4 and 5 November 2010 Thursday and Friday
These two days were mainly traveling days, from Mussoorie to Dehra Dun by bus, to Delhi by overnight sleeper train, and flying to Khajuraho via Varanasi. So, most people had their first train experience, and that too an overnight sleeper, and the first experience flying in India.
Robert got up early and got tea and two fried eggs quickly around 7:20 am, and off walking for working with Woodstock students all day until the end of school at 2:30 pm. I joined the group around 7:40 am and ordered my usual omelet and chapatis, while most ordered their usual omelet and tea or coffee – some insisting and get black coffee. The concept of a ‘cup’ of tea or coffee is perhaps different in the States and India. In India, they bring you only one cup at a time, though very rarely you can convince the cooks or waiters to bring a pot (three cups) of tea or coffee. And it seems like forever for our orders to come – and the whoosh, they come all together or not. Like the black coffee, you sometimes have to order that twice or thrice – at least at the Himalayan Castle.
Then a respite until 10, when most of the shops start opening, so I worked on photos and blog stuff. Going down at 10, most of us trotted off, after I explained to some where the Four Season restaurant was, where we would meet at 12:30 pm for lunch. I got Alice and Gail positioned at the bottom of the hill to see the Kashmir Emporium, after Gail checked and found out that the Bengali sweet shop had no jalebis. Then off Anne, Abe, and I were to find maps at the Tourist office – which we walked to at a much faster pace than with Alice and Gail. Abe bought one map; I got another, both of us got Garhwal maps, and a free Mussoorie pamphlet with a nice map in the back. Then I asked the lady, after the required signing of the register, for 8 more maps – she said no, not that many, but then brought 3 more and eventually 3 more, for a total of 7, so someone is going to have to do without.
Since the trolley, or lift to the top of Camel’s Back, was right next to the Tourist office, we decided to pay the Rs. 50 each to go up and back to the top. Unlike last year when Deej and I were scrunched in with many other people in the car – we were by ourselves, as we slowly went up, noticing interesting signs of hotels, of monkeys, and other things. At the top, we went around and saw the snows which were not very visible through the haze, but good enough to see most. Photos, photos, photos of the snows again. We strolled around the top, fending off hawkers, such as those who wanted us to dress up in traditional Indian dress for photos. Very few people were up there – again compared to the shoving crowds of last year. Back down and off to going back to the middle of Mussoorie. Abe and Anne looked into some ‘antique’ shops, and the bought Kashmiri bags at one street vendor. Further along two more ‘antique’ shops, and I bought a small brass Ganesh for Rs. 80. Some more shopping since it was only 11:30 am – at the Bata store – nope no slip on shoes Anne had her heart set on getting, and then across the street to Kashmir Emporium. We had passed Gail and Alice at the top of the hill as Gail was buying a net like sweater. Anne and Abe looked at many elephant tea covers, deciding one one – and then some bobbles. I asked about Kashmir knives but they only had sets of 3.
Down to the Four Seasons for lunch – Jeanie and Claudia were sitting at the top of the stairs – the 4 Seasons was closed for the Winter, so we went across the street to the Tavern, trying to keep an eye out of Kathy, but she never showed up. The group loved the food and even a glass of wine – I was out of money so had to borrow, and also couldn’t repay a couple people their full change.At the end of the meal I opened up three custard apples or Sita Phuls, which I had just bought from my favorite Mussoorie corner fruit vendor, and we all delighted in the unique taste, spitting out the black seeds.
After lunch, I went up to pack and others went back to shopping or going around Mussoorie.
Early in the morning, after Robert had left, the driver for our cars down to Dehra Dun, had come by around 9:30 am and suggested we leave at 5 instead of 3:30 pm which Robert had set up – I told him fine, and I’d call him if we needed instead to leave at 3:30 pm. Robert returned around 3 and said 5 was fine.
I ran off around 4 to jostle with the crowds around the old Clock Tower, intent on taking a photo of where the old Tower stood. And eventually got a decent shot.
We were all ready at 5 with our suitcases, etc But one came. Then the first car came around 5:20 with Raja, and others came in the next 20 minutes. Diwali delays, you know. The trip down was mainly, unfortunately, in the dark. We wanted to go to the new Buddhist stupa in Dehra Dun, but ended up in some Buddhist monastery with a huge temple in Rajpur. I tried to answer questions, like why did Buddhism die out in India. Off we went for supper at, no not McDonalds, but the Hotel President next door. Most people liked the offerings and food there, though that is where we started to order 6 items and share them. Some people grumbled though.
