28.42833 m2

In Khajuraho, in Madhya Pradesh, you can see the most remarkable temples, about 1000 years old, incredibly rich in detail. The temples are covered in intricate carvings and gorgeous sculptures, a few of which are very explicitly erotic and all of which show pure sensual beauty.

What had been planned as a half day visit turned into a full day, since I was in awe and needed time to digest what I saw and experienced.

At the end of the day I returned to my room, which must have been measured using some very high-tech equipment: on the hotel website its size is specified as 28.42833 m². Attention to detail still prevails in Khajuraho!

 

No! said the wood carver

I knew it would be a failure, but still I wanted to try to make a small wood carving, Balinese style. I had a private lesson with a very experienced wood carver in Ubud, and I believe, and hope, he was rather used to tourists making a fool out of themselves too. He showed me a design that he thought would be simple enough, and drew it on a block of wood. It was really easy, he promised, showing me his array of tools, and how to hammer out the pattern.

I tried. Some ugly indents was the result. He showed me again. I tried again. He showed me again. I tried again. And again. And again. The result kept being ugly indents instead of a beautiful pattern emerging. In the end he said “No!” (with a clear exclamation mark) and looked at me, somewhat astonished at this complete lack of talent.

And then he showed me how to do it the real way, holding the block between your feet (“but you would be too weak for that”) and getting the most intricate pattern out of the piece of wood in no time. I took some consolation from the fact that he had been practising for about 50 years.

I had more success in the cooking class that followed. The nice sate lilit ikan (fish satay) you can see in the photo had actually been prepared by me. The dish tasted reasonably good too.

National Highway 3

My driver was an incredibly calm driver for being an Indian. He hardly every honked, he used the blinkers, he stuck to the speed limit and he didn’t seem to be at all irritated with those who showed irresponsible behaviour on the road (and there quite a few of those). He was friendly but a little shy, not a very talkative man. When he said something, it was sure to be important. I therefore took due note when he informed me that we would be driving on the National Highway 3, NH 3 for short, from Agra to Gwalior. It is the highway linking Agra with Mumbai, and thus a vital component of the transport infrastructure.

It was a busy road, with the usual mix of cars, trucks, motorbikes, cows, buses, cyclists and pedestrians. It was only very occasionally that someone came towards us, using the wrong side of the road. We made good progress, and there was good hope that we would arrive in Gwalior in good time for lunch.

I was wrong.

Agra is in the state of Uttar Pradesh and Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, but the road also runs through a corner of Rajasthan, so there were two state borders to cross. The driver got out of the car at the Rajasthan border, with all his paperwork in good order. I waited. He didn’t come back. I got out of the car and looked around for interesting photo opportunities, just to pass the time. There weren’t any. You can see how boring it looked.

When the driver finally returned to the car, he told me that the delay was due neither to a long queue nor to an administrative hiccup: the border office had simply been unmanned. When the official finally appeared, the formalities had been promptly dealt with.

At the next border point I was prepared for another long and uninteresting wait. This time I was surrounded by photo opportunities though, and wouldn’t at all have minded half an hour or so in the company of my camera (although I was getting rather hungry). However, here things were more efficient and the paper work quite swiftly done. A quick documentation of the surroundings gave the following result:

We arrived at the hotel in Gwalior five minutes before the restaurant would close. As the lady in reception said: “There is plenty of time”. Yes, of course. No hurry, no worry, but I did have a curry (see blog post “No hurry, no worry, no curry”).