Motor Biking Through the Countryside

We woke up early on our second day in Khajuraho to meet up with Baia -our 18 year old guide from the day earlier – who wanted to show us all the local spots. We figured Ali would be with us as well and the four of us would cruise around in Ali’s Tuk Tuk… Except that’s not exactly how it happened.
We walked outside right on time and couldn’t see Baia. We decided to grab a couple waters across the street while we waited.
“Hey! Girls! Your motorcycle man said he would be here in one minute and that I should wait with you!” This young guy we didn’t recognize walked towards us.
Motorcycle man? We’d had a few guys the day before beg to take us out on their motorbikes, but couldn’t think of who he was talking about. He must have realized from the blank expressions on our faces that we were confused.
“Baia,” he explained further “he said he’d be here in just a minute.”
“Oh! Okay, no problem.” We said, still confused about the motorbike part.
Just as we finished buying waters Baia pulled up on a motorcycle.
“You girls ready?” He asked.
“Uhhhh, we thought we were going in Ali’s Tuk Tuk.” We said confused.
He laughed “You can’t see the mountains in a Tuk Tuk! It would be so uncomfortable! Trust me, a motorbike is much better. Plus I brought my friend so we can each take one of you” he pointed to the guy who found us earlier. He was standing there grinning at us.
“My name is Mohan Singh. But my friends call me Momo. Should we go then?” We hesitated. We didn’t expect this. We all know my fear and hesitation towards two wheeled vehicles, but other than that, I guess it wasn’t much different than going in a Tuk Tuk. We looked at each other and stared blankly like idiots. What do we do now?
Screw it. The whole plan is ridiculous anyways. Riding off into the countryside with two young boys. Might as well go all out and get on a motorcycle.
“Okay, Chello” I said and hopped on the back of Baia’s bike. Kelsi laughed, then got on the back of Momo’s. And just like that, we drove out of Khajuraho and off to… Who knows where. Just because it’s a bad idea, doesn’t mean it’s not going to be a good time!
The town of Khajuraho is small, so in no time we were out of the bustling core and into the countryside. The Indian countryside around Madha Pradesh is beautiful: open fields, mango and cherry trees, gorgeous, brightly-coloured blossoms in oranges and pinks scattered throughout the area. Most of the people in the surrounding areas of Khajuraho are farmers. They work with cattle and goats, and they grow wheat or lentils among other popular crops.
“When you greet farmers you should not say Namaste” said Baia as we drove by a village. “Namaste is more for business. If you say Ram Ram, they will treat you with more respect.” With all these little tips, we’ll be fluent in Hindi in no time!
The ride through the area was fabulous. Even though I am less than comfortable riding on the back of a motorcycle, I felt strangely at ease letting an 18 year old boy drive me around… Yes, completely flawed logic, I know. But I told Baia I’d kill him if he showed off, so he promised to drive slow.
“Never hurry, hurry chicken curry; don’t worry, be happy!” He said with a laugh. And within a few minutes I was just enjoying the scenery.
Baia didn’t stop talking the entire trip. He kept telling jokes and coming up with more of his hilarious expressions, many if which he messed up.
“Yesterday is history,” he would say, “tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift…that’s why you give gifts to each other, because it is a present” I would laugh at how ridiculous it sounded and he looked proud to have made such a funny joke… And thus the day continued like that. At one point Baia pulled over on the road and stopped.
“Okay, your turn!” He said.
“My turn what?” I asked.
“To drive! Tick Tock, time to rock. Chello!”
I laughed “There’s no way you will trust me to drive your bike, Baia”
“Of course I trust you. Here I will teach you”
Yup. I had an 18 year old boy teach me how to drive a motorcycle in the back country roads of India…
Within a few minutes I had the hang of it and we raced along the roads to catch up to Kelsi and Momo. Kelsi just about peed herself when she saw me coming.
“Shut up! Are you driving a motorcycle?!”
“I can’t look at you!” I yelled “I’m too focused on the road!” We laughed and drove on until the road turned to dirt and potholes again.
“Okay, my turn again” said Baia. Yup. Don’t blame him. I would have killed us on those roads.
The boys asked us where we wanted to go that day. We said we didn’t know what was around the area, so just surprise us. They did well; our first stop was amazing.
We pulled over at this little spot by the river. It was just a short minute walk until we came upon this giant tree house, spiraling up into the tree tops. Apparently it is private property, but so many locals started to come hang out there that they just turned it into a restaurant, charged people $1 to enter and offered them free chai tea in exchange.