Off to the Station around 9:30 pm, finding and sitting in the Waiting Room. I finally went with Raja to find the train around 10:15 pm and found it, but no seating list slapped on the side of the Second Class Sleeper, A1 and A2. Unfortunately our berths were not all in the same compartments or locations with each other, and even Jeanie was in a different boggie. But we went to check on her and she seemed fine talking to some friendly guys. Anne, Abe, and I had upper bunks close to each other, and I locked my suitcase under the seat on a cable in front of Anne’s. The guy in the bottom bunk was not friendly but chained his own suitcase under his lower bunk. The train pulled out a few minutes early and we all tried to sleep – I got some fairly good sleep, so did Anne, but Abe was mad at my loud snoring, until he realized it was the lower bunk guy making all the noise. He did not have a good night.
We were awaken at 4:45 am to hand over our blankets and stuff to the porter, as we’d be arriving soon. Ha! It wasn’t until 5:25 am we pulled into Delhi. Jumped off with our luggage, meeting Rahul of Uday Tours waiting for us. But where was Jeanie – nowhere to be found, Robert went through her boggie and looked all around. Finally about 15 minutes later, she arrived pulling her luggage. Rahul hired coolies to take our heavy luggage and we climbed the steps, went across the bridge, outside, and waited 15 minutes for our bus to come.
Off to the Florence Inn where everyone had spent their first night in India, but I hadn’t been there. They boots polished. I also arranged for a few things to be left in my shoulder bag in storage at FI – mainly hot sweat pants and shirt, and some papers.
The drive to the airport through the haze was interesting – up over by passes or fly-overs to the India Indian airport (not International).
Security checks in India are similar and not similar to the ones in the States – few of the security personnel know English week – lots of pointing and shuffling things in the bins going through, but we got through and off to the toilets to expel the lots of water we drank before giving up our water bottles at the check point. I search out to find an USB cable so I could work my external drive as one of its connectors has broken – no luck.
Finally we could go to our Gate 9 and jump on the bus for the long ride out to our Jet airplane. I luckily got an F seat by the window. But the haze was so bad, I hardly saw anything and the photos turned out pretty bad. We did see a US big cargo plane on the runway and then taking off, in preparation for Omaha’ s arrival in few days. We had Belgian and other European seat mates as we had a veg or non-veg lunch to Varanasi, leaving around 10:30 am and getting into Varanasi around 12:15 pm. Jeanie started to try to get off with the others leaving, thinking it was Khajuraho. More people replaced the Belgiums, this time Spanish people next to me. We landed after a unidentified sandwich snack around 1:15 pm.
Warren and his 12-year old girl, Sapna (dream) greeting us at the airport and garlanded us. Off to our hotel, the Ramada, outside Khajuraho by about 2 miles. What a nice place, modern and helpful BUT NO INTERNET! We were all exhausted and took naps. We learned more of Warren, a Woodstockite (Class of 1951) who has taken up residence here, 6 months of the year in the past several years, and then in Seattle for the other half year. I went into the bazaar with Robert for a few minutes by cycle rickshaw, wandering around the bazaar for a ½ hour before returning to the Hotel. I also quickly put on my swimming suit and ran down and slipped in with timed photo shot – it was cold as I swam from one end to the other in the shallow pool about 40 yards distant.
Off to Khajuraho, first to go with Warren to the active Khajuraho Shivite temple, to climb the steps (after taking off our shoes), join the Diwali crowd, to the top of the steps, to perambulate around the huge lingam, and crowds stood by chanting, accepting our tika mark from the priest and his Prasad, and then exiting. Warren wanted us to take and eat the ‘sacred’ Prasad. Off for fantastic performances of Indian dance – Gujarati, folk dances, classical India, Maharashtra, etc. and local tribal dances, plus a couple very nationalistic dances at a cultural center. We exited the theater, and Warren was absolutely furious with our guide, Pravan for not allowing our group to be influenced and captivated by local vendor boys. Quite a fracas in the street about that. After that we were off for supper at a restaurant, where Warren gave us his ‘story’ – a mystery why he was attracted back by some force back to India.
We had a supper and rode the bus home. I tried getting connected on the Internet. No way, the server was down. Diwali, you know. Come back and get it tomorrow morning.
Whew – the long car, train, air, car trip from Mussoorie to Khajuraho.