KHAJURAHO, WHERE THE BUFFALOES ROAM FREE!

After a 20-hours train journey from Kolkata to Satna, a night spent there because of the 3 hours delay, and nearly 5 hours ride on bumpy local bus fitted with the dreaded indian speakers blasting Bollywood hits all along the way, i finally made it to Khajuraho!

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A last 20 minute rickshaw ride took me to the market where all the cheap hotels are.

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I didn’t need to look around for a room as i always stay at the Yogi Lodge. It’s cheap, clean, and now with the 24 hours wi-fi and rooftop restaurant, 200 rupees (£2) for a double with bathroom was a price quite hard to beat.

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I really needed a good night of sleep after the train journey, and the next morning i woke up early to walk around the village making the most of the sunny weather.

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As usual, i brought my dirty clothes to the “dhobi wallah” (laundry man), who was happy to wash and iron my shirts for the next day, using his old school 7kg iron, loaded with hot coals.

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The season is still quite at the moment, and with no many tourists around and many shops shut, the city had quite a far west feel to it.

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Due to the touristic popularity of this little rural village, it’s getting harder to find a proper “dhaba” (canteen) where to eat genuine indian food at local prices. On the other hand, it’s always possible to still buy fresh fruits to the many stalls scattered all around the market.

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The best way to explore the surroundings is to rent a bicycle and wander through fields and temples.

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The state of Madhya Pradesh was in the middle of the elections, so the whole village was decorated with flags of the Congress Party, and invaded by white jeeps driving around while blasting political slogans.

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One of the main reasons why i came back to Khajuraho, was because of the school. This morning i took my bike and went to visit the place, which was built from Guru Yogi Ram Prakash Sharma, a Yoga master and activist, with the help of foreign donations and volunteer work.

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Unfortunately Sharma Ji died few years back, but thanks to his dedication, the school now provides free education to more than 100 children coming from some of the poorest families and gives work to 5 local teachers.

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I had a cup of tea with the janitor before the school opened, and he’s invited me to visit a music school later today, on a village not too far from Khajuraho, where the kids can learn to play traditional instruments such as tabla and harmonium.If vis http://yogiashramguesthouse.webs.com/

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Khajuraho is probably the second most important tourist destination in India after the Taj Mahal. Foreign visitors flock on charter flights and 4X4 jeeps from Delhi, Agra, Varanasi and even Mumbai to see the famous erotic sculptures carved on Chandela temples. This massive flow of tourists with more money than time at their disposal led to the creation of different realities.

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On one side Khajuraho is still a tiny sleepy village in the Madhya Pradesh countryside, with its small mud houses alongside big neem trees and with lazy buffaloes roaming dusty dirt roads, and on the other side, one can see 5 stars hotels, restaurants serving Italian food  and even a brand new super modern international airport who makes the New Delhi one look 50 years older than it is. The project is nearly finished and the building site lies few kilometres away from the centre. Driving to the village on a potholes bumpy road one can see this giant structure of glass and steel overcoming the jungle trees like a spaceship just landed on earth.

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Khajuraho is one of those strange places where a tourist can be spotted miles away by touts speaking several languages fluently and recognizing the nationalities of visitors by their accents and dress code. It seems like every other restaurant is serving the best espresso coffee, lasagne or wooden oven baked pizzas, together with Israeli, Korean, Mexican and Spanish menu.

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I have been walking through the market a few times and as any other indian “must go destination”, Kashmiris invite you to check their shops and buy some “best quality” pashminas, and everywhere else the same old paraphernalia is on display, waiting to be sold to some fat german tourist wearing kaki safari clothes.

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