Today we traveled from Varanasi to Agra with a stop in Orcha. It doesn't seem like it would be very exciting to drive in a car for 5 hours, but nothing in India is uninteresting! Our driver picked us up after breakfast and a morning swim to start our journey. I knew of a lot of things that were on my India bucket list but Orcha wasn't one of them. As we left, the festival for the senses began. Driving in the big city is chaotic to say the least, but the countryside has its own uncontrolled charm. Along the way we encountered water buffalo, cows, pigs, goats and dogs and that is only in the lanes of traffic.
Additionally, along the roadside villagers are gathering these strange berries they use to make a sort of Indian moonshine.
The condition of the actual road was quite good. And then, all of a sudden the road would be almost nonexistent. Beautifully decorated trucks also ply these roads and the honking to signal what you are going to do is almost constant, but again, like everything else here somehow it all works!
The driver pulled over to show us the Maharaja's palace on a lake. (The picture below is a Google photosphere so if it doesn't work I'll fix it when I get back)
We drove through the village where most if the homes are made from mud. Kids were out playing cricket. Others were at the well drawing water. It was brightly colored and full of life!
As we approached Orcha (sometimes spelled Orchha) I honestly was overwhelmed. I don't know how many times I simply said "Wow!" Orcha is home to 2 palaces; one of Jahangir the Mughal emperor, the other is the palace of the local Maharaja. They were both built by the local Maharaja so they contain both Hindu and Muslim styles. One is a better combination, the other is mostly Muslim in style but painted on the interior with Hindu motifs. Nearby is a still active temple to Lord Rama and several cenotaphs commemorating the past Maharajas. Most of these buildings date to the 16th Century. We ate our lunch in a hotel in the shadows of these amazing monuments.
After touring the palace we headed to lunch. On the way we saw a monkey jump in a tuk-tuk to steal food. They had to throw some food to get them to leave them alone. After lunch we headed to Jansi to catch a train to Agra. Against most advice I ate the food and drank the tea served on the train.
The food service on the train was prepared by "Meals on Wheels". When we got to Agra we were greeted by Shiva and were helped to the car by a porter who took our luggage.
Tomorrow we see the Taj Mahal!