Imagining Cave Men and Women
Trip Start Dec 29, 2009
27Trip End Apr 30, 2010
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Where I stayed
Hotel Tirupati Lodging
You get out of bed at 6am, pack your bag, get forced to eat something ("just something small, chai, banana, some coconut, ok take some orange too, and are you sure you don’t want little toast or something for the road…?"), and head to the bus. You get on a 2 hour bumpy bus (after multiple confusions of which bus goes where and where exactly your big bags are supposed to fit), get to the next city, then walk for 20 minutes with everything on you, and then get on a 2 hour train. And that’s when the fun begins… you now have 10 hours in Bangalore until your next train – so you drop your bags off at the train cloak room, and start walking the city (for 5 hours, without ever finding the cool part of town!)
Now the good news in all of this is that on the realllly long train ride we splurged on 2AC class (just to see how it was…) – yes baby, 2AC! In short it means that you have room to actually sit in bed vs. just lay down, the temperature is controlled, you share a bathroom with only 50 people vs. the usual 100, you get a pillow and a blanket (some holes, some stains, but fresh fresh clean clean), and that you get to see a whole different part of the Indian population (not necessarily a better or worse thing, just very different). We shared our car with a young man living in Bangalore who was on his way up North for his arranged marriage wedding. Just fascinating – how natural and normal it is for a modern boy working in high tech (he actually prefers it, he says it’s a lot of work to find a wife otherwise), his excitement, but at the same time also the nervousness and worries. It was all very innocent and real and sweet, just another fraction of a life we get a glimpse into in India
We arrived in Aurangabad in the evening and headed to the guest house that we made our reservation at - hoping for the best. Well, hopes were dashed at the craphole we started our stay at. No bedbugs or fleas, but ewwww! We dropped our bags, and immediately went in search of a new place and successfully booked it for the following nights. First impression of the city was not amazing – just another loud, dusty, dirty city.. But we came with a specific mission in mind – to see the famous historical sites nearby – so Aurangabad would do as a pretty good base.
First we visited Daulatabad Fort (aka, the Impenetrable Fortress). An amazing fortress, it was built in the 14th Century to protect the then-capital, Deogiri (which became the capital under Muhammad bin Tughluq, who forcibily moved the entire population of Delhi here, for two years, before it was abandoned due to lack of water). It was designed with amazing detail and engineering feats that are beyond comprehension for that time. It is full of 90 degree turns to slow down invaders, splits/circles in narrow pitch black under ground walkways designed to confuse and scare the enemy, and tunnels reeking of bat guano into which fire balls and waters were thrown to kill the enemyhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daulatabad.
The next day we caught a bus to Ellora, a World Heritage Site known for its ancient caves that represent the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The 34 "caves", which are more like structures excavated out of the vertical face of a mountain, were created and used by three different religious groups. Buddhist, Hindu and Jain rock cut temples and monasteries were built here. We have pictures of a bunch but the one most note-worthy to us is cave #16, called the Kailasanatha, which is considered to be the centerpiece of Ellora. It is a huge temple complex full of multi-level buildings, sculptures, and wall carvings, and was somehow all carved out of one single rock from the top down. Apparently it is twice as big as the area of the Parthenon in Athens, so you can imagine… And back to dorkiness, there’s actually a lot to learn about these caves – check it out here: http://www.indiasite.com/maharashtra/aurangabad/ellora.html.
We spent the rest of the time in Aurangabad the city. We did what we do best and wandered around town, found a cool area called Nirala Bazaar (unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, not mentioned by Lonely Planet), went through “Old Town” – a largely Muslim and fascinatingly different area of the city, and visited the local Bibi Ka Maqbara (also called Poor Man’s Taj Mahal) – which is a low cost (all relative of course) replica of the famous structure in Agra
And in between “sight-seeing” we spent time in the busy budget-hotel and restaurant area (where we stayed), munching on great Chinese soups and REALLY spicy Indian food (note to self, again, never order medium-spice in India, especially not day after day after day), chatting with random people on the street, and waiting for our train out of there to continue with our trip up North – about which we have a whole new story, in the next entry.
Bye for now…