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  • Day26

    Ellora Caves

    February 9 in India ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    Despite being a city that probably nobody has ever heard of, Aurangabad is semi on the tourist circuit in India. Outside of town are two sets of cave temples that are quite famous, and it was those we'd come to see. The closer of the two is Ellora Caves, and we bravely decided to get public transport here. After a tuktuk to the bus station, we had a rough idea of the bus to catch - but of course all the signs and announcements are in Hindi! It then becomes a game of picking the best person to ask; someone who'll understand questions, be willing to help, and isn't looking to profit from your interaction. In the end I picked a young guy who looked like he was heading to work as a programmer. He pointed out the right platform and made sure we got on when the bus arrived which was nice!

    When the bus arrived it was complete pandemonium, with pushing and shoving and a new trick I hadn't seen before - people throwing their bags through the window to reserve a seat! Funnily enough we didn't get a seat, but the trip was only 45 minutes so we survived. Better than Sri Lankan buses to be honest.

    So the Ellora cave complex is basically a large group of cave temples (36 in all), from the three key religions in the area. Some are Buddhist, some are Hindu, and some are Jain. The caves have all been hewn out of the rock over centuries by monks and the like, and are full of carvings of deities, religious scenes and so on. They were actually really incredible to see, and we were both really impressed.

    The highlight is the colossal temple #16, a Hindu temple carved from a single stone. It's considered be the world's largest monolith, and I could easily believe it. You have to keep reminding yourself that not only was this dug out of a rock, all of the sculptures and carvings were dug out too. Crazy stuff.

    Had a quick bite of lunch then got the shuttle bus up to the Jain temples, which were on the same site but a couple of kilometres away. These were likewise very ornately carved and intricate, and also connected internally which was really interesting and something we hadn't seen before. Was a lot of fun exploring, even if we did end up running out of time slightly before the shuttle bus left.

    Getting back to Aurangabad was a bit of an ordeal! We waited at the bus stop for an hour while several buses went past - apparently express services! They stop here outbound but not inbound for some reason. But nobody else would stop or even come close. Eventually we and a few other tourists waiting nearby gave in to the private minivan guys who'd been hanging around and trying to sell us tickets for the last hour. I wasn't keen on it, but we were also sick of waiting.

    So we all piled in, thirteen of us into the 9 seater van. He stopped to let one guy hop off, and then five more got in! I was on a bench type thing in the rear right corner and there was a guy sort of in front and above me but not on me. I'm not quite sure where he was actually existing - he seemed to be floating in space! Though the worst one was the guy who sat in the driver's seat - who then got the driver sitting on his lap! Yes, our driver drove about halfway back while sitting on someone's lap. It was okay until he started going offroad, dodging trees and the like to get around queues of traffic. Yikes.
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