The journey to the next community, to Purkal near Dehradun, was a little less adventurous than I had thought. And less long because we left earlier. To get there we had to take a bus to Dehradun, then to phone up the community to say we had arrived so they'd send a driver for us, because it is difficult to reach this place. While we waited for the car to pick us up we had some lunch, and got a little horrified by the price of the food though converted into UK pounds it wasn't so bad! My old SIM card was useless and I would need a new one, and Vijay's phone was blocked, so we couldn't contact anyone. We had agreed of a place to wait for the driver. It was pretty funny how we found him. He had expected to have to look for two tourists so he was confused that I was waiting for him with an Indian friend. Vijay knows what it is like to be a tourist in his own country now, because when he is with me Indian people look at him as inquisitively (perhaps more actually) than they would a tourist. And I guess tourists also look more at me when I am with him, too.
The community was pretty remote, one hour from Dehradun, higher up in the mountain. It reminded me of Nagarkot - that small village in Nepal - very much, which I guess is obvious, but I had forgotten about Nepal so it was a surprise for me. It was all very organised. I met both founders of the community - we took a good visit round and were shown workshops and classes and the library and the small science lab and all the kids stood up when I came in etc. But we didn't feel quite comfortable there, both Vijay and I. It was kind of too much, and certainly too far from everything for me. The founder of the community on the phone had told me we should stay the night to have time to see the community well and so I'd think about how I can contribute etc. But we really didn't feel like staying the night, so eventually we left - there were regular buses back to Dehradun at least. We didn't want to stay too long either because we had to go back to Khajuraho as soon as possible for Vijay's sister's wedding.
Back in Dehradun we went straight to the train station. Khajuraho is a very long way away so we wanted to avoid buses this time. We needed to go to Jhansi by train; after that the bus drive to Khajuraho is "only" 6 hours. We managed to get a train ticket for the following morning, 28th. Number 69 and 70 on the waiting list. I don't quite understand waiting lists on Indian trains. Alone I had never dared to book myself on the waiting list, or perhaps only if I was 3rd on the list or something, preferring confirmed tickets - but apparently all you have to do once on the train is give a little money to the conductor and he will allow you on a sit - or berth - anyway. So we got a berth no problem. The train journey to Jhansi was long; 6am to 9pm, but the train was 3 hours late. That's how I got immune to late trains or buses in Europe. Really 1 or 2 hours late is nothing for me now!! So - a LONG journey. But I guess it was pretty smooth. People were looking at us funny obviously, some people looking puzzled and others completely 'reluctant' - but by the end we befriended a young "europeanised" woman from Delhi, as well as a big family with whom Vijay got to play cards. It was very lively. In the meantime the 10-year old girl in glasses and long thick braids was speaking to me in good English, as she wanted to practise. I joked with her in Hindi too.
We arrived in Jhansi at midnight, exhausted. But the quest wasn't over: NO single hotel would let a foreigner stay the night! Our kind rickshaw driver took us to many hotels and we came out empty-handed every time! If Vijay's phone had worked he would have solved the problem easily, since he has connections, but we just couldn't stay anywhere. Hotels need a special form to accept foreigners, which costs money to have, so hotel in "non-touristic" towns don't always invest in them - and they just won't accept foreigners. They are more strict now because of the bombings in Mumbai three months ago, Vijay said. I was exasperated!
Our only solution was to drive another 30 minutes to Orccha! So we did that, and eventually found quite an expensive room there - even that took a little time, because a film is being shot there at the moment so most hotels were full... What a relief when we could finally go to sleep...
When we left the hotel at noon, the sun was bright and it was warm. And I was happy to see Orccha again, which I had visited with Niko in 2005. What a lovely cute place, and I remembered the palace and the square and the temple where Sadhu Kissigiri had taken me, and the bright colour powder stands. I took my first photos but with my new camera, deleted them all by mistake. Urgh. Oh well! We shared a very crowded rickshaw back to Jhansi and then finally hopped on a bus to Khajuraho. I always love to arrive in Khajuraho. At the last stop before Khajuraho hotel men and tourist guides always come on the bus to try and catch tourists. But Vijay heard one guy (who hadn't seen and therefore recognised Vijay) say to another "don't try to catch her, she often comes to Khajuraho!" Vijay told me bursting into laughter. I started having to say hello to people who knew me on the bus. We arrived in Khajuraho by evening. Ram and Kallu were there greeting me. And soon we were in the house again. I was happy. Before I went to the main room upstairs I heard the little nephew say "Vio a gayi!" ("Vio has arrived!"). I thought it was P., but no, it was 2 1/2 old R., who had by now started to speak! I was amazed. It was lovely to see everyone again...
A note on my three blogs
A note on my blogs
(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...
(2) sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!
(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.