Monday, 19 January 2009
Day 5: Varanasi to Khajuraho
Day 5 (12 January 2009): Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) to Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh)
No dust! I can breathe! Wow!
That was the first thing that came to mind as I stepped outside Jetair 0723 that took me from Varanasi to Khajuraho. Thank God, praise Lord Shiva, after 5 days of having to carry a breathing mask everywhere in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, I finally am able to breathe normally. And Khajuraho is much much cleaner than Varanasi. In fact, it is the cleanest place I’ve visited so far. The airport is small, about the same size as Varanasi’s, but much cleaner and tidier. Superb.
The evening air is cool and fresh now, and the moon just rises in the east, casting its golden yellow reflection. When I arrived this afternoon at 3pm-ish, it was 23C. Now it might be around 11C. Lovely.
My flight to Khajuraho was almost cancelled due to thick fog. Londoners beware; your beautiful foggy city is nothing compared to UP, Bihar and MP fogs. In fact, they did cancel my Indian Airlines flight to KHJ due to the fog, and thus I have to contact Travelocity to get the refund. Worse, I had to pay almost INR 7,400 (almost AUD 350) for the Jetair ticket, for it’s the last minute purchase. Cheating, isn’t it? I mean, it’s not my fault that the fog arrived and Indian Airlines got cancelled. What they (IA and Jetair) could do was at least giving me the same price as the IA ticket VNS-KHJ, which was INR 3,400. Two elderly Dutch ladies that were supposed to travel with me to KHJ cancelled their plan to this town and rerouted to New Delhi instead, albeit grudgingly, and with big complaints. I understand that. In fact, had I not really really wanted to go to Khajuraho, I would have cancelled the trip anyway. I mean, adding another AUD 175 for something that is not my fault… somebody should strangle the Indian airway system with their own hands. Heh, I might do that myself!
But what can you do? I don’t wish to visit New Delhi anyway… which would be my second choice if the flight was truly cancelled. Going back to the hotel and stay in Varanasi for the next 3 days is a big NEHI. Going by road is INR 9,000 and it takes at least 12 hours on a bad road. Non, merci. Nehi, memsahib. And honestly anyway, I don’t regret my decision in persisting to come to Khajuraho.
The first time I saw the greeneries amidst the clearing fogs from above, I knew that Khajuraho would be different from Varanasi. And what a great place it is! For a student like me, AUD 175 is very very expensive… but for the sundari, beauty, I found here, it might be worth it. Yes, I think is… And really, I am SO lucky. For the last three days, there was no flight going in and out of Khajuraho due to the fog. Today was the first day of flight back to operation, and I truly thank Shiva-ji for lending His trident to clear the fog away.
The entire township of Khajuraho is only 10km width, or so they say. Upon passing by the central town, it might be similar to Ubud… the way I saw the main Shivadev Temple that is situated in the middle of the town, surrounded by shops etc… their grids and configuration is similar to Ubud. I stay in Yogi Sharma Ashram, a bit at the outskirt of the town. So far, this guest house is excellent. INR 500 (AUD 17) per night for the room upstairs, garden view. My room is as beautiful as you can get with INR 500. Clean, inner bathroom with 24 hours hot shower, and very nice stone shelves upon which I placed my new Khata from Geshe Ngawang Samten in Sarnath, the new brass Tara statue, the sandstone Buddha head and the pink Orissa stone Radha-Krishna. I have my own altar now… alas, no agarbati. Oh well… perhaps tomorrow I shall buy some.
The moon is about 30 deg now above at the east. It was yellow half an hour ago, but now is silver white. Beautiful. It reminds me of the saffron sunset I saw a few hours ago as I explored the wilderness of Ken Gharial Sanctuary. The driver took me there to see a waterfall… a few waterfalls actually. Not much water in this season, but the combination of black, pink, and greenish stones cascading into various geological formations was amazing. I still have to cut back my expenses as I return to Australia (as if I haven’t done that anyway), and I have to be VERY careful with my expenses here, particularly for the souvenirs… but I did not regret the trip to the waterfall.
I went by car, but then at the gate my driver rent a motorbike, and thus I only had to pay INR 350 in total. Saved me loads of money, for I would have to pay INR 1,000 if we were to go by car! I saw a peacock, but failed to get the picture. Several antelopes, including a proud black male… a monkey with blackish face, just like a Javanese lutung… and several parakeets. It was a very short trip, only less than an hour… but hey, beggars can’t be choosers!
It’s getting rather cold now… Bummer. I wish I brought my gloves with me. Might it hit 8 C or below tonight? Hopefully this tropical specimen survives the night. I will go to the temples tomorrow morning, perhaps after the free yoga session in the morning. And hopefully will be able to get 1-2 good books, and some beads. No statue, except for something Khajuraho-ish, but it has to be small and light. And I really really have to cut on my expenses, for I am broke to the last cents, truthfully over-budget, and have no more space in my little baggage. Thank God it’s stipend payday tomorrow.
(Written on 12 January 2009, hence the present tense)
Pic 1: Cascading pink rocks at the Khajuraho waterfall
Pic 2: The serene upper balcony of the Yogi Sharma Ashram
Pic 3: The lakes formed by waterfalls (the waterfalls were nonexistent in the winter)