We met our driver for the day at 9:00am and began the drive to Orcha, and ultimately Jhansi, where we’ll catch a train to Agra. On paper it seems like a mild drive of 4 hours, enjoying the rural scenes of India. We had a chance to observe the rural scenes, but the drive was way more than “mild”.
The road was narrow, paved, and two-lanes. There wasn’t a shoulder, and the pavement edge was ragged and dropped off sharply. The traffic consisted of bicycles, motorbikes, buses, tuk-tuks, cars, industrial trucks with big loads, and lots of tanker trucks. We even had to wait on a wooden cart pulled by two horses to cross a narrow bridge. The driving technique consisted of pulling up close behind whoever you need to pass, honking to warn them we’re coming around, then racing around before we hit the oncoming traffic.
Passing through the villages and towns was eye-opening. We see lots people living in the worst conditions, and begging as we drive by. We could tell when we were nearing a school because there were students everywhere, walking and riding bikes (on the same roads as all the traffic). All along the road we passed tuk-tuks jammed with people (8 to 12) sitting on top of each other. Cattle are walking everywhere and stopping traffic. It’s everything I’ve seen portrayed as India, but I assumed it was exaggeration. It’s exactly as you’ve seen it portrayed. India is expected to pass China for the largest population in the world in 2023.
We arrived safely (whew) in Orchha. I had never heard of it, but there were several elaborate palaces and temples built in the area. There’s a river nearby, and the setting is beautiful. It’s no wonder the Moghul rulers of the time selected this site. We had a nice lunch, met our guide around 2:30, and began our tour. The palace was built in the 15thcentury. It’s amazing they were able to design and build palaces and temples with so much detail 600 years ago. After our tour, we walked the town before loading up for our short drive to Jhansi.
Jhansi is a city of several million. The train station is a hub of activity, with taxis, tuk-tuks, and motorbikes whizzing everywhere. We meet our train station escort and head into the station. Our driver has to make the long drive back to Khajuraho, in the dark. Our escort gets the tickets, and stands with us while we wait for the train. We’re an hour early, so I always enjoy watching the people moving in and out of the station. Out on the platform waiting to load, beggars are working the crowds. The whole station is grimy and dirty, much like the city we saw as we drove in. Orchha is such a contrast!
We board the train, find our seats, and stash our luggage in the overhead. It’s no small feat since our big bag weighs nearly 50 lbs. The train trip is close to two hours. It’s far different from the high-speed trains in Japan and China. Porters actually tried to serve a meal in the midst of all the passenger activity as we passed through several stations.
We arrived in Agra around 9:30. Laksme, our Delhi driver, greets us as we get off. Shaym, our guide for tomorrow is with him. They take us to the Jaypee Palace Hotel. It’s a huge hotel, and the nicest of all our hotels up to this point. We’re worn out after a day of crazy driving, walking some palaces, and a grimy (but interesting) train ride.