Getting to Ajanta


Diary entry:  March 2012

I arrived in Aurangabad last night at 8pm expecting to be meeting up with my friend  arriving from  a flight out of Delhi. I noticed that the airport looked very quiet other then my small flight. After locating one of the airport managers, I discovered that there were no further flights, and found out that my friends flight was cancelled. The printout of the reservation was with my friend and all that I was able to pull up was the name of the hotel in my laptop organized itinerary. Luckily, walking out of the door there was a driver waiting and holding a sign with my friends name there to greet me.  I explained about his cancelled flight and hopped into a nicely air conditioned, newer car to take me to the hotel. With a bit of explanation to the front desk, I convinced them that even though the reservation was in  my friends name, I was with him and that his flight was cancelled and he would be arriving tomorrow. Success! My first room achieved.

The next morning, Steve learned that his airline completely cancelled the flight. When he asked why he was not informed, they claimed that they sent him a text. Mmmmhmm. He would not arrive for another day. I learned that a car to take me to the Ellora Caves would cost 2000 rupees which is roughly $40. Ridiculous! I would not be paying that on my own. The Ajanta Caves were 2-3 hours away, and for the day, a car and cost about 2500 Rupies or $50. I decided that maybe I would just try to go to the smaller and closer  Aurangabad caves which was only 6-8 kms north of where my hotel was. Talking to rickshaw drivers about the Aurangabad caves was like pulling teeth. I had to repeat the name AURANGABAD CAVES at least 3-4 times and then the drivers would have to pull in some stranger to help translate because their English was not computing. Finally I pulled out a map and pointed to exactly where I wanted to go, repeating the name AURANGABAD CAVES. It took awhile to sink in but eventually the first driver wanted 200 rupees one way. That is $4 and there is NO was it was that far.  It was only 6 kms from where I was. An easy 100 Rupees! My stubbornness persisted as I walked though flithy streets of Aurangabad looking for a rickshaw that would charge a reasonable price. I wandered dusty streets covered in garbage, homeless people begging for money, broken glass, homeless dogs and of course cow poop. One kid starting to follow me engaging in the hand to mouth action, and I stopped right off and gave a firm “NO”. This kid knew I meant business and turned straight away in the other direction.

A toothless filthy looking lady pointed at me and opened her mouth yelling out something in god knows what language then cackled a horse pointing her dirty finger at me. Another eye roll at this point. On I walked down the dirty street looking for a 100 rupee rickshaw to Aurangabad Caves. My poor feet realizing that the sandals I was wearing gave terrible blisters over long distances. I was starting to realize more then one difficulty in my plan. The English in Aurangabad was, so far, really the worst that I’ve seen of all my Indian destinations. If I could not possibly communicate the name Aurangabad Caves, my other immediate problem that I was starting to concern myself with was the hotel. What if I got to the caves and I couldn’t explain the name of my hotel to rickshaw drivers? In fact, I didn’t even know where on a map my hotel was. Nor did I have the hotel phone number or the address written down anywhere. My map of Aurangabad that I received from the Indian tourism commission at the airport was really really basic. We are talking a black and white photocopy of a general overview of the city with no names on streets and a few key things written on it. Literally a photocopy of a bunch of intersecting lines.

Just then a fellow from Chennai engaged me in the: “Where are you from? Where are you going? What do you do there?” Regular friendly street chat that so commonly comes up from complete strangers.

My adventures in Aurangabad revolved back to my hotel room. I would wait for my friend to arrive the day after and we would have an adventure getting to Ajanta caves.

The next day, our driver played cool Indian music and we wove in and out of oncoming traffic like a bat out of hell for about 3 hours straight through small poor rural towns and windy roads on edges of cliffs until reaching Ajanta, an UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE. It was truly an adventure getting there.

 

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