At the start of 2017, we left the desert and dry hills of Rajasthan for the state of Madhya Pradesh. The country gradually became a lot lusher. Not so flat, either, although mostly it’s gently rolling terrain interspersed with occasional ranges of small hills. Of course, the wildlife changed as well, so the Beastie and Bird Log has a set of new pictures.
Not such a famous place outside India, considering its merits. Huge abandoned city, of which semi-ruined palaces, temples, mosques, tombs, and city walls (37km around!) remain. Extensive waterworks add to the fascination.
Like Mandu, not so many western tourists, and many more visiting Indians. A famous pilgrimage site on a holy river. Temples, walls, a (small) palace, and river boats (with middlemen gouging the tourists and giving the boatmen as little as possible). While ambling around town, we saw a yoga school, and while discussing it, up popped the head of the yoga teacher – from Brighton! She invited us in for a chat, which was lovely, ranging over ‘how-to-spend-our-lives’ philosophy to (sigh), the hassles of property in England. Unfortunately we couldn’t make any of the yoga sessions before we left, so we got ripped off by a boat tout instead. We reckon he ripped off the boatman, too.
Hoshangabad and Bhimbetka
Following the Narmada from Maheshwar, we stopped a few days in the unfamous town of Hoshangabad. Hoshangabad was on our route as an overnight stop between Maheshwar and Bandhavgarh, a seven or eight day run, with a rest day in Jabalpur. But it didn’t pan out like that. We got to Hoshangabad relatively early in the afternoon and, as usual, stopped on the outskirts to look on our phones for places to stay. Also as usual, we became the centre of a small crowd. One guy, astride his Honda, acted as translator.
An old chap came up and very straight faced was jabbering away. It transpired he was a sculpturer, and wanted us to come and look. We did, and very interesting too. There were remarkably lifelike, life size, lions, in various states of preparation, including one finished, complete with realistic, but vegetable, fur. And gods, who might ride them. All made in clay on a straw frame.
The young biker suggested popping round to his place for a chai. His family were builders, so they had their own, grandfather-built, temple. In the cool and quiet front room of their house, we met all three generations living there. And he told us about some of the town’s sights. Then he led us, on his bike, to the area of the hotels, where we were unusually fussy and chose the third one that offered us a room. Balaji-Inn turned out to be a good choice, we had long chats & good information from owner Deepesh about places to see, and our later route. And it had both hot water and WiFi. We started to think about staying an extra night.
So, we got up and going really late, that being ideal for a rest day, taking a tuk tuk to see the ancient rock shelters and paintings at the Adamgadh Hills. And bought some more souvenirs in this very untouristy town. That evening we met a lovely local couple, the Bhagats, in the restaurant, dining together. Ajay especially was a super-keen traveller, and gave us lots of good tips for along our remaining Indian route. We realised with a jolt that we were halfway across India already. And they insisted on buying us dinner, too. Come to think of it, our elevenses stop at a roadside diner had been complementary, too. Still, we’d attracted a huge crowd into the diner 🙂
Still on the Narmada, more famous religious sites to see. And a waterfall. Not sure if it was Grade IV or Grade V.
Bandhavgahr – Tigers – No, no Tigers today.
Indian National Parks seem not to be accessible unless one forks out for a jeep (or elephant) and a guide. Pretty pricey, so we limited ourselves to two jeep safaris. Here’s what we saw. Mostly birdies, plus deer and boar.
And on to Uttar Pradesh… A few roadside snaps from along the way…
And more wildlife too, see the Beastie and Bird Log.
‘Safe journey, may your God be with you’ were the parting words of one Indian gentleman we have spoken to.
Varanasi is one of three sacred cities in India where aarti takes place. Aarti is a ceremony performed by priests, where fire is sacrificed to the Goddess Ganga, and a number of other deities.
After the camel trek at Jaisalmer, we finally turned east to resume Australia-wards progress.
On The Road, By The Road
In this corner of Rajasthan, there be hills. Before we really got into them, we stopped a day at Ranakpur, where there’s a very large, very beautiful, but seemingly rather under-used, Jain temple.
Last stop in Rajasthan. Christmas in a gorgeously photogenic city, set around a lake. Maybe a special mention for Lal Ghat Guesthouse which was reasonably economical, with a great view, comfy room, and served peppermint tea and porridge.
A nice German tourist on her 18th visit, told us about the town’s Shilpgram festival, in progress, of performance and handicrafts. It’s not publicised to tourists out of deference to (fear of?) the town’s shopkeepers. It was great, the stalls were good value, and the Bangaladeshi guest band that we saw, Joler Gaan, turned out to be staying in our hotel; and tempted us to alter our route to take in Bangaladesh.
Finally, after around a month in Rajasthan, we entered the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
In amongst our kilometre crunching days, crossing Rajasthan, first retracing our steps east, then veering south, we’ve taken some delightful back roads. It’s always been the case that the minor roads reap the most rewards in terms of seeing rural life and countryside. Rajasthan has been no exception.
Various other things are clearly slow to modernise such as road rules, manufacturing materials and methods, and digging holes. In some ways it seems stuck in a time warp with manual labour replacing the machinery we’d expect to see back home. This is exaggerated for us as Indian English has diverged from English (and American) somewhat, and, Sir, some constructs archaic to us are still normal here. Lorries mostly look like 1960s leftovers: But the cars look modern. Almost everyone has a mobile, a smartphone unless they’re elderly. There’s construction going on almost everywhere, satellite dishes poke out of straw roofed shacks, and modern things keep cropping up. What an interesting place!
On The Road
We already wrote a bit about Jaipur, here’s Gid’s photos.
Jodhpurs at Jodhpur
We saw a notice advertising a polo tournament – Jodhpur is a big army town, as well as the Maharajah’s traditions, although actually polo isn’t terribly old. We watched a British Army visiting team narrowly beat the President’s Bodyguard team by 3 1/2 to 3.
Just a kilometre away from the old city, in Jaipur, is Karuna Niwas. This time a homestay, but still a part of the chain owned by Ajeet and Ninja Singh, first encountered in Hodal. Again, we were looked after very well with the added attention of (I guess the term is) the family retainers, Roma and Bhanwer. Ajeet posing in his regalia, prior to going to a wedding: