Feeling very knackered and zoned out… can hardly write. Not that I haven’t gotten enough sleep. I figure ’bout 4 on the train and 2:30 at the hotel after that. Should be enough to not feel as out of it as I do. Then again, not enough sleep before that, plus the sensory over-load of Old Goa, Mumbai, and now the Ellora caves and I might as well pat myself on the back that I’m as energetic as I am.
It’s like when you’ve been on a boat, and it still kind of feels like you’re rocking a bit with the waves. Except that in this case I don’t feel like I’m rocking a bit with the waves, I feel like I’m still being tossed around in a clattering shaking big steel box smashing down nebulously laned roads from nowhere to nowhere.
I figured out on my way to the Ellora caves that the Ajanta caves are closed on mondays. I had planned to see Ellora today and Ajanta tomorrow, but, seeing as how tomorrow is Monday, I’m not sticking around. As soon as I got back from Ellora I checked-out of the Hotel (they didn’t even try to charge me for tonight – truly amazing), went to the train station for the first train out of Aurangabad. Once there I was forced to realize (with some hellp) that pretty much the only practical way to leave tonight and end up in anything like the right direction for Khajuraho was to take a bus to Julgao, a junction on the proper line. Julgao is four hours away from Aurangabad by bus, by state bus anyway. Which was my only option other than hiring a jeep or a taxi. So, state bus isn’t really that bad, it can get prety exciting too, and it’s dirt cheap.
The journey got off on the right foot, when I was given a chance to feel very pretty at the bus stand. I noticed a crowd of people acting kind of funny. The first tip off was the girls; they were giggling in that trying not to be obviously giggling way. Then I noticed that they all had pads of paper out, and were intently scratching away at at them. Then I noticed that they all periodically were looking up at me. They soon noticed that I had noticed, and the girls’ giggling turned into pretty obviously giggling giggling. So, I gets up and looks at their notepads. My inkling that they were art students chilling at the bus stand waiting for a bus was shown to be a very good guess indeed. As soon as I had gotten up, they started motioning for me to get back down and resume my previous posture! Let’s just say, I felt a little objectified. I figured that if they were going to get pictures of me, I would get a picture of them, and whipped out with the digicam on the sly, and flashed ‘em, which was satisfying. Of course, the most common thing to happen when taking the digicam out in public is that soon everyone in sight is really excited to see the little digital image glowing miniaturely. I think that it’s good that they usually start grabbing at the camera and jumping around because they are curious at the technology, not because they want to steal it. Still, it makes me a good bit uncomfortable when too much attention is attracted to it. Besides it can really be a kind of a nuisance. Today at the caves, it really started being apparent that any group of young males walking by me while I was trying to take a picture of some really awesome carved somethingorother, they would be incomparably more interested in my camera than any of the carvedsomethingorothers made them. It’s nice, but photography is nicer without an audience. I do understand that they have the carvings at home, and not these cameras, and for me it’s the otherwayround. Hence the difference in interest.
To accompany me on my bus ride was a member of the digital camera grabbing crowd. This guy follows me on the bus, nearly empty at this point. I squeeze into a seat with my big bag, and lo he comes and squeezes in with me. First off, there’s hardly enough room for both me and my bag, so when the rest of the bus is almost empty, I could appreciate it if he weren’t to do that. Next he proceeds to ask me the same so terribly boring questions as they all do. (Nationallity, name, age, profession, marital status, do I like India. Always in that order.) Already this made my impression not so good. Next he takes out some chewing tobacco. Starts to chew it, and thus needs to spit. I saw no thinking twice before he spat all over the back of the seat in front of us. Next he turns 90 degrees, puts his legs on the seat across the aisle, stretches out, and puts his head on my leg, ready for a good night’s sleep. I put up with all the amazingly disgusting things that Indian men do on trains and busses (you’d be amazed), but, this was just WAY TOO FAR. Thankfully the other passengers around us felt the same as I did, and explained to him in Marathi that he could lie down elsewhere. They might have also said that he’s a fucking jackass and should crawl in a hole and die.. well, if they could read my mind and translate they would have.
In light of this curious technological crowd attraction phenomenon as I mentioned, I am currently typing this twith no light, Maybe. I’ve got the keyboad plugged into the palmpilot, but have the backlight turned off. It really seems to be working to keep people from noticing and watching over my shoulder at the marvel of technology hile I scribble away my thoughts sitting here on platform number three at 1:03 am in Jalaom. It’s pretty damned busy here for 1:03 on a quiet sunday night. Then again when you put your town in the middle of nowhere onin a country with slow trains, you get lots of trains stopping here at some weird hours. Really VERY almost INCREDIBLY convinient for me, though, vonsiderting I got here on a nigthe bus at about 10:30 wihtout any good idea if there would be a train to Jhansi at all any time good for me, It’s also a 12 hour train ride, from my best reckoning. So, hopefully I can catch up on my sleep. ANOTHER CONVIENCE OF THIS TRAIN’S TIMING, AND THERE DO SEEM TO BE MANY, IS i WAS ABLE TO FIND A VERY NICE (oops, I guess the caps went on, so much for the no light thing, that and the kid who walked up and demanded if I could turn the light on… I guess they’re cleverer than first suspected), anyway, I wanted very much to have some chequality chicken tikka all day, but had no good chance. In a what I thought to be vain search for a cup of coffee, I stumbled upon a really pretty chic restaurant, which was also the only thing still open at 11:30pm. This place not only had a cup of coffee for me, but they made me some damned good chicken tikka and some naan to go with it. I was quite pleased to find it and have a place to while away some time.
It was brutally understood to me that this train was timed conveniently not only for me. As far as catching up on my sleep, not only were most of beds occupied by at least one body, but nearly every flat space available as well. After quite a bit of hunting I found an icky, grimy spot where I was exactly in the way for everyone from that half of the carriage to step over me on the way to/from the bathroom. My ass fell asleep on the hard ground pretty quickly, but amazingly so did I. Kudos to being exhausted. Really truly disgusting, but amazingly not that bad all things considered. I got on the train, and got some sleep. The coffee and chai men of course got to work as early as possible, and made it very difficult to remain where I was, so I got up for greener pastures. Once the sun came up, people started getting off the train or at least sitting instead of lying, which freed up alot more room. By probably 6:30 or so I was able to find a free upper bunk where I could curl up quite nicely and pass out. I sit now in this nice upper bunk, my happy little cubbyhole for for the past 5:30 and next 2 hours or so. I locked my bag with a cable bikelock and hung out the door a bit. Scenery here in Mattya Pradresh, in the middle of nowhere basically, is not all too amazing. Flat semi-scrubbly farmland. I did get to see a pig hungrily desecrating a cow corpse. That was pretty cool. Once I can think of a decent metaphorical meaning for it, I’ll let you know.
It seems the further north I go, the worse and worse the coffee gets, I’m starting to wonder if I can really legitimize calling it coffee anymore, at this rate.
People speaking Hindi up here. I like Hindi, it’s a good one, I think I’ll learn it someday.
I hope it’s worthwhile, going to Khajuraho; I’ve still got what I’m told is a bus ride from hell ahead of me. I don’t have a choice though, I saw one day in a documentary a bit about a porn temple somewhere in India. I decided that I would someday go there. When I came to India, and chanced to find out that Khajuraho happened to be it, and that it’s sort-of on my way, I couldn’t properly excuse not going. If I put something on my to-do list, no matter how long ago I put it there, and then get a chance to do it, i gotta do it. Besides, I’m told there’s quite a bit more there than a porn temple.
I must admit it hasn’t even been a week since I last parted with me companions, and I’m already at times feeling pangs of loneliness. I am enjoying traveling alone so far, and I’ve met lots of people along the way, but, I think it gets me when I’m doing something, such as riding this train, which brings back memories of doing similar with friends… and then I start missing people and getting sad. But, the fun, excitement, and just general everythingness of seeing the world far outweighs any of the negative bits of traveling alone. Oh, and obviously, I’ve got y’all, my loyal breaders (get it? huh? huh?)… ah, what do you do with a funky gaoler earl-ie in the morning…..[Editor's Note: I choose not to edit my sleep deprived stupidity.]
