Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Ellora and Ajanta Caves

After Nasik I headed to Aurangabad, the town closest to Ellora and Ajanta Caves. There's no direct road that I could find on maps or anywhere else. I did find news of protests at some new tollway that goes to Aurangabad however, no idea if I went over that. Once I got on my bike the GPS was routing me through a 100km detour into a town to the north, but on the map I could see the roads going there. So it was time to try and navigate by guessing! 

I had some fun leaving the main roads and riding past lots of confused looking people. There was some rain the night before so I was wary about ending up in mud that day, luckily everything was sealed though. Once I got into Manmad I found a surprisingly large city for the middle of nowhere. Even the small cities here have millions of people in them. I found the reason for this place to exist was the massive natural gas plants just nearby which I had to ride past.

Before getting to Aurangubad I stopped at...

Ellora Caves

Now after a long break from touts this is where they started again. And just the people in general. At the ticket window everyone was barging in to get their ticket and pushing me out of the way, I pushed through eventually and got my ticket. Then outside the ticket office are heaps of touts trying to sell guidebooks to the caves. 

I told one of them no immediately but he kept going on about this book so I said no again, and told him I was not going to buy anything from him. Then he looks down and says ok. So then he pulls out a different book and starts asking me if I want to buy that. I told him no, and asked him if he understood, and then got him to repeat the word no with me... That was just outside the gate. 

Inside another person seemed to be walking with a group of people, I thought he was then, he asked me a bunch of usual Indian questions ('what's your name', 'where are you from', 'why did you come here', 'where are you going'). Then finally after a minute of this inane conversation he says he has a restaurant nearby that I can eat at... THANKS FOR LETTING ME KNOW.

Yet another one saw me and he had something to sell, as soon as he started talking I said no, then he paused, started again and I said no over him again. This went on a few times, he laughed and then said OK no talking today.

Anyway, on to the caves instead of the touts...

These caves were dug out around 1000AD, there are over 30 of them and they're divided in to Hindi and Budhist and Jain caves. I rode up to the Jain caves first

Carved out of a cliff!

Inside one of the caves here.

Inside the big one. All this carved from the rock that was here.

Another cave nearby. This one was a bit more impressive.

Carving inside.

The columns left behind when they dug out the rest.

In the center of this cave.

Looking over to some of the others.
Then I rode back down to the main parking lot and visited the biggest of this group.

Yep, this one. They dug it out from the top leaving behind this temple in the middle.

Inside the big gate, this really does look like a Halo level... 

More of that temple in the center.

You can see how much rock they removed, and then created this space underneath.

More rock vs. temple.
After this cave it was too hot to walk around in my motorbike gear so I got back on the bike and headed through the wineries to Aurangabad. I found a decent place to stay at Shree Maya Hotel for 750Rs/night, this will be the cheapest place with air-conditioning that I found in India. After I checked in there was some brief heavy rain. Lucky I wasn't caught riding in that.

The next morning I checked out and headed up to...

Ajanta Caves

I packed up all my gear with the intention of staying near to the caves. However, once I got there I found this a little different to what I expected. As usual there is the Indian tradition of trying to extract as much money out of you as possible. You're directed to a parking area 4km away from the actual caves, to get into this area there is a 5Rs fee for the bike, and a 10Rs "Amenities Fee" (don't know what that one is for). Once I parked I had a few people come over and start watching me pack up everything on my bike, as is usual, but today I was annoyed with it so I told them they don't have to watch everything I do. One of the Indian guys spoke and then the rest left... Rare. This guy would keep asking random usual Indian questions and as I was leaving he would walk by me through all the shops you're forced to walk though when going to the bus to the caves. Of course, this guy turned out to own a shop that sold crystals... Urgh.

I found a quiet spot out the back of the shops where there wasn't much foot traffic and had a drink. All the while this guy was watching me, I think he was calling out to other touts to come over an harass me.

Then the next part of the Ajanta Caves money extraction. Once you get to the area where the bus leaves from they check you have the amenity fee ticket. Then you go line up for the bus. After a half hour wait in the sun it was my turn to get on the bus, and wouldn't you know it, a 12Rs one way fee... And at the other end near the caves you pay for the actual world heritage ticket to get in, another 250Rs for a foreigner. I got another drink at the restaurant here (overpriced by 10Rs compared to the other side of the bus journey) before heading over to the caves.

And here are some. In this bend in the gorge they've carved these caves into the cliffs in 1 BC.  Some of them were made slightly after this, but the one in the middle is apparently the oldest.

Inside cave number 1, the painted ceiling.

The painted walls and the colums inside. Also the pigment safe lighting, no flash is allowed in here, yet people still do it.

The back of cave 1.

Another wider view.

More painting.

This is cave number 2 I think. Each of the caves with a sign out the front you have to remove your shoes for. I was wearing my motorbike boots which are not the best for taking on an off. I elected to skip some of the caves that required it.

Painting on the outside of cave number 2.

Carvings on the inside.

The back area of this cave. Which probably has a proper name but I'm sticking with back area for now.

Another of the caves along the way.

Inside a smaller cave, shoes allowed.

One of the walls in the smaller cave.

This one has a window!

Inside, it was big. All this was cut into the cliff 2012+ years ago...

Suspiciously old elephant, and a suspiciously new elephant... 

Another view looking back out from half way.

The walkway along the caves. There are signs up everywhere to say walk on the cave side of the path in the monsoons...

I wasn't allowed in this one with shoes, got this from the door.

Smaller cave insides.

Another no shoe cave.

This one was unfinished. That's how they do it all then.

And the last one in this set of caves, the biggest!


Just on the sides of those columns.

A 360degree panorama of the area.
And that was it for the caves, buy this time the motorbike gear I was wearing was completely soaked and it wasn't raining... I headed back towards the bus so I can get back to my bike (another 12Rs trip).

When I was back at the carpark I noticed some grey clouds approaching. I figured now that I've seen the caves there's no point staying here, costs too much to get into it anyway. I headed back to Aurangubad back to the same cheap hotel and beat the rain by about twenty minutes.

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