We departed the campsite near Khajuraho fairly early in the morning so that we could have a good chunk of the day in the nearby town of Orchha.
Some pictures from the drive. People still routinely use wells and manually pump up water. I’ve seen people relying on hand pumps such as the one pictured below even in the middle of Delhi:
As part of my vaccine regimen before departing, I was asked whether I would be in any farms or other rural areas where pigs are present. Japanese Encephalitis is a problem in India, in areas where humans and pigs interact. As you can see below, pigs are common in some areas that aren’t particularly remote, so it is worth spending the money for the shots:
Crossing a bridge near Orchha:
We arrived in Orchha around noon and after a group lunch we set out to check out the major sights. A word about restaurant service in India. It’s terrible. I’ve traveled to 20+ countries and the service in India is without a doubt the worst that I’ve ever encountered. Group meals are particularly problematic because restaurants are simply not staffed well enough to accommodate big groups and the staff that they have operate brutally inefficiently. An example, we’ve now had three separate breakfast buffets in separate hotels where a single staff member is assigned the task of bringing everyone tea or coffee. If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s not like the fellow walks around with two thermoses of each to be able to pour quickly. Nope, the person instead prepares or goes and gets every single coffee or tea individually so it ends up taking no less than 20 minutes for everyone to just get a hot beverage.
The same thing happens in normal restaurants, it’s not unusual for it to take 15 minutes to get a drink if you’re in a big group. Likewise for the cooking, it’s as if they prepare every dish sequentially on a single burner, so no word of a lie it often takes longer than an hour for everyone to get their meals, and they do not really make an effort to serve them at the same time. All of which to say that after it took the better part of two hours to have a simple group lunch in Orchha I finally vowed to avoid group meals like the plague. If you are travelling in a large group, I would advise you to do the same.
Back to Orchha. The city was the capital of the Bundela rajas from the 1500’s until 1783. The main sight in the city is the fortified complex containing two palaces from the 17th century, Jehangir Mahal (mahal = palace) and Raj Mahal. The Islamic architecture on display in the complex is very impressive even though the palaces were neglected for quite some time. Here’s a shot of the complex from the outside:
This is one of the two doors to the complex. The spikes on the door are to prevent the use of elephants to ram the doors:
Photos of the palaces. The first palace is the king’s palace, and the one with the ornate tiles near the roof is where the crown prince resided:
The ornate roof painting is still quite visible:
As are the frescos on some of the walls. Note the elephant made of several female bodies in the second picture:
Some photos of the inner courtyard area:
As you can tell from the above picture, you are able to climb onto the second floor. Here’s what the landscape looks like from the top:
This sculpture is at the second entrance to the palace complex:
After leaving the complex, I headed across the river to check out a nearby mosque. Unfortunately a deaf kid kept following me and harassing me for money so I was not able to take any pictures inside.
Goats grazing on the vegetation growing from the sides of the mosque:
And some pictures of people from my day in Orchha:
You sometimes see people selling these coloured powders that are used for decorative purposes. These are the powders that are also used during the Holi festival in March, where anyone on the streets is a fair target to get hit with coloured water and fistfuls of the powders:
That night was officially another camping night, but the campsite was in the backyard of a hotel. I upgraded to a room once again to escape the heat, though it had to be the grimiest bathroom I have ever seen so it wasn’t much of an upgrade. For dinner, one of the cook groups put together a pretty decent vegetable curry, which was actually pretty impressive because the available food during our shopping outing was pretty scarce.
Since I was in the cook group for the following morning and we were going to be cooking at 5:00 am, after dinner I went looking for my head flashlight, which is how I encountered my traveler.
As you will recall from my last post, I separated my camping gear and put it in a duffle bag that I can keep in the truck. I had taken the duffel bag out in Khajuraho in case I needed access to my silk liner. Well, while I was looking for my flashlight in Orchha I kept darting my hand in and out of my black duffel bag searching for the small light. When I couldn’t find it, I opened the bag further and just before plunging my hand in again, I spotted a scorpion in my bag. Fortunately the scorpion was light brown so it contrasted well against the dark duffel bag. As you would imagine that freaked me out plenty, and I proceeded to dump everything, scorpion included, outside. It was a pretty docile scorpion I guess, as it kind of played dead once it was outside. I did think it was dead for a bit but it eventually moved away. One of the hardcore Australians from my group subsequently killed it by stepping on it with his sandal–a gutsy move.
After that I went off to a nearby restaurant with a nice view of the fort to work on some pictures. I got to talking to the nice waiter and I told him about the scorpion, gesturing out the hand pinchers and the tail to explain what it was. He then told me not to worry because they are not poisonous and that the locals in fact eat them. About 20 minutes later some people from our group joined me in the restaurant and, in front of the waiter, I told them what he had said about the scorpion not being poisonous. In the course of telling them about it, I once I again gestured out my description of a scorpion, at which point the waiter’s eyes lit up and he said, “Scorpion? Oh that VERY poisonous!” Apparently he thought I was previously talking about a crab. Here’s a photo of the nice waiter and a photo of some people in our group. The fellow in the middle is the guy who killed the scorpion:
And that is why I would recommend closing up your bag at night, even in a hotel room.