Aurangabad to Indore - the road less travelled

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August 7th 2011
Published: August 7th 2011
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Day 1 - Arriving in Aurangabad at around 7.30 AM we quickly jumped a rickshaw to the YHAI hostel only to find they were closed, so our driver took us to his friends place (hotel pushpak), tucked away down a quiet alley and conveniently located next to the train station and local food area. Tired from the long journey we checked in for 500 rupees a night and had a few hours sleep. Waking around midday we headed out in search of food ..... we decided upon the pure veg restaurant where we indulged in another paneer butter massala, bhajis and garlic chappatis. Walking around the town, we soon noticed that we were one of very few westerners (we saw 1 other couple) and that all the local women were covered from head to toe in lavish garments, so we headed straight back to the hotel to cover up before heading out to see the sights. Once appropriately dressed we hailed a rickshaw. After a few minutes bartering and attracting a crowd of staring locals we were on our way to Bibi-Qa-Maqbara (Taj Mahal replica), with the rickshaw driver slowing along the way to show off to another driver the two westerners that he had in the back of his vehicle. Arriving at our destination, the tickets were purchased so we headed inside the grounds. As we entered we were stopped by a curious family who wished to shake hands and have photos taken with the strange looking westerners (we soon realised this was to become a very common request from the locals). Wandering around the palace gardens for a couple of hours, we were mesmerised by the beauty of not only the grounds and monument but of the surrounding landscape. With sunset dawning we headed back into town by rickshaw for more delicious cuisine and to further plan our itineary for the next day.