We climbed to the top level of the restaurant and sat down on cushions around some low tables. Momo ordered us some tea and the four of us sat around drinking afternoon tea, laughing at stories and watching Bollywood music videos on Momo’s phone. Our cultures and backgrounds are so different it was incredible to hear stories about growing up in India. They were equally as amazed at the westernized world. Number one fascinating topic of the afternoon: dating in India. The topic was so hilarious and odd, it might need it’s own blog post. Momo had us in stitches for over an hour talking about all the dating habits of young and in love Indians. Then we got to hear all the gossip of Khajuraho: like who got pregnant and eloped with a guy from a different caste. Scandalous!
When tea was over it was back in the bikes and off to the dam. On our way, we came across this little boy, about 7 or 8 years old that looked lost. Momo stopped to see if he was okay.
The kid’s name was Rau, and apparently he needed to get to a town just next to Khajuraho that was 35 km away. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any money. Rau thought the bus might take him, but it wouldn’t, so he just began walking the 35km to the village anyways.
“That’s crazy!” Said Momo.
He asked the kid to hop on the bike with him and Kelsi. He gave him 10 rupees and drove off to the dam to wait for the next bus…which was an hour and a half away! Rau was really thankful, but had no way to repay him for the money.
“How about, while you’re waiting, you watch my bike?” Said Momo. “We are going down to hang out by the water, so you’d be helping me out!”
The chances of anyone stealing Momo’s bike were next to nothing, but it made Rau feel better about the situation. So the four of us walked down to the river to hang out.
We found a shady spot to sit while Momo went swimming and spent another hour or so lounging by the water. It was peaceful and relaxing. Perhaps the first truly peaceful moment we’d had in India. I forgot how much I missed silence. When we finally grew tired of the rocks we walked back to the bikes to find a distressed looking Rau.
“What’s wrong?! Why didn’t you catch the bus?” We asked him.
“But the bus left!” He exclaimed in a worried tone. “I couldn’t get on it because I had to watch your bike! So I watched it leave without me.” He admitted sadly.
Probably one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life. This little, adorable looking kid with a dirty face, just trying to run an errand and he can’t catch a break. Poor thing! It was getting late in the afternoon so he decided to give up on his day’s big mission. He asked Momo if he could drive him back to his village, which was just the next town over. So he hopped back on with Kelsi and the five of us drove off. We stopped at a corner shop with a bunch of people standing by it. People were all smiling at Kelsi and I and talking in Hindi about us (aaas usual). We kept seeing people pointing at us and then turning to talk, then laughing, then smiling and waving over to us. We didn’t know what was going on, so we just smiled back politely. When we left with Baia and Momo again we asked what that was all about.
Apparently Rau had asked to be dropped off by all his friends so they could see him get off a bike with a beautiful lady. It was bragging rights for a year for sure! We laughed; I guess his day wasn’t a total loss after all!
Our next stop was Baia and Momo’s village. We had noticed from the start that they got approving looks from all the locals that they passed. Two beautiful blondes out for a ride with them: luckiest guys on earth. Every village we passed the children came out to wave and yell at us excitedly.
“They are yelling about you girls” said Momo to Kelsi. “They never just wave to me!”
We kept hearing shouts of “gora!” which means white person, so I have a feeling Momo was telling the truth and not just flattering us.
As soon as we hit the outskirts of the village our bikes went separate ways.
“Uhhh, aren’t we following them?” I asked Baia.
“We are taking a shortcut!” He said.
“Hmm, okay”
By shortcut, he meant an excuse to run me by his uncle’s farm to say hello. Kelsi had the same experience and was driven past all of Momo’s friends’ places… Oh right, bragging rights.
In the end, Baia’s uncle’s place was really great. We filled a bag of cherries from the tree outside, met some of the men that worked in the fields, and walked through all the different fields of crops: huge wheat and bean fields, then a mango grove and a bunch of henna trees. Not to mention a bunch of cows. When we’d filled up on cherries, we took our bag of collected goodies and drove off to Momo’s family’s farm.
Kelsi was sitting on a wooden platform with Momo and his whole family. There were a bunch of older women there and about 6 or 7 kids. One of the men had lit a brush fire and was cooking up some lentils from the fields. Kelsi and I played with a screaming baby on the ground, pulling weird faces at her until she calmed down. The women just sat against the house and laughed at us. No one spoke English, but calming down a crying baby is a universal dilemma: they understood. Eventually one of the older ladies came by and dropped a bunch of blackened lentils on the bamboo mat next to me. We all ate the food together as a big group, watching the kids’ faces turn black as they smeared the charcoal from the beans onto their cheeks by accident.
