Having stripped off our thermals like ungraceful ninjas mid way through the bus journey, in the dark and without removing our other clothes, we both got a restless nights sleep on the reclining chairs. the bus was much icier and I think we’d both built ourselves up for it to be a horrible journey so our bodies weren’t in sleep mode!! Arrived in Bhubaneswar at 6.15am and tried to negotiate a TukTuk. Managed to flag one down at a reasonable price once we’d walked out of the bus station. Arrived at the hotel and they let us check-in early. A quick shower and clothes change before heading out to find breakfast. Stopped at first at a supermarket to purchase some more of our jelly fruit sweets before going to the railway cafe. The guy serving us practically drooled as he took our order and then had to come upstairs to tell us our samosas weren’t available. Took him ages to come back with our refund – Jayne and I had bets on whether he was looking for a clean enough bank note to write his phone number on for us! Managed to flag down a bus to take us to Puri although it stopped at a bus stand about 20 metres up the road… Clearly being white and female has its advantages at times! Took about an hour to get to Puri and when we arrived the TukTuk drivers were actually running down the road after the bus. Thought it was going to be hideous but they actually didn’t bother with us after the initial refusal. Managed to find our way to the next bus stand to take us to Konark – a slightly smaller and more crowded bus – I was kind of wishing we’d taken the original TukTuk’s ridiculously overpriced offer to drive us there! Arrived in Konark, followed the horded of people down the roads lined with souvenir stalls and went into another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Sun Temple was constructed in the mid-13th century by Orissan King Narashimhadev. Believed to be built to celebrate his military victory over Muslims, the temple was used for only about three centuries. In the late 16th century, Mughals removed the copper over cupola; causing the partial collapse of the 40m-high spire, and subsequent cyclones have added to the overall damage. The India archaeological team are clearly trying to fight a sadly losing battle in restoring it – the massive Sun Temple was unfortunately covered in scaffolding – and in most places, they’ve replaced the crumbling sculptured stonework with plain bricks to keep the building intact. It didn’t take away from the magnitude of the building though and we spent a good couple of hours wandering around and admiring the sculptures that remain. The entire temple represents the cosmic chariot of the sun god, Surya. There are seven horses (to represent the days of the week) pulling the stone building on 24 stone cartwheels (which represent the hours of the day). The temple was positioned so that dawn light would illuminate the interior. the entrance is guarded by two stone lions crushing elephants and the staircase leads up to a dancing hall which is intricately carved with stone sculpture. Around the base and the walls of the Sun Temple are stone sculptures depicting that chronicles of Kalinga life; there were women cooking, men hunting and an assortment of erotic statues too. Slightly cruder that the erotic sculptures in Khajuraho, there are more entwined couples in various poses and quite a few solitary exhibitionists too! The Indian sculpture makers also clearly had a very positive opinion of themselves… All of the male genitalia was very generous in size!! After we finished at the Sun Temple, we headed back to the street corner where we had gotten off the bis, hoping to get a direct one back to Bhubaneswar. The bus stop was also the TukTuk stop so we had our usual offers of transport, one evening offering to drive us the entire 70km back. It turned into good banter with the ‘resident’ TulTul drivers as more TukTuks pulled up to offer us lifts – they even began waving them away for us as they slowed down! We managed to flag down the direct bus and settled down to a rather uncomfortable 2.5 hours bus journey, especially as we were both now a bit hungry and tried (a.k.a. hangry!!). Stayed on the bus until we reached the bus stand and got our return sleeper bus tickets to Kolkata for tomorrow night. Got a TukTuk back into town to get some dinner and headed to bed.
Saturday 19th December 2015