Our Last Stop in "Real" India Stop

Trip Start Aug 03, 2008
Trip End Aug 18, 2009

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Flag of India  , Maharashtra,
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

As we left the Ajanta caves, we got our packs back on and went searching for the public bus to Aurangbad. Bill thought a friendly boy was pointing to a bus and saying that one went to Aurangbad. But then as we approached the two buses, he pointed and said, "No, you have to take taxi." Bill enraged told him to get lost and we made it to the street and a packed bus was stopping and ready to let us on. However, with our luggage, I was holding my bag on the top stair as I steadied myself on the stair below unsure if we'd get any seats for this journey of at least 2 hours because in India, you really didn't know how long it would take. Then the ticket guy called me over to give me a seat, but after I pushed as shoved my way, I found myself standing in front of a guy that the ticket guy was telling me is my seat. Finally, he said, "Next stop." That made more sense as I wasn't about to sit in this guy's lap. Well, when the next stop came, a good number of people got off and Bill and I were able to get seats together in the front so we didn't even have to move our bags. Maybe our luck was turning around in India transportation....

We arrived in town and picked the MTDC Holiday Resort which we later realized was a government run establishment. My only real complaint with this hotel accommodation was that their checkout was 8:00 am. I mean I've seen 10 and thought that was early but 8. They said we could leave around 9 no problem. Do they realize I'm not a morning person especially on travel days where we have a bus in the middle of the afternoon. But nonetheless, after Bill looked at one more place, we ended up staying in the far back corner of this hotel next to a locked gate. So every time we wanted to leave we had to walk to the other side.

Since we knew we had to get up early the next morning, we decided to sleep in a bit, but around 9 all the power went out. So we had to take quick showers so the water heater wouldn't run out as there was no power to heat more water. As we went across the street to grab some breakfast; the restaurant we ate at the night before, we thought had breakfast but nothing on the menu was of a breakfast nature so we went a couple of doors down. Since the power was out, our waiter couldn't make much and of course, no fruit in this country even though it's on the menu. He said he couldn't do toasted sandwiches but when it looked like we might leave, he said he could. Later I saw him take a sandwich press in he hands out of the restaurant probably to a place with a generator. What we didn't understand was, he does have a gas stove so couldn't he toast the sandwich in a pan? But I'm starting to think that Indians only know one way of doing things and must do it that way.

So after breakfast, we headed out to the Ellora caves. It was a looooooooonnnnnnngggg auto rickshaw drive. He stopped to get gas, and after that point every few minutes the car would die, and he'd have to run to the back to get it started again. He response was, "Bad gas." We finally made it there, but where expecting a similar setup to Ajanta but were sadly mistaken. At Ajanta we had worn our tougher sandals thinking we'd have to go walking through caves, but most of the caves made you take them off and so it was trying strapping them off and on. Therefore, we wore flip flops today which was a huge mistake as this time we were climbing up and around and doing loads of walking. We got to the caves around 1 and left around 6:30, only really taking one long break. The rest of the time we were walking and climbing all around these expansive grounds. From first sight, you could see the entire grounds of Ajanta, here you could go one direction for caves 1-16 and then come back to this center point and continue to 17-34. We spent most of our time in the first half as they were the more impressive caves and we weren't yet tired. The most impressive cave is 16 which is why the main parking area is right in front of it. It's really more of a huge temple carved out of the stone than it still being a cave. But there's also a cliff that surrounds it, so you can get impressive views. The first 12 caves are Buddhists, the middle set are Hindu, and the last set are Jain caves (a strict sect of Buddhism). These caves only contained statues and carvings unlike the paintings found in Ajanta. Many of the carvings were very impressive, and there was one cave in the Buddhist section that when you stood in the middle of it, you could here your echo with great acoustics.

Then by the time we made it back to cave 16, you could easily spend an hour just going around this temple and admiring all the carvings and the structure as there we many passageways to go. And so when we left, we realized it was getting later in the day that we expected. So we rush through the next section to realize the final section is still a good walk, but we make it over there. By this time, I was just ready to be done sensory overload from all the statues. But we made it through the last section as we realized that you could take a auto rickshaw to this section. Though all the ones in front of this cave were engaged so we had to hike it back to find ours and sure enough his reply is, "Yes, rickshaws can go to cave 34." That would have been good info in the beginning of the day as we could have started in that direction. But oh well, it's time to sit and feel the bumpy bumpy ride back on this pothole infested road as it takes an hour in a half to go 34 km. I miss the roads of the USA...

And so from the all the walking and the bouncing in the rickshaw, we decided to take it easy and order some room service and watch some tv. We could on average in India find three English stations, one news CNN India, and two movie channels STAR and AXN.  For once, we could order Tandoori style food and the restaurant actually made the food. The problem came when Bill handed the guy a 500 note for a 260 bill.  He was "suppose to" bring change back.  We finished eating and an hour later, Bill asked, "Where's my change?"  By that time, I'd already forgotten.  Bill proceeded to bring back the empty plates in search of his change but returned empty handed as the waiter was still "trying" to get the change.  About 30 mins later, the guy finally appeared.  And slowly he pulled out 100 thinking or more hoping Bill would forget how much change he was suppose to get.  Slowly another 100 came out and this went on until Bill got so fend up, the waiter went away smiley and giddy with a 10 note tip.  I was glad I didn't have to try and fetch the change.