When snack time was over we fed the fish in Momo’s watering hole with a couple of the smaller kids.
“Would you girls like to stay for dinner?” He asked. “We can make pasta or anything you’d like!”
We were flattered, but exhausted. We had been out in the scorching sun most of the day and still had a night train to catch that evening.
“I think we should head back to the hotel for dinner. We still have some things to organize before we leave”
“Okay, no problem.” They looked disappointed, but it was too exhausting for us. So the boys drove us the last 20km or so back to Khajuraho.
“Okay, when dinner is over, do you want to get chai? Or maybe some Indian wine? Or we can hang out by the lake?” The boys asked us as they dropped us off. They genuinely just liked to hang out with us I think. After all, we had had a pretty fun day!
“We were going to check out the carnival after dinner” we said.
“Perfect! See you at 8 then, we will all go together”
We laughed. Okay, why not.
The carnival was only in town for a few days. It was a shanti town of tents, food markets, clothing and trinket stalls along with the usual carnival rides. When we were at lunch the day before we spotted the giant ferris wheel.
“Holy crap, do you see how fast that thing is going?” Kelsi said to me.
I looked up. There was a massive, sketchy-as-hell looking ferris wheel that was spinning about 5 times faster than I’ve ever seen a ferris wheel go.
“That’s it. New mission. Ride the sketchy ferris wheel!” I said.
So that’s what we did.
The boys were back as promised at 8:00 and we all walked the few minutes to the fair. The place was nuts! Not a single tourist was in sight, but local kids and adults alike swarmed the area.
Momo went to buy tickets for the ferris wheel so we wouldn’t be ripped off with the price. He and Momo got on first, while Kelsi and I waited for the next round in line.
The thing was terrifying looking. All the bolts were rusted, the belt that turned the ride was violently shaking it was moving so fast, and the carts were disastrous. When we finally got on we got a closer look. The floor had completely rusted through and you could see through holes in the bottom. The bolts holding the cart up were reddish brown from year and years of wear. Yup, this thing would NOT meet the safety regulations of Canada.
“Oh my god, we’re going to die” we said.
I’m sure the ride was only a few minutes long, but I felt like we were on there for an eternity. We screamed bloody murder every time we flew over the top and back down. My stomach was in my throat one second, then on the floor the next. There was a massive crowd lined up along side the ride. We thought at first that it was just a popular ride, then we realized everyone was there to watch the two whitey’s ride the ferris wheel. They took photos and laughed at our fear, pointing, smiling and waving at us each time we flew by at warp speed. What a way to end the day!
We stumbled off the ride in a giggling fit. Yup, that was fun! Which one next?
We decided to cool off and escape the prying eyes of the crowd by walking around the fair grounds. It was similar to other carnivals, but with more shops than games. Lots of places to buy saris or bangles, or toys. When we had done a full circuit of the grounds we met Anye.
Anye was a deaf and mute young guy from Baia and Momo’s village. He was probably one of the nicest people we’d met as well. He had seen us on the ferris wheel and wanted to go on another ride with Kelsi and I. Anye spoke to us in his own, made up sign language and we tried our best to understand what he meant. Turns out he just wanted to have a good time at the fair, so we went on the scrambler as our next attraction.
We spun around so fast both Kelsi and I nearly lost our sunglasses. Two extremely rude boys sat in the cart next to us and mocked Anye for being deaf and mute. Then they tried to hit on Kelsi and I. We were livid. We ignored them and signed to Anye instead, giving him high five’s every time our carts flew by each other. When the ride was over we glared at the two boys before we walked off, dragging Anye by the hand as we went. They looked stunned.
After that we decided we were finished with the fair. We sat by the lake with Momo and Baia for the last half hour of the day before finally heading to the train station.
It was refreshing meeting some locals who finally weren’t ripping us off. They never asked for any money from us, but we gave them some money for gas anyways. I told them I’d do the same for any of my friends at home. Sometimes you just have to go with your your gut and trust the people you meet. I can’t say I’d feel the same with many people I’ve met here, but Baia and Momo turned out to be pretty stand up guys.
We felt a little better about India as we hopped on the train and headed to Varanasi.

