6th – 12th January 2014
Week 20 would see us say a sad goodbye to all our artist friends at the Nagpur festival, have a luxury break and Safari at Pench National Park, explore the exquisite temples of Khajuraho and move onwards to Varanasi.
Our Couch Surfer friend Deepak had led us through the daily wonder that was the Rajasthan festival in Nagpur. Now here we were on day 134 at it’s closing. Graham was honoured with a traditional Rajasthan head dress, we were presented with a bunch of flowers and even the whole family had a photo shoot on stage. (We later found that this meant we made the Newspapers again!) It was sad to say goodbye to all the artists friends we had shared accommodation and dined with. But they were keen to reunite and we made firm plans to meet again in Rajasthan. We looked forward to it.
Pench National Park
After ruling out the delights of Kanha Naitonal Park mainly due to the expense, we opted for the cheaper and possibly better option of an overnight stay and safaris at Pench. Both Pench and Kanha regions had been the inspiration for the unforgettable classic, The Jungle Book.
“I had never seen the jungle. They fed me behind bars from an iron pan till one night I felt that I was Bagheera – the Panther – and no man’s plaything, and I broke the silly lock with one blow of my paw and came away; and because I had learned the ways of men, I became more terrible in the jungle than Shere Khan.”
― Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Books
A rare proof edition of the classic has been discovered that reveals the book was dedicated to his baby daughter Josephine in 1894 who was just one year old. She died just five years later of pneumonia. It is the only known book showing it was dedicated to the baby girl whose life was cut short. The inscription, written in pen by the author, reads: ‘This book belongs to Josephine Kipling for whom it was written by her father. Tisbury, May 94.” – Daily Mail 9 April 2010
So after a long drive we finally reached our booked resort at V Village. After the adequate but basic hostel accommodation and bucket shower of Nagpur, V Village was definitely a slice of luxury. Our own villa with upstairs balcony, a shower and a bathtub. A big plus: on the grounds there was a recreation room and a free bonfire.
Whilst at Pench we were thrilled to go on an evening safari and a very chilly morning safari. Although we were not lucky enough to glimpse the elusive tiger or leopard we are sure they saw us. Still we were thrilled with the abundant wildlife we did see such as a jungle cat, wild bore, etc and the few animals we were able to clearly catch on film. Hope you enjoy our safari photos.
Deepak Welcomes Us Home
On returning from Pench we were again hosted by CSer Deepak who had stored our bags and helped us organise our night train to Khajuraho. We enjoyed spending time with his extended family of ten and their parrot “Meetoo”, who were staying in an apartment while their main home was being renovated. We were spoiled by his relatives and especially his mother who filled us with treats and some fabulous home cooking.
We took an evening stroll around the local park. I even got pulled up by the local Park attendant for playing on the playground with the children. We bumped into some friends of his who ended up introducing us to “Paan”, giving the boys “Cherrie”, helping us to the station and onto the train. Thanks guys.
So after some wheeling and dealing we were on the night train to Khajuraho with one bed confirmed. Luckily before long we secured another two. This was just the beginning of yet another adventure.
Not our 19666 – Oh No!
So as advised we awoke to the hustle and bustle of train life. I got a long cuddle of a baby girl only a few months old. Her parents spoke only Hindi but through hand signals and expressions we had a conversation of sorts. The young mother seemed to have lost a previous baby and this was her second. She had lovingly knitted her some fabulous booties and a warm cardigan. We also talked to a large group of South Korean girls on tour.
