Monday 18th October
A 3 hour bumpy ride to Orchha on very poor roads. A new road is evidently being built, which is supposed to be complete in 2012, so the journey will eventually improve.
We stop briefly to take photographs of the magnificent and massive Bundelkand palace, but we do not have time to explore.
We arrive at our hotel in Orchha, the Sheesh Mahal Palace. This is the smaller of three palaces all adjacent to each other in Orchha. We are shown to our room, the Maharaja Suite, which is one of the most memorable hotel rooms you will ever see. It has spectacular views all round, is beautifully decorated and the piece de la resistance is a toilet jutting out from the side of the palace, some 30 metres or more above the ground, with 180 degree views through clear class, when seated!! It has to be seen to be believed.
Jake and I leave Sarah to rest, after a bland MP Tourism lunch, to explore Orchha with our guide.
Our tour round the huge Bundelkhand palaces, the Lakshmi Temple and the magical riverside chattris, is slightly spoiled by the guide, who goes into excruciating detail about every painting and room. He did his best, but this is the problem with guides: occasionally just too much information.
The wildlife highlight of the day are large numbers of both Egyptian and Indian Vultures. Our guide tells us that they are attracted to the river, partly because the holy Betwa river is the site of many cremations and the left over body parts keep the vultures full!
It’s a pity we’re not staying longer in Orchha, it seems a quiet and clean town, which would be fun to explore further.
We have a relaxing dinner sitting on our own palacial terrace, with moonlit views of the Jehangir Palace. We are entertained as we eat by the occasional appearance of a large furry animal which looks like a cross between a cat and a mongoose. The local name for it is something like Bengalu, but later research determines it to be a Palm Civet or Toddy Cat.
Tuesday 19th October
We have a leisurely start and drive on much better roads to Khajuraho where we spend the afternoon relaxing at the Taj Chandela.
Wednesday 20th October
After breakfast we drive the short distance to the Western Group Khajuraho Temples. Built starting in the 10th Century, these exquisitely carved temples are the most impressive we have seen in India.
They are best known for their extremely explicit erotic carvings, but in fact these make up only a very small portion of the decoration. The rest of the sculptures are of a variety of Hindu religious images and scenes from everyday life.
The craftsmanship and overall architecture is of outstanding quality and whole area has a wonderfully serene atmosphere.
We leave the Western Group and are assailed by hawkers, which somewhat spoilt the atmosphere. This is one of the downsides of becoming a World Heritage Site in India, the only other places where we have come across such persistent salesmen.
The Eastern Group of Temples is, by comparison, a bit of a disappointment. Only one major temple remains in its original state and is interesting because it is a Jain rather than Hindu temple, but the carvings are similar to those at the Western Group.
The remaining temples have had their elaborate sculptures covered in white plaster, some quite recently, by Jains establishing them as active temples.
We have a pleasant lunch at the Paradise restaurant, overlooking a small water tank and walk back to the hotel.
After a quick afternoon swim and a game of wiff waff (ping pong), the heavens open and we are confined to the hotel by a violent storm, bar a quick dash to the ATM by cycle rickshaw.