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Published: February 16th 2011
Booking a train in India is a rather interesting experience. If you book far enough ahead (weeks), you have a confirmed ticket – if not you are on the waitlist and as other passengers cancel, your wait number gets smaller. Often you don’t know if you actually have a confirmed seat until you arrive at the rain station and see your name on the seating plan. On this train, seats were numbered 1 to 5 across the first row, 6 to 10 on the next row etc, so our seats numbers of 50 and 51 were not together – both were window seats on either side of the compartment and one row apart. The train journey to Aurangabad took approx 6 hours and would have been very comfortable if the air conditioning hadn’t been so efficient – one light sweater each just wasn’t enough. We had brought along some samosas and briyani, but needn’t have bothered as the “train boys” circulated regularly with food and beverages. At one station we were able to buy pakhora.
As soon as we got off the train in Aurangabad, we were accosted by a fellow who “had a hotel”, just around the corner. Into his
Just one of many, entertaining us on the hike up to Daulatabad Fort
car, and out into the mess of traffic – cars, trucks and autorickshaws with a decent number of pedestrians thrown in. We liked the place (and were tired) although it appeared we had left the land of on demand hot water and toilet paper – although it was a flushing western style toilet.
Just when you think that India can’t deliver up any more fantastic monuments, you are hit with the double whammy of Daulatabad Fort and the caves at Ellora. We travelled the 30 km to Ellora by autorickshaw and the first stop was to visit the fort which was built on 200 m high rocky outcrop in the 12 th century. It is possible to climb to the bastion on the top – which we did in the heat of the day with no water- climbing up some twisting staircases in the dark and meeting a few bats. There were many school groups and somehow it seemed that we became the tourist attraction, getting our photos taken many times with the school children and adults. (It’s nice to be the tourist attraction when you’re the tourist. Monkey business and monkey posers you’d think they’d been watching the
refreshing pineapple on the descent
Three Stooges the way some of them where posing. Halfway back down we come across a teenager selling fresh sliced pineapple 4 thin slices for 20 Rs- ($.43) very expensive considering what things cost here but still worth it and appreciated.KD)
The Ellora Caves are a World Heritage site and were made over 5 centuries by Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks from 6000 AD to 1000 AD. The 34 caves are built along a 2km long escarpment. Words hardly express the ‘wow” factor as we visited a number of them, so hopefully some photos can do them justice. The most impressive of all is cave #16, the Kailasa Temple which is the world’s largest monolithic structure. Three trenches were bored into the cliff face and then the shape was released – 200,000 tonnes of rock were removed. At the same time, sections of rock were left in place for sculpting. The sheer immensity is unbelievable.
After a delicious lunch of malai kofta and cashew curry at a roadside eatery, we continued with the obligatory stop at a weaving “factory” to see a demonstration of Himroo weaving (cotton, silk and silver threads) and a visit to the Bibi-Qa-Maquara or
“baby Taj”. This is a copy of the Taj Mahal although a lot plainer and is the mausoleum for Rabia-ud-Daurani.
By the time we got back to our hotel we were quite grotty from the dust and diesel fumes of the rickshaw ride. We continue to be impressed (in a stunned kind of way) with the driving here, but I would like to know where they actually learn to drive like maniacs. which is the opposite of their very laid back nature. Back at our hotel to rinse the dust and grime away, a couple of observations come to mind – obviously water alone doesn’t get rid of road dust and why the heck do they provided white towels????
The caves at Ajanta are the other main attraction to see while in Aurangabad and unfortunately they were quite disappointing compared to Ellora. We hired a car and driver for the 105 km distance which took just over 2 hours. The roads were either excellent or horrid and there were a couple of small towns where traffic really bogged down. Great scenery though – cane sugar fields, bullocks carts carrying the cut cane, goats, cows, cotton being picked and
us the spectacle
School kids and us!!
sold in the towns.
The caves are cut into a steep face of a horseshoe shaped gorge and date from around 2 BC to 6 AD. The paintings on many of the walls are fairly well preserved although it was difficult to see in the gloom and due to the fact that railing kept us back from getting too close. Once again there were hordes of school groups who provided much entertainment for us – or maybe vice versa.
Returning to the parking lot, we walked through the tourist market which was one of the most aggressive that we have come across. I ended up getting a small stone Buddha head after being followed out into the car park and into our car by the seller!!!! (Cheap entertainment for $2 but we’ll need a fulltime porter to carry our bags soon- KD)
After a welcome beer, we made onward travel arrangements (overnight bus to Kohalpur) and enjoyed a vegetable mirch masala – basically a chilli chicken curry. Mmmm Mmmmm. Then back to the room to fall asleep amid train whistles and dogs barking.
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