Then we were at Jhansi terminus to catch our next train to Khajuraho the “19666”. Tickets were bought, lunch was eaten and we were on our allocated platform. Suddenly Graham saw a train on another platform with our train number and route on the side. In an instant all children and bags had to be taken up over the bridge and onto the train. We threw our luggage on and it shortly pulled away. But something wasn’t right? As it pulled away from the station it dawned on us as we tried to enquire from the passengers who only spoke Hindi, that we were on the Khajuraho train but it was going in the wrong direction – away from Khajuraho. Our hearts sank as frantic phone calls were made and we trooped off at the next station “Datia” for the train back to Jhansi. We sat defeated on the platform knowing that we had missed our scheduled train time and it would mean another 24hr delay or an expensive taxi. Imagine our surprise when pulling up to the platform was our original connection – one hour late. Thank goodness for late trains!
Arrival in Khajuraho
So it was, almost 24hrs after we had left Nagpur and two and a half hours behind schedule we finally reached Khajuraho. We were happy to be met by the smiling CSer Golu and his friend the auto driver. Soon we ere whizzing the bumpy 8km to the township. On arrival we found that two of our bags had simply bounced out the back of the auto. Luckily some kind tourists who had been following us managed to return them to us. We had had a lucky trip this time.
After depositing our bags we ate a huge meal of Tandoori chicken, beer and butter Naan. Our first substantial meat and alcohol in weeks – smashing! We had only just gotten here but already we instantly liked this small rustic town. An exhausted sleep followed with thoughts of the day ahead exploring the wondrous temples of Khajuraho.
The Western Temples
The morning saw us venture into the chilly Khajuraho streets. After another good meal we decided to take on the additional expensive services of an authorised guide for Rs900 (This was on top of the Rs250 each we paid for entry – Indians paying Rs50ea). We were now ready to see the best that Khajuraho had to offer – The World Heritiage Western Temples. They did not disappoint and we spent more than three hours marvelling at their magnificence. Truly beautiful, mysterious, beguiling and erotic. We instantly took to our gentle guide and was impressed with his knowledge and ancient tales – worth every penny. The temple sculptures and intricate decorations really took on a life of their own and we were amazed by their lifelike quality and fine details. We enjoyed seeing Golu’s home and a light lunch there while the boys were treated to a DVD of Shrek2. Then off to see an expensive cheesy dance show which after the delights of the Nagpur festival paled in comparison.
Eastern and Southern Temples
The next day we toured the less beautiful but interesting temples. It was hard to believe that all these temples had been once part of a huge temple complex now mostly lost to the ravages of time.
We visited the shop of “Super Mario” (also Golu’s uncle) who dealt in fine wares brought all the way from Cashmere. Golu delighted the boys to the magic of the wooden box – opened with a magic breath.
Although normally reluctant to book anything in advance or with an agent, our experience with Indian trains had so far been very time consuming and difficult. So it was after a few days thinking on it we took the plunge to book all our subsequent ten train+bus journeys in one go. We realised commissions were being made by all but we knew it would cost even more in money and time if we booked along the way. So this afternoon it was finally done – no more waiting and worrying about getting a confirmed seat. Now we just had to make sure we were on the right train…
A quiet day in Khajuraho
After repeated attempts to get us to the waterfall, we decided we would not go and instead spend the day seeing the lesser, local sights of Khaguro. (In hindsight it was a good decision).
First a walk through town and out to the free Cultural arts museum. The guide there was helpful and enthusiastic about the exhibits and let the children join in where possible. Then a walk through the village where we took time to visit a new born calf, watch some street cricket and visit a family with a pet mongoose named “Mini”. Then with one of the local boys in tow we sat down for Lassi, chips and bringal (aubergine) pakoras. After hearing an announcement on the street which was translated for us, 5pm saw us at a local free Folk play. Dinner at a local restaurant found us joining in a girls 1st birthday party. (This was the third load of free cake we had received on this journey!).
On exiting the restaurant we bumped into another CSer Amit. Yet another CS friend we had ‘not met yet’. He proudly showed us his family fruit shop and took us all home for Chai with his Mother and Father. We really enjoyed our time with his family in their small but lovely home before picking up our bags and plunging into the almost impenetrable fog to the freezing train platform to await the night train to the fabled Varanasi. Our next adventure…