20130416-172818.jpg

20130416-172850.jpg

20130416-173022.jpg

20130416-173129.jpg

20130416-173205.jpg

20130416-173330.jpg

20130416-173738.jpg

20130416-173805.jpg

Khajuraho: The Kama Sutra Temples

20130416-124151.jpg

We arrived in Khajuraho with a false sense of freedom; no more being told what to do and when to do it. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. Within minutes of arriving we had a man at the hotel trying to organize a tour for the following morning.
“What time would you like the Tuk Tuk to pick you up at?” He said, as if we had already decided this is what was going to happen. “First we will see the eastern temples, then we will drive up to the waterfalls and then you can rest for a little while before we go to a traditional dancing show, then you see the Western Temples the next morning. Ok? 10:00 okay?”
No. No. No. We are sleeping in, we are doing whatever we want, when we want to, and we are NOT paying hotel booking prices! We thanked him for his offer and politely declined any kind of tour.
“We can book it in the morning, no problem” he said. *sigh* We’ll never escape it!
The next morning as we walked out the door there were already men waiting to take photos of us. Just what you want first thing in the morning when you’ve got a cold.
We walked up to the rooftop to have breakfast alone, but multitudes of people kept finding excuses to come up and look at us before walking back downstairs.
Even our friend was back. “We go on Tuk Tuk now to temples?”
“No thanks, we’re going to check out the markets instead” we said, through mouthfuls of breakfast.
“Ok, later then!” And then he just hung around watching us eat some more. It was awkward.
Outside the hotel was worse. We hadn’t gone five feet from the front door and we had four or five guys walking and talking with us.
“Where from?”
“Auto Rickshaw?”
“Please, see my shop!”
“What is your name beautiful lady”
It was too much.
“We need a Tuk Tuk!” We exclaimed. Within seconds we had 4 Tuk tuks in front of us. We jumped in one with a shy, young driver with a great smile. His name was Ali.
“200 rupees for a half day tour, starting with the Eastern Temples” we told him.
“Okay” he said, and drove off, away from the madness.
As we were driving away, one of the young guys who was chatting with me, jumped in the Tuk Tuk.
“Hello! My name is Baia. I am a guide here, I can tell you all about the temples!” he grinned at us.
Kelsi turned to me and rolled her eyes. “You would pick us up a guide!” She said to me.
“Not me!” I said, “He jumped in here all on his own.”
Well, we really had no choice in the matter. The four of us cruised along in the Tuk Tuk until we reached the first temple. We figured that if we ignored what Baia was saying, maybe he’d go away without having to pay him. But strangely enough, he stayed in the Tuk Tuk and let us explore the first temple alone.
Khajuraho’s temples are some of the most unique and best preserved temples in India. Also named the “Kama Sutra” temples, these massive sandstone structures have erotic and sexual carvings of people, animals and nymphs. To Kelsi and I , this seemed strange in a culture that is so conservative with its sexuality. The eastern temples are much smaller than the western ones (which cost money) but they are equally as detailed in their sculpting. We walked through a couple of them fairly quickly, avoiding any kind of information from Baia. But he seemed to get the hint and just let us walk around on our own.
As we moved through the temples heading south we passed by the Old Village.
“Can we drive through the village?” We asked the boys.
“No. No. Not drive. Let’s walk! It’s much nicer to walk through the village” said Baia. He had Ali meet us on the other side of town while we got out to explore.
“Khajuraho is very caste conscious” explained Baia. “It is the one thing I don’t really like about the Indian culture, but that’s life! In the old village we have strict lines defining each of the castes. They each have their own temple, own watering well, own drinking water, own hospital and own barber shop.”
