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Published: September 5th 2018
Today was our long awaited trip to the Ajanta caves, a series of Buddhist caves carved into the rock face. Most were made in 6th & 7th centuries AD but the eldest is thought to be from 200 BC. They are of interest as the paintings are some of the earliest examples in India.
The drive took over 2.5hrs as the caves are 100km out of Ajanta and the roads are in pretty poor condition. Fortunately for me I slept much of the journey and so missed the near miss with a bullock cart when the ox pulling it decided to change direction in front of our vehicle rather fast...
As soon as you arrive the charges start. Car parking and ‘amenities’ fee were the first ones (we have no idea what the 10 rupees per person amenity fee is for - except access to a load of shops you’d rather weren’t there!). As we got out the car we were immediately swamped by shop keepers trying to push their merchandise and ‘porters’ offering to help with your shoes. We were ushered round to the bus park (annoyingly this meant we missed the visitor centre which is supposed to
Waterfall view point
be good). There we discovered it’s a further 20 rupees each way for the bus to the caves (non ac).
Once finally at the caves it is now 600 rupees each for foreigners (45 locals). You then have to dodge the hoard of guides, porters & chair bearers trying to get you to pay for their services. (Yes, you can still pay to have people carry you around on a chair for the day if you’re too old, infirm or lazy to walk).
Despite all this, once you’ve walked up the stairs into the main cave area, it is worth it. They are arranged in a horse shoe shape around a gorge. At the far end is a waterfall with a river running down the valley floor (only in monsoon). We started by walking past the first caves, crossing over the river, and walking up to the view point opposite. The views are stunning and it’s relatively peaceful. Stephen still managed to find a farmer to sell him a pretty crystal rock whilst we were walking around the top though! The Lonely Planet suggest avoiding the walk up to the top during monsoon but given the path is
well made I’m sure you’ll be fine as long as you have reasonable shoes.
Views explored we went backwards to see caves 9-1. Cave 6 is 2 storied which is pretty cool. Cave 4 was Stephens favourite and is the largest of the caves at Ajanta (with 28 pillars!). It looked like it had been carved out of an existing cave judging by the change in surface of the ceiling. First caves explored we exited again, via yet another selfie group. This group was entertaining though as they were being terrorised by a monkey and so couldn’t move (it did look at them...).
We found a yummy lunch in the cafe on site and I chased away my first monkey, armed with a chair (it rather alarmingly jumped across from an adjacent building to join us at our table, the chair was only waved in a menacing manner - no monkeys were harmed). We walked back into the cave area via a different entrance, saw the waterfall view point and then started working backwards from cave 26 to cave 10.
My favourite cave was probably 16, the artwork is magnificent and I found it much easier to
see the designs than in the other caves. Cave 10 is supposed to be the earliest, and the first rediscovered in the 1800s by a Brit called John Smith. Stephen particularly enjoyed one of the caves that had only just been started, it had the beginnings of pillars and a ceiling but no floor or chambers as yet.
The caves shut at 530 and we got one of the last buses back. As we got off we were once again accosted by tauts. The advantage of midweek, off season is that the caves are relatively quiet. The disadvantage is that there aren’t any other white people to pick on! By this point we were somewhat fed up with all the salesmen and selfie hunters and scooted through as fast as possible (we couldn’t find a way out without having to go back through the shopping area). We were found by our driver and got in for the long drive home.
Overall it was a great day (made better by ending with hot chocolate brownies).
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