I look at a lot of old, run down things during my trip, and that’s not just a reference to pictures of my father (HEYYOOO!). From forts to religions to ruins to traditions, it seems that most things I take in these days have a “made on” stamp of hundreds to thousands of years ago. These past few days have been no exception as I spent the last 48 hours hiking up and down the many stairs and peeking into the dozens of caves of Ellora and Ajanta.
By far the most impressive was Ellora, with its gigantic Kailasa Temple silently demanding your attention and admiration. Intricate carvings abound, and it’s easy to see the care that was put into the 150-year construction period of these cherished structures. I poked around these ruins, inspecting each dark corner, running my hands along the cold, smooth stone. I made a friend or two, and was gifted with a headscarf (For which I might have been a little too excited to receive. Pretty sure my “wow, for me?” echoed through all of Maharashtra. It’s a scarf, bro, settle down.) I decided to take a shared jeep home, which turned into an unexpected tour of the local villages and the tasting of still unknown foods. (What is this? I’m sorry, what? I can’t understand you, one more time? Ok I’ll just eat it. Mmm gross. Thanks.)
(Above: Look at me, being so cultural)
The next day found me in Ajanta, and forgive me if I was a bit underwhelmed. I think it’s only fair to say that I went in offseason, though. Evidently monsoon season is the time to come, as the hills are alive and green, and the river and seven waterfalls are flowing at full strength. Still, it was a peaceful experience to sit on the view point, the horseshoe shaped cave line laid out before me. I sat there for a few hours in silence, reading my book and occasionally chatting with touts that came by to push their wares (No, I don’t want to buy a rock, but thanks for asking. Not from you or the thirteen guys that asked me first.) I ventured into the caves for an hour or so, witnessing one Buddha statue after another (How many Buddha caves does one really need, anyways? Evidently the answer is 26.) Ajanta is known for the well-preserved frescoes that can be found in many of the caves, and in truth, they were beautiful. I think I just expected a bit more.
I also spent an afternoon at Daulatabad Fort where I blindly made my way through bat infested passages, crossed wide, water filled moats and summited the highest peaks it had to offer. It was all very Game of Thrones-y. No Direwolf sightings, but I did make some friends who took me on a drive through the city of Aurangabad to see Bibi-qa-Maqbara (Also known as the poor man’s Taj Mahal.) and other local sights. One thing I was really impressed with was the amount of knowledge young people had about their city’s history. It is a sense of pride I’m not used to in San Jose. Hell, I can barely tell you how to get onto Highway 280, let alone the cultural significance of…of…see, I can’t even think of anything cultural in San Jose. The HP Pavillion? Point made, I think.)
(Above: A small sample of the bats of Daulatabad Fort. Creepy. Very Creepy.)
After a wonderful dinner with a Canadian couple that pretty much epitomized the stereotype of Canadians being warm, kind and polite, I’m now on my way to Bandhavgarh to search out some wild tigers. I read a lot of Calvin and Hobbes as a kid, so I’ve prepared for this moment. I just need to find a can opener for the tuna fish…