Wow, I knew there were caste systems in India, but I didn’t realize how separate they all are. From the Brahman priests to the street cleaning Untouchables, smaller towns like Khajuraho are very particular about the different expectations from each caste. They each have their own everything, and it seems like their worlds hardly mix.
“You can always tell which caste area you are in by the colours of the homes. Also the colour of people’s skin: the darker the skin the lower the caste”
In metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai the caste system is slowly being forgotten. But Khajuraho is traditional, and despite their liberalism with the Kama Sutra sexuality, they are still very defined in their old ways.
We wandered through the little village for a while. We’d given up on avoiding Baia and just gave in to his charismatic personality. He was a young guy, only 18, but he spoke 4 languages fluently and seemed to just enjoy his job as a self proclaimed tour guide. Every few minutes or so he would break out with some silly rhyme or expression.
“You know what they say, travel is knowledge without college!” Then he’d grin at us.
“You know why they call it India?” He asked us.
“Why?”
“INDIA: I. Never. Do. It. Again” Then he’d break into laughter. “It’s a joke! Just a joke!”
He was pretty entertaining, I must admit.
Soon we came to the old village school. It was founded by some Europeans who gathered funds to create a school for the children.
“This school is the only place where the castes mix. All levels of children come to learn together! It is very nice!” Explained Baia
The school, grounds and all, was maybe the size of my house, and it held 300 children in two sessions: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. There are six small class rooms: 3 old and 3 new ones. The children get all their uniforms, books, pens and pencils free from the school. We walked around the classrooms on our own, the school children giggling in excitement that we were there. There were no chairs or desks, just some bamboo mats on the floor and a small chalk board. The rest was just concrete walls painted white.
“Desks and chairs are not important. Learning is important.” Said the principal as he walked up behind us. He showed us around the place a little more, explaining some of the rules and practices along the way. It was all pretty amazing.
When we’d left the school, Ali was waiting outside with the Tuk Tuk.
“Okay, next temple!”
But the Tuk Tuk wouldn’t start. We tried pushing it to start it in first gear (this happens to us nearly every time we get into a Tuk Tuk) but it still wouldn’t work. Ali apologized and we agreed to walk with Baia to the next temple and meet him there.
The last temple we went to was the largest of the eastern temples. But much like the others, we just did a quick walk around. We instead found a starving little puppy dog and had more fun playing with it (Yup, refusing rabies shots may have been a mistake. We’re still suckers for puppies).
On our way back to the hotel Baia turned around to face us.
“Have you girls ever driven a Tuk Tuk before?”
“Nope. But we want to!”
He had Ali pull over and Kelsi jumped into the front seat. Baia hopped in the back along with some random local that wanted a ride into town. Ali gave Kelsi the low down and then handed her the reins.
I’m pretty sure I screamed in excitement and fear as we flew down the pothole ridden streets of backcountry Khajuraho. It was a quiet road, but only really big enough for one lane. Every time a car came towards us I closed my eyes. Please don’t run straight into it! A car came up from behind and was honking at us to pull over so it could pass. We could hardly hear it over our shrieks of laughter and excitement. Kelsi pulled over at the edge of town to let Ali take control again, a massive grin on her face. We had just written out a list of random missions to complete while in India: this was one of them. Drive a Tuk Tuk… Check!