So far I had been making pretty good connections everywhere, so I know that it was about time for a snag. This was that the train got in to Jhansi pretty much on time, at about 2:40pm, but that did me no good since the last bus out of Jhansi Khajuraho was at 1:15. I wanted to see about a train to Mahoba, which is only 2 hours by bus to Khajuraho, but the next train to Mahoba was at 4, getting me there at 8 or 9, which would be too late for the last bus from there. So, checked into a hotel, had a little walk around. It was somewhat interesting to see a little nowhere town just going about non-touristy life. I found out that all the little internet cafes there use te same server, and that server happened to be down. That meant I couldn’t do that, so, I just got some food and was lazy. Had several hot showers. I had hot showers in Bangalore, so it’s not like it’s been that long having cold ones. I guess I’m just a wimp, but after even a week of cold showers, I really appreciated that hot water. Also, my muscles and joints needed the loosening, not to mention the fact that after sleeping on the floor of that train, I felt just about the dirtiest I have ever.
I got to sleep early and slept like a baby. Very glad to have brought a sleeping bag. That thing is sooo comfy, I swear so far it always is just the right amount of insulating. I love hi-tech things and stuff. Got up at 4:53 (set the alarm for 4:50, and it had been beeping for 3 minutes by the time that I woke up. Packed up, and headed off on foot (no empty rickshaws in sight) to get the 5:30 “deluxe” bus to Khajuraho. The bust ride wasn’t all too bad compared to most. Went by pretty fast – I may have slept a bit, I’m not really sure. One thing though, is it was fucking freezing! I had my fleece on, so I was alright waist up, but I had thin pants on (the only pair remotely clean enough to wear) and flip-flops. I couldn’t feel my toes for hours. And my shoes and socks were packed away in my bag, which was stowed in the bowels of the bus (getting very very dirty I was soon to see). I tried my best to insulate my toes by putting my little daypack over them, but it was so/so, especially with the fact that many of the windows of the bus were at most only half there, it was just damned cold. I have learned my lesson, I think. Get out of south India habits before I get hypothermia. It is December after all.
Stone masonry must have been a lucrative business in India in the olden days. They really kept busy. I was amazed at the sheer magnitude of Ellora, and I am amazed at the magnitude here, but what is really amazing is the detail. Most every surface of every temple is carved to such a level of intricacy. After more than a millennium some of the sculptures adorning the temples look like they could have been carved yesterday – by someone with good eyes and a very small chisel.
Considering that the motif is supposed to be representation of everyday life, life back then had to have been alot of fun. Among other things, they seemed to take part in their fair share of: wild hunts on war elephants, fighting tigers and winning, having lots of arms and/or an animal head, and lots and lots (and lots) of very impressive sex. The artists must have either been to some really wild parties or they had one helluvan imagination. I will leave most of it up to your imagination (the pictures might help), except to say that they do some things I have neither the strength, limberness, resources, nor the stomach to do.
All in all, while the eroticism is very interesting (and just pretty way cool), it’s not the by any means the best part. My lasting impression of Khajuraho is more of the beauty of the thousands upon thousands of sculptures, the majesty of the architecture, and the wonderful setting. The main temple complex is in a fenced-off park, and, while the entrance fee for foreigners is a lot at US$5, the park is really nice. There’s lots of green grass, and flowers and birds chirping and fresh air, and it wasn’t crowded at all. Und, last but not least, no one was trying to sell me anything!
I finally found somewhere with a CD-burner. Now I can unload all the videos I have sitting around on my memory card. I promise they’re not really interesting at all, I just couldn’t bare to deleat them.
I like Khajuraho, it’s a bit like Hampi in being a small quiet peaceful town with really neat relics of being an empire’s capital. It also has lots of things catering to tourists. Too many things catering to tourists, really. Maybe this is just low season, but it seems that too many people want a piece of the pie and are trying very hard to get it, all in the same few ways too. The upshot of this is that there’s lots of things to cater to me. Take, for example, the availability of my dinner. They just knew that the Japanese tourist in me was going to want some omuraisu.
I have found out that the bus/train schedule I wished for is actually miraculously possible. I can catch a bus for Mahoba at 4:00pm tomorrow, and from there leaves a train to Varanasi at 10:00pm, which should get me there by morning.