Monday, May 19, 2008

Trip to Aurangabad

Visit of Ajenta and Ellora caves



What an interesting yet challenging trip!

Aurangabad used to be an important city in Maharashtra. Its current named was in honour of a ruler that made it was it is.

I had the chance to visit the Ajenta caves, Ellora caves, the 'Taj of the Deccan'. I also had a fantastic Marathi Thali with one of my friends.

However, the transportation nearly destroyed the joy of travel.

Bus on Friday, from Andheri to Aurangabad. I arrived more than one hour late, and it could have been critical enough to make us miss our bus to Ajenta. I travelled with one of my friends, who took a better bus.
Thus, on Saturday, we had a quick hotel check-in, breakfast, then arrival in Ajenta. We spent a few hours with a tour guide from India Tourism. My travel partner and myself did some hardcore negocitating, and ended up leaving with a few souvenirs paid at a reasonable rate.
In the evening, Marathi Thali at one of my friend's house. Hmm... mango pulp, done with the mangoes growing in their backyard! And the mango chatney. And spicy lady fingers.
And to crown it all, some pure Aurangabadi pan. It is said to help digestion, and it is true. I was an amazing meal. Fantastic.
On Sunday, we packed early to check out (to avoid paying a second day) and walked to church. The service was 90% marathi, and it was painful. Seriously. Very very much so. Yet, their love was apparent. They gave us flowers, welcomed us with big hugs, and the brothers did their best to speak to us in the bit of English they knew. It wasn't great, not was it very edifying(a hot hall for 2 hours in an unknown tongue, with the passage references given to you in English only), but it was obvious that I was still in the Kingdom of God, and I wish I had the courage to invide my friend's family for translation. I'm sure that many of these guys have inspiring stories to tell.
At 12:30, our AC taxi picked us up, and the tour guide brought us to Ellora. He was very knowledgeable, spoke flawless English, and just made you enjoy your time there. The caves' sculpting was amazing, and the major Hindu cave was breathtaking. We are talking about a huge temple, finely ornamented, chiseled in one crazy huge chunck of rock! No joints, no mortar, nothing. Just rock.
In the evening, we saw the Taj of the Deccan and then visited a saree shop, where they hand-make sarees. Some will take at least one month to be realized. Wow!
Food at the MTDC hotel, and then wait at the train station. Our midnight train arrived past 2AM, and I slept on the platform (not a bench, the platform itself) while my partner was chatting with people and watching the luggage. Once in the train, the problems got worst. For some reason, many people had reservation for the same seat... My name wasn't on the conductor's list, neither was the name of the guy occupying my seat (actually, bed). There were people on the floor everywhere, stacked as they could. I opted to sleep on the floor too, with no blanket, having my luggage as pillow. If I moved my head a bit, I would wake up a kid sleeping nearby. Sometimes, a hand would end up on my rear end (I would've freaked out being a girl in this setting), but I did sleep up to 6AM or so. My travelling partner was no so lucky. He was stuck with no space surrounded with people talking and couldn't find anywhere to lay down before dawn. We arrived in Mumbai in the middle of rush hour, just to make things better.
I don't know how Indian Railways managed to mess up the booking for this train so badly, but they did. Now, I just have to find out how to complain to the ombudsperson (or similar office) and get a ticket and an apology.

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