Then we get up bright and early to check out by 9.  Bill wants breakfast but my stomach can't handle more Indian food, but I accompany him to our hotel restaurant.  He tries to order a cheese omelet, but they don't have cheese and try to push the masala omelet.  He finally orders toast and a scrambled eggs.  Ten minutes later the waiter comes back holding the menu saying, "We can't do scrambled eggs, not possible, but have masala omelet."  At that moment I thought Bill's head was going to explode as I picture one of those cartoons with the steam coming out of his ears, as he made it very clear we were leaving. He just kept muttering, "I can't believe they can make a masala omelet and not scrambled eggs. They probably don't even know how to make them..."

And so, off to the fortress of Dauktabad we went. The book described the fortress as requiring a 45 minute walk up to see the very top of the fortress but a rewarding view. I wasn't excited about the up part but took my ipod to help the journey. We made our way with Indians trying to tell us which way to go and make sure not to miss any dungeons and fake tour guides trying to get us to go up the darkest passage way to the top that was made so intruders couldn't get in. Though we made it to the top following behind slow Indians as we went through a few dark areas that were built for tourists and we just used a flashlight. There were many defensive areas built into this fort so outside forces couldn't penetrate to the inside. The only problem was, they missed the key important one, hire good soldiers as the fort was infiltrated by paying off a guard. Money talks as they say.

At the top of the fort, we met a fellow Californian (well North), Megan. She was traveling on her own for a bit after volunteering in the South of India. She had just graduated with a major in Art History. Bill made himself scarce so I could talk to another female for awhile. Though two Indians tried to take a picture with her and she refused, and so they settled for Bill as they put their arms around him. You can see the expression on his face in the picture as he thought, "Why me?" We made our way down to the bottom as Megan was still off to see Ellora and we were off to our bus to Pune. Megan said she was going to meet her mom in Delhi, I tried not to scare her too much but I'm sure she'll stay in New Delhi unlike us...

Our bus ride turned from a 4 hour journey into a 6 hour journey and this was the "deluxe" bus that really didn't make any stops. We wondered how long it would have taken in a public bus with all their stops. Bill calculated that the bus went about 27km an hour. Though we realized as we drove further that we were starting to reach an area of more civilization and the feel of a bigger city. Finally, we arrived and went to stay at Samrat Hotel based on Lonely Planets recommendation.

The hotel was quite expensive and didn't even include AC, but we were too tired to look for another place as it was much later than we had expected. We ordered room service and it was the food was almost icicles by the time we got. We really didn't see much in this city expect for the first time in 3 months, I was able to have subway for lunch though of course, they were out of chips and cookies as this is India but nonetheless it was a nice break. And that same night, I had Bill order Papa John's and they delivered to the hotel. It was great to have American food again.

The only excitement was from the hotel itself. The first night, we had so many people following us around trying to do things for us that we didn't need just for a tip. I ended up carrying my pack up five flights of stairs because Bill took off in a huff after they wouldn't just give us our key. And then that night the door must have rung (yes, they have doorbells for hotel rooms) 4 or 5 times with guys just checking if we needed anything. I think Bill scared the last one, so no one came after that.

When we arrived back from walking around and getting subway, Bill set the our backpack on the ground and he went to go get some supplies as I took it upstairs. As I started to look at my hands, I noticed blue powder all over them and then I saw it was on the floor and finally realized it came from the bottom of the backpack. I used the bathroom floor towel to help try to clean it up. When Bill returned, he realized the powder was from the front steps of the hotel and went down to tell them. They sent someone up to clean up the mess, and everything seemed fine.

It was right when Bill was ordering Papa John's that someone rang our door and in his broken English I understood him to say that the hotel was charging us for the towel that I used to clean up the mess because they couldn't get the stains out. But I wasn't quite sure, and the guy could see that I was starting to get angry, he said he'd come back. It was later that the phone rang and they told Bill that yes in fact they were charging us. Well, that was the end of it as Bill returned 30 minutes later with a red face.

He irately yelled at the manager who was trying to calm him down. He told him that he was going to bill the manager for the backpack and the clothes that had this powder on it. And while he was yelling he even persuaded some other Americans to go find another hotel as he explained what they were charging us for and added, "And for the price you're paying, the beds aren't even soft." And out they went, and so, the manager tried to calm him down even more. Eventually, Bill was suppose to get some sort of discount and he paid the bill just to be done as we had an early train. They couldn't print an receipt out until after midnight and they were suppose to have it ready in the morning. But in the morning, they still didn't have it printed and it was taking way too long. So much for Indian customer service.

Turns out that the powder was a Rangoli for their Dawali festival, go to Mumbai blog for more info...

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