Day 2 - Waking at the crack of dawn , we packed up the bags and checked out ready to embark upon what was to be a very busy day. We began with breakfast before taking a rickshaw to the very chaotic local bus station. Here we were ushered into a 4x4 jeep with local men heading to jaipur, which was to take us on a 110km journey to the Ajanta caves. Departing at the t-junction nearest to our destination we were greeted by what seemed to be 2 very friendly locals (apparently called Phillip & Aaron) who walked us through the local market place to the bus stop where we were to catch the bus to the base of the caves. Before stepping on the bus we were given ' free' gifts of small crystals each (which they wouldn't let us refuse) and were invited to look around their stalls after we were done sight-seeing. The next two hours were spent wandering the caves, trekking up to viewpoints and watching locals feed the wild monkeys. Returning to the base of the caves we reclaimed our heavy backpacks from the baggage room and headed back to the bus, all the while being hounded by a local craftsmen desperately trying to sell us his goods. After an initial starting price of 700 rupees , we bargained him down to 30. Stepping off the bus back at the marketplace, sure enough Phillip and Aaron were waiting for our arrival where they invited us into their stalls for a glass of chai (this was to be the beginning of a 36hr nightmare travelling experience!). Foolishly accepting their offer, we drank chai and looked around their stall, all the time asking how much for their stone-crafted ornaments, to which their reply was "find what you like and we talk money later". At this point alarm bells began to ring. He eventually demanded huge sums of money. When we declined the mood turned hostile. With a large group of his friends crowding around our only exit, we quickly purchased cheap bangles and made a swift escape being offered to sell our shoes on the way. We headed back to the t-junction where we boarded a local bus heading to jalgaon where we were to catch a connecting train to our destination - Indore. Stepping off the bus in Jalgaon we quickly realised this was a place we didn't want to hang around very long, so we jumped a rickshaw to the local train station to purchase our tickets (easier said than done). It was then we realised there was no direct train, but that we would have to change at Khandwa. Sitting on our rucksacks at platform 5 we quickly drew a lot of attention from locals , crowding around and speaking to us in hindi, with one boy even asking for chris's autograph. The atmosphere was relaxed until a crazy man decided to latch himself onto us, talking in Hindi very loudly, drawing stares and unwanted attention from neighbouring platforms. . . it was at this point we decided to sit next to the security office, woe and behold he followed but remained much quieter in front of security personnel (but this was all about to change!). With the already packed train rolling into the station, we joined the crowds and boarded, only to joined by the tattoo clad crazy man. Aboard the train we were trying to find seats as we hadn't reserved any, all the while trying not to hit other passengers with our heavy backpacks. At this point the crazy man began screaming and shouting at us to follow him, tugging and pushing hayley when we refused. Noticing the distress we were in, a local family offered us seats in their reserved booth which we hastily accepted. The crazy man also tried to sit with us, only to be refused by the family. At this point he went completely beserk, screaming at the top of his voice and pointing at us .... the atmosphere was very intimidating. This prompted the family along with the rest of the carriage to come to our protection, shouting at him and telling him to go away. He soon caught the attention of train security and was kicked off the train in the middle of nowhere ... Thank god , panic over!!! The remainder of the journey was very pleasant, being offered bananas by the family whilst trying our best to communicate through the obvious language barrier. Word quickly spread of westerners on board, such that a lovely man from the next carriage (speaking limited english) brought his family down to come and meet us. Showing them our pictures and proposed route through india, we shared lots of laughs until the train arrived at Khandwa. Departing the train at around 10pm, we headed to the ticket office to ask about our connecting train, only to find it wasnt due until 2:30am. After a quick walk around the station we soon realised we didnt want to wait until this time.... crowds of people chanting loudly and staring. This small town hadn't seen many westerners come through it before, such to the point that there was no mention of it in our guidebook. Being told by security personnel there may be a bus leaving soon for Indore we wandered out into the night finding a rickshaw to take us the 2minute journey to the bus station. Stepping out of the rickshaw with our bags we quickly drew a lot of attention, 1000's of bright eyes staring at us and whispering amongst themselves! We headed over to a local man shouting 'indore indore ' whom we purchased bus tickets from and quickly boarded the bus ... finally we felt some degree of safety. Taking our chances with the bus had paid off (he who dares rodders, he who dares). After a 3hr bumpy ride on a packed minibus, with people sitting/standing in the aisles, we arrived in indore around 1am where we jumped into a rickshaw and headed to hotel neelam. After being refused entry to the hotel due to being full, we tried a few more places only to be refused! We finally found a place to lay our heads at hotel Maharaja, or so we thought! With the rickshaw driver waking the grumpy man behind reception, we were charged the astronomical price of 1000 rupees for a grubby room complete with a huge hole above the door. We were also given two bottles of dirty water that had obviously been tampered with as their seals were broken. To ensure some privacy we covered the hole with hayley's shirt and hayley nodded off to sleep. Feeling a little unsure about the hotel staff chris decided to stay awake in order to protect the fort. Hearing men congregating outside our room, they snatched our shirt from the hole and stole it. The men wandered the corridor for hours hocking up phlegm very loudly and spitting on the floor when they passed our room. After a few hours here first light broke outside so we quickly left the hotel and went in search of a bus to our eventual destination of udiapur. We caught a rickshaw to a number of local bus stations only to find nobody spoke any english. Eventually we found one place that knew of a bus to udiapur leaving that very night at 8pm . . . . 'victory was ours' but we still had 12 hours to kill in this town. We soon found breakfast and another more welcoming hostel (hotel rama-inn). With chris having no sleep at all we got our heads down to regain some energy. Waking around 5pm we showered and changed before discovering the stones that were given to us the day before by the two men at ajanta caves. Deciding these stones may be bringing us the bad luck we had endured over the last 24 hours we disposed of the bad omens and checked out. We then grabbed some food and headed to the bus station. As the bus pulled in, we soon found our sleeping compartment for the 12 hour journey was alot more comfortable than what we were accustomed to whilst backpacking . . . . it seemed our luck was beginning to change. After a pleasant journey we arrived at our destination, the beautiful city of udiapur where we are writing this post now safe and sound. It's been a roller-coaster ride full of ups and downs, love and hate for this country, but at this time of reporting we are in love with the amazing state of rajasthan. P.s. julie don't panic shes in safe hands!

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