We catch the early morning “Shatabdi Express” train to Jhansi. The station is incredibly crowded and pretty confusing. We have first class tickets, but finding the number of our coach and seats is no easy task. Our coach is air-conditioned and the tickets come with a bottle of water and breakfast (that no one dares eat). We rejoice as we see passengers on lesser class service hanging out of windows and sitting on the ladders between cars on other trains. No rules here about keeping your heads and hands inside the train!
After 2.5 hours we reach Jhansi with its impressive fort, known for the heroic Rani Laxmi Bai, who died leading her troops in the 1857 Indian Mutiny.
After a few more hours we come across Orchha, on a rocky island in a loop of the river Betwa. Three main palaces make up the town; Raj Mahal, Jahangiri Mahal, and Rai Praveen Mahal, all symetrically positioned.
Harem residents were able to look over the courtyard’s public spaces through the screens without being seen.
He’s invoked before the start of any auspicious task. Here he has his own cubby-hole, probably to help in building this architectural wonder.
Beats the Ganges Laundries you’ll see later on.
Only a few rupees and ample air-conditioning.
Actually a resort area for vacationers and wayward travelers lunch. We take a break and some sustenance before the long leg to Khajuraho.
The wheat harvest is underway in this part of India. We see it as we travel on one of the largest state roads in India. You’d never believe it by its condition.
As we weave in and out of small villages we see the ubiquitous mounds of garbage and more evidence that the mind-set of most communities is to “build it and leave it”. Once built, a building is not maintained, at least that is certainly not a priority.
We pass orchards of teak trees and see flame trees poking out of elaborate brick cylinders, protecting them from hungry animals. The mango trees are just starting to bear fruit. It should be a good year since the hotter the weather, the sweeter the mangoes. We are really out in rural India now.
The road becomes torturous! The shoulders are an increasingly expanding mix of dirt, rocks and holes as the road continues to lose it’s unmaintained paving. Potholes are everywhere and unexpected. At points there is no evidence of paving at all. In the meantime buses and trucks vie for position as two of those vehicles coming head-on cannot both stay on the narrow road. One must yield to the pit called a “shoulder” without slowing down of course. And, the shoulder contains pedestrians and animals who all seem to have confidence that the traffic will certainly miss them. We don’t have that confidence. In the meantime the motor scooters, cars, farm equipment, ox carts all vie for their piece. Horns blare the entire way (as a courtesy before passing). Our heads and backs and senses are on complete overload when it starts getting dark which adds an additional level of terror. Unaligned lights of oncoming vehicles totally blind the driver who has to divert to the shoulder to get by, trusting that no child or animal or unreflected cart is there. It is a deep mystery. We nauseatingly bounce on toward Khajuraho.