. It is my opinion that the Muslim era architecture such as that at Orchha are India's greatest treasures. Next we headed to the Lakshmi Narayan Temple which has some beautiful murals on his ceilings.
It took roughly two hours to get to Shivpuri the old summer capital of the powerful Scindia family, we were looking for two chhatris built by the family to celebrate the lives of ancestors. Both buildings were impressive but the second looked particularly delicate in with its filigree screens and marble inlay. It was around 5pm when we arrived in Gwalior and we farewelled my driver and friend Mani, it was a sad moment as we have become close but I will keep in touch as I will return to India at least once more so we will meet again.
Took our time the next morning as we
Thrills us with his skills
wanted to let the initial Holi frenzy subside before venturing out and about, around 10am we engaged a tuk tuk and headed to the Gwalior Fort, the climb to the top of the hill was long and steep but soon we reached the summit after passing through a series of gates. The highlight is the Man Singh Palace with its lovely outer tiles and its ingenious architectural features used for communication and lighting.
Other palaces, tombs, tanks and temples also adorn the southern part of the fort, we then visited the Sabsuha temples which were intricately carved and impressive in their solid simplicity. We were the only foreigners on the hill on Holi and some of the behaviour was a little concerning, smart mouthed youth some polite and happy others giving off a feeling of menace. So we decided to leave via the western Ulduvai gate and the stunningly carved freises along the way.
Ruth had an exchange with a group who were terrorising a stray hound and it seemed that things may get serious for a time, which took the fun out of the day so we returned to our hotel. We had arranged a late checkout
so we relaxed till 7pm before the hotel transported us to the train station. This will be our first train trip in India, of course the train was late but I enjoyed watching the rats wandering around on the tracks and the poor Indians fighting over seats in second class.
The ride to Agra was comfortable and reasonably short and the supplied meals not to bad. On arrival at Agra Cant station we were met by our hotels driver who delivered us to our very comfortable hotel. By 9am we were on our way to the Elephant Concervation and Care Centre located about 25 kilometres north on the Delhi road. We spent two days feeding, washing and exercising the eight female rescue elephants at the centre (the males are in mus and are agressive and dangerous), it was a wonderful experience watching the girls shake off decades of abuse and embrace their new lives.
On returning to Agra we had a lazy day enjoying the comforts of our hotel, rising early to visit the Taj Mahal was our only plan, this time after a long wait in the queue I enlisted a very knowledgeable guide who showed us
Five century old bridge
Connects Orchha village to the island fort
all the best spots for taking photos. We then returned to the hotel for breakfast before packing up for the uneventful trip to Delhi. We travel to the airport for our flight to Leh at 4am tomorrow morning.
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Love the picture!
D MJ Binkley
Dave and Merry Jo Binkley