Baia and Ali wanted to hang out with us longer.
“How about the waterfalls next? Or we can go into the mountains!”
“No thanks. We are doing our own thing this evening. Probably heading to the Western Temples”
“But the Western Temples are so much better in the morning.” He explained. We were just being stubborn now; we didn’t want anyone deciding our itinerary.
“Nope. We are going tonight. We can see the waterfalls with you tomorrow morning”
They finally agreed and we planned to meet at 9:30 the next morning to go out for the day. They were the nicest locals we’d met since we’d been in India. We figured it’d be fun to hang out with them at the waterfalls than try our luck with a new driver in the morning.
That evening we did go to the Western Temples just like we’d said. And guess what? They’d be so much better in the morning!
The sun sets behind them, which makes for some great silhouette shots, but you can’t see any detailing in the buildings. It didn’t matter, we’d been told what to do for three weeks: It was our turn to make decisions now.
The western temples were significantly larger and much better preserved than the Eastern ones (that’s probably why this group of temples costs 250 rupees while the others are free). They were incredible to wander around. Thousands upon thousands of detailed carvings of naked women, nymphs, gods, and Kama sutra poses were on each temple. It was crazy. At first it seemed like all the carvings were the same, but as you look closer, they are all unique. Some women are wearing clothing, others are coupled together or standing naked and alone. A few of them have scorpions, the symbol of sex, climbing up their thighs. They were beautiful, and erotic and some of the stranger temples we’d seen to date. Kelsi and I wandered around, avoiding the myriad guides that wandered the place looking for a couple bucks. We were on a mission to find the strangest kama sutra carving we could find on all the temples! We had a great time just climbing around all the temples laughing at or contemplating each sculpture as the sun went down.
As we neared the end of the group we came to a temple with a bunch of young Indian guys hanging around. They took one look at us and couldn’t stop staring. We rolled our eyes and tried to ignore them. They were sneakily trying to get a photo of us on their camera phones. They held them up and waited for us to walk past before taking the shot. We decided to play with them; we’d get super close to walking through their shot then we’d abruptly turn around and go the other direction around the temple. As soon as we rounded a corner we could hear them running around the other side to catch us. We laughed and went back the other direction. We stumbled upon them all huddled around the corner of the temple watching for us to come by. We snuck up behind them unawares and just as we passed them said “I wander what they’re looking for” then walked off down the stairs away from them. They all got startled and confused at how we’d eluded them. We just giggled at how funny we thought we were and walked to our final temple.
As we walked out of the last one there were two men about to enter.
“Can I get photo?” He said to me. I hesitated then finally got in the photo with him as his friend stood ready to take the shot. I’m limiting photos taken of me per day; this guy was nice enough to ask and I was in a good mood, so why not.
As his friend was about to take the photo about ten more men came around the corner, cameras out towards us.
“I’m out!” Said Kelsi as she ran off to the exit gate. Thanks buddy.
I got stuck having twenty photos taken of me all at once. I politely declined having a photo taken of me individually with each person. This country is crazy!
I took off running after Kelsi as she stood by the gate laughing at me. Time to go home.

20130416-123448.jpg

20130416-123518.jpg

20130416-123614.jpg

20130416-123646.jpg

20130416-123719.jpg

20130416-123745.jpg

20130416-123804.jpg

20130416-124000.jpg