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Published: March 5th 2012
On Saturday 3 March, we made an early start as we hoped to complete the hundred kilometre drive to the World Heritage listed Ajanta Caves before the tour buses and the crowds arrived and thankfully the car park was almost empty.
Although the crowds were thin on the ground we still had to force our way through the swarming touts, which went a little bit like this- "Sir sir where are you from" Silence "Sir come this way" through a maze of strategically laid out shops One grabs my arm and I state calmly "Will you back off I don’t want your stuff" "Sir why are you so hostile and rude" a tout yells My response is "What do you mean rude? It is rude to harass people before they have even exited their vehicle" "Sir this is our business" "Yes and this is my holiday now piss off"
This is the same story all over India and it is wearing thin, from here we face another scam the forced paid bus ride to the caves, with more touts on the bus with a captive audience all bawling their lies.
When we arrive there are more touts swarming us as we get off the bus, I ignore them and head for the ticket office where we pay twenty five times the entrance fee of the Indian native who is trying to force his way in front of me, he will later show his immense respect for his heritage by urinating outside one of the caves.
The caves aren’t as spectacularly carved as those at Ellora but they are much older and have wonderfully painted interiors, these caves were long forgotten until discovered completely by accident in 1819 by a British hunting party and have become internationally famous for their magnificent fresco paintings which Japanese donors have attempted to preserve by installing technology to protect them and security guards patrol the more important caves, otherwise they would smell like piss as well. This is India.
Buddhist worshippers perhaps from Korea exit one of the more impressive caves having left donations behind; the security guards immediately push and shove each other in their haste to pocket these notes.
On leaving the caves the touts pursue the Buddhist worshippers on to the bus, by now I have little remaining patience
and I demand they leave the bus, as the driver will not depart until they have harassed all the occupants, the first leaves while the second becomes aggressive and a violent argument ensues between us before he also leaves.
As the bus takes, off a woman lectures me on my lack of patient, “this is their culture” she says, and Padraic bursts out laughing. After exiting the bus I visit a stall to get my Nan a present, what a mistake that was, the shop owners surge forth, sticking several of their wares in my face, I literally run back to our car, they chase me, the onslaught is so intense that I require assistance to get my door shut.
Padraic had to get out and shoulder one of them out of the way so I could close the door. This tout still hadn’t given up and runs in the vehicles wake shouting "wait wait three pieces for eight hundred rupees". I take a deep breath and try to relax.
India is THE worst place in the world for aggressive touts even surpassing Egypt.
Yesterday was approximately my 44th day since arriving in India and was
also my 44th birthday I cant say it was much of a birthday being so far away from my loved ones but at least I was able to complete a work out, get truly clean and eat some beef (probably buffalo) for the first time in about six weeks.
Even with Padraic's company it wasn’t the most pleasant of days. We checked out of our previous hotel at 9am moved our luggage to the Lemon Tree Resort which was a miracle in itself as it was a nightmare to get into the place, it took one visit, two emails and two phone calls just to make a reservation, and depending on who I spoke to the place was full or not. This is India.
It was then time to visit some of the local sites in and around Aurangabad beginning with the Bibi-Ka-Maqbara a mausoleum built by the son of Aurangzeb in honour of his mother, apparently he planned to build another Taj but the emperor refused to spend the money, so instead of being finished in marble it was done in lime mortar instead and became known as the Poor man’s Taj. Still the building, despite its
lack of maintenance and the old rusted scaffolding clinging to its sides was well worth a look.
From here we visited Aurangabad's cave temples, not a patch on Ellora or Ajanta but still interesting and more importantly deserted so we had the ten caves spread over two sites to ourselves. These caves were built around the time Ellora was commencing and are all Buddhist; there were also some nice views of 'the poor man's Taj' from the hilltop. There were five people here one was working while four sat in the shade watching, the one that was working asked us for money as he claimed it was hard work. This is India.
From here it was onto Daulatabad the 12th century ruined hilltop fortress, the first thing you see on approach is that the mountain has been sheared off on all sides and looks like a huge square of Cadbury chocolate with some ruins on top. As usual at these places we were pounced upon by touts as we climbed from the vehicle, they just do not understand the word NO even though they understand everything else you say. Eventually they fell away and we entered the city.
In 1328 the Delhi Sultan Tughluq decided he would march his capital eleven hundred kilometres from Delhi to Daulatabad only to realise there wasn’t enough water to sustain the city so he marched them all back again. Only in India.
It was stinking hot at this site so we decided not to climb to the top, but we visited the temples checked out the beautifully cast canon (six different metals were used) on the tower and crossed the moat before entering a tunnel to visit the Chini Mahal where a Hydrabadi king was held captive for twelve years until his death. Then the usual annoyance began, kids started swarming me, idiots started trying to photograph me and my memory card in my camera was full so, I left followed by a flock of idiots till I reached the sanctuary of the car. It was then back to our new hotel for some lunch before enjoying the rest of my birthday, lazing, eating and drinking.
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