Waving goodbye to cosmopolitan Mumbai, we took our first long-distance train to Aurangabad, a city of 800,000+/- and 350km west of old Bombay. By Indian standards this is short travel (8 hours!)
We came here because I was really keen to visit the Ellora and Ajanta Caves – call it an excursion! And what a trip it’s been. 8 hours train, 7 hours car, finished with an overnight train 9 hours back to Mumbai. That’s a damn lot of travelling in three days. It’s also something that we won’t be doing again. Slow travel is the way 🙂
Don’t get me wrong, the sights were astounding, but the exhaustion and tiredness your body endures whilst doing it puts a slight negative on the whole experience. That’s why when anyone says to us ‘you’re going to love travelling around, seeing the sights’, we have to remind them that we don’t intend on going from one place to the next, see this, do that, and so on… This trip to Aurangabad is the shortest time we will spend anywhere on our 6-month journey. This is also the reason why we are staying in major cities/towns of South India/Asia, as more interesting things are happening on your doorstep, on the streets, rather than 300-400km down the road. People will always ask, ‘you must have a lot of money to travel’, but whilst you do need it if you want to see every touristy/Lonely Planet/10 Things You Must Do In India place mentioned, you can get by on £15-20 a day easily in the city. More hidden gems. These 72 hours will likely be the most expensive of our trip and we’re in a place that no one has ever heard of before!
Saying that, we both loved visiting the Ellora and Ajanta Caves, as well as observing the suburban, almost rural, folk of India. It’s not as easy to just walk and pop to the shop, as you are constantly stared at and approached by hawkers, cabbies etc. This can make you feel incredibly anxious, for a woman at least. You don’t know if the look they are giving you is one of intrigue or disgust (!) Which is why my advice to any woman travelling India and other parts of Asia, is don’t show too much flesh. Obvious I know, but in doing so you are almost asking to be judged and looked at. Steve had to tell me yesterday to wear a shawl because I was showing my arms and neck, I didn’t think anything of it, but then you see what local women are wearing and you realise it’s best to follow suit. I’m all for womens rights and wearing what you want to wear, but in places like Aurangabad you are going to be stared at regardless of what you wear. I’d rather not give them an excuse to stare even deeper. All the minority of course, the majority of men here are friendly and caring.
Just 8 days in and I’m finding my voice a bit more, trying not to leave everything to The Man to do! Once you do it enough things become easier. Stay polite, don’t lose your temper, and remain calm. Three things that should be your mantra in India. The majority of people we have come across are helpful and kind people, a few can be very pushy and take you somewhere to buy stuff from their ‘cousin/brother/uncle’ when you have no intention to buy anything, i.e. our cab driver in Aurangabad! He ended up being a great guy, but would constantly suggest another restaurant of his cousin’s. A few deep breaths a stern ‘no thanks’ and the awkward moment passes.
Been lovely to see boys flying makeshift kites in the street, usually just pieces of plastic all dancing around the sky like crazed birds.
Ajanta Caves: Buddhist caves built between the 6th century BC and 7-8th AD, left hidden in a jungle until a British adventurer stumbled upon them whilst hunting for tigers back in the 1800’s. Incredible sight and in beautiful surroundings. Get there early before the hordes!
Ellora Caves: Buddhist, Hindi, and Jain caves dating from the 7th century AD. Made up of 37 caves with all different types of carvings and temples this is a must visit (I’m sounding like the tour guides now!). Again, like Ajanta, get there early and you can get a real feel of the place and perhaps chant some mantra or just watch the world go by, loved it here.
Bibi-qa-Maqbara: built 60 years after the Taj Mahal (1679) as a mausoleum for a mother, this lavish building is often called the ‘poor mans Taj’ which I think doesn’t do it justice. It costs 200 rupees to get in and if there wasn’t filming going on, another Bollywood danceathon, we would have stayed longer. Amazing structure, beautiful gardens and lovely hidden parts for you to take sanctuary in the shade (see below). We were stopped a few times for selfies with Indian tourists, they love a picture with a Westerner.
Daulatabad (Devgiri) For: featured image, the most awe inspiring thing ive seen so far.
Green Leaf Restaurant: first proper ‘curry’ of our trip, all good so far 😉 Paneer tikka was deelish.
Kreme ‘n’ Krunch Cafe: continental food, i.e. another pizza, they surprisingly do a good pizza here.