Khajuraho to Sanchi
Leaving Khajuraho yesterday morning, our plan was to head to Bhopal and spend 3 days there exploring the city and making daytrips to Sanchi and Bhimbhetka Caves, both being World Heritage sites. Since Khajuraho didn’t have any direct connections, we hired a taxi to drive us to Jhansi. At 6am in the morning, Khajuraho and the surrounding region were engulfed in dense fog and our going was really slow. But we were not in much of a hurry as the Bhopal Shatabdi left Jhansi only at 11am – we had plenty of time to cover the 180km distance.
We did get to Jhansi well before time but to our utter dismay, Jhansi’s railway station was a scene of complete chaos. It was crowded and quite filthy. Moreover, we saw an overhead display that listed all the trains to be late . Madhu went to the booking counter to check if the Shatabdi was late as well and he was rudely told to go enquire at the Enquiry counter, which was in the adjoining building. We then trudged to the Enquiry counter only to find no one there and many people anxiously waiting to find out the status of their trains. We were now at a loss not knowing what to do next! We walked out of the station and many auto-drivers circled us asking if we needed a ride. Madhu asked them if there were any buses to Bhopal but there were none. I guess the roads are not in the best of conditions. The auto-drivers told us that there were other trains to Bhopal as well and even though they are all running late, a couple of them should be arriving at Jhansi within the hour. They advised us that trains are the only and best way to get to Bhopal. So we went back to Enquiry to check on which trains would take us to Bhopal. This time there was someone at the counter but they were totally not interested in parting with any information . Madhu stood around for a while trying to get past the crowd and get their attention, but he finally gave up and turned back. We then went back to the booking counter and bought 2 ‘General’ tickets for Bhopal – this allowed us to get onto any Bhopal-bound train in the general compartment.
Just as we bought the tickets, I heard an announcement for Karnataka Express, which was on its way to Karnataka with Bhopal as a stop. Though late, it was arriving on Platform# 2 within a few minutes. We gathered our backpacks and rushed as quickly as we could to the platform and reached it well in time. But when the train arrived, we knew that there was no way we could spend 4 to 5 hours in the General compartment – it was completely over-crowded and stank too! So we caught hold of a Ticket Checker who was standing just outside the 3-tier AC compartment. We asked him if we could get seats in the AC compartment instead of the General one. He checked his charts and found that seats were available. So he asked us to get into the 3-tier AC compartment, saying that we could pay up the difference inside. We were absolutely thrilled! We were sure he would ask for his own margin later, but surprisingly he didn’t. We were given a proper receipt for the difference in price between a General and 3-tier AC ticket. At one end were the totally inefficient platform staff and the other end, this gentleman! Indian railways never ceases to amaze!
After all that running around and frustration, the train journey turned out to be quite comfortable especially since it was a relatively newer bogey with new fixtures and clean floors. We sat across an Australian couple who were on a 3-week trip to India. They were quite friendly and we soon got chatting with them. We learnt that they were visiting friends in Bombay and Hampi, and were able to squeeze in a 1-week visit of Madhya Pradesh as well. They are architects and therefore have keen interest in our lovely, ancient monuments. They were planning to alight, before Bhopal, at Vidisha, which is about 8kms from Sanchi. They would visit Sanchi and then head to Bhopal later in the evening. We thought about this and realized that instead of staying in Bhopal and doing a day-trip to Sanchi, we could also stay in Sanchi for a couple of nights, see the place leisurely and then head to Bhopal later. So, to the Australian couple’s surprise, we alighted with them in Vidisha . From there, we took an auto to Sanchi and checked into Gateway Retreat, a MP Tourism Hotel.
We relaxed the afternoon away and spent the rest of the day updating our blogs and catching up on emails. In between we stepped out for our daily dose of chai and samosas. We walked out to the market, which was just about 5 minutes away on foot. To our surprise we were the only tourists around. In fact, it looked like I was the only woman around . LP had recommended two restaurants in this area and they turned out to be really small joints where Madhu and I would probably have tea but not eat a complete meal . Then we found that there were no other restaurants around. This was surprising for a famed town like Sanchi. We realized that we would have to eat all our meals at our hotel’s restaurant itself. I guess all tourists, who stay back (not many, I’m sure) probably do the same.
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