25 Oct 2013
We eat again on the patio before setting off. We have a car as well as the jeeps this time so that Yvonne can stop if she needs to. We are grateful for the extra space for our 4 hour journey to Orchha. We observe again the uneasy co-existence of ancient and modern – combine harvesters, tractors, buses and trucks competing for space with bullocks, goats, women with giant loads on their heads, boys on bicycles, school children walking en masse, puppies sleeping in the middle of the road and men just sitting where they want. On the way we stop at restrooms with a very large gift shop but only a few were in a mood to buy. Eke and I bought dark chocolate with hazelnuts to keep us going on the journey.
Lunch was a lovely treat – we stopped at a Maharajah’s house now turned into the Bundelkhand Riverside Hotel: a magnificent building on wonderful grounds serving a sumptuous buffet in a beautiful dining room.
From there it was a big come down to our 1 star, budget hotel in Orchha. Apparently we had been booked elsewhere but evicted because some big-wig minister was in town. The rooms are small, windowless and smell musty, but had beds and bathrooms – and my toilet had the added bonus of washing my feet as well.
Orchha is a small place by Indian standards with a population of 13,000. It has been a much larger city in earlier times when it was the capital of the region and it is dotted with palaces, temples and cenotaphs beside a beautiful river. The Betwa river flows through the town and is a major centre of activity particularly at dawn and dusk. Bhanu takes us for an orientation walk in the evening and we are down at the river at sunset watching the fiery red orb drop behind the temples.
We head to a rooftop restaurant (Ramrajah) for a drink and to order dinner before going to the Hindu Temple for evening prayers. Our local guide gives us the run down on what is happening – we are not allowed to take bags, cameras, leather, shoes etc inside. We watch the guard open the doors at the allotted hour and the holy man in orange robes perform his rituals before the devout file past for holy water, blessings and to offer sweets to the gods. There are so many gods all with name variations and we rapidly lose it. After a quick watch of some singing and dancing in the square we thread through the stalls in the market back to our awaiting dinner.
We have a delightful young waiter called Mokesh. He was trying to open soft drink bottles with a fork and then with a tray. I offered him my pocket knife opener and he beamed the most beautiful smile and said ‘I have a big opener’ and had success with the tray. Eke and I share a vegetable biryani and finish with ginger-lemon-honey tea.
It was a very noisy night in the hotel but ear plugs and half a sleeping tablet worked wonders.
For this and other similar tours see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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