We headed to Aurangabad, another city in Maharashtra. There I would visit the Ellora and Ajanta Caves.
We finally arrived at Ajanta around 1:30 pm, and the caves closed at 5:00 pm on Monday's. This would make the visit a fast one. We followed the line of cars to park, and were being redirected to turn around and park somewhere else. Well in India, this just means argue a little until they let you past, which is what happened. Our tiny little Tata, made its way through some of the tightest spaces I could ever imagine. We arrived at a section of the parking lot where everyone was selling maps of the caves. The driver mentioned something about looking for a tour guide (I gathered this by hearing the word American), and after having 2 cars move around a parking spot was available. Within a few moments, I was introduced to "Old Man," and we were walking quickly. Luckily he spoke English, and was telling me that he had a short cut for me. Bharat was following, and I kept turning around to make sure he was there. Bharat was not a fan of walking, so when he finally caught up, I made sure to let him know that I wanted him to come with me.
After I left "Old Man" I was then turned over to "Shop 98." These gentleman were family members I later found out, and I would assume they do this to make money. Find foreigners and take them to the caves. It was a really nice walk, and the lines to be transported to the caves was at least a 40 minute wait.
Let me try to break down what's happening. No one can drive to the caves directly. You need to take a shuttle there, or walk. I followed a couple locals through some shops "tourist traps" before we were walking along the road the buses would travel. We started hiking up a hill (Bharat was loving this), and came across a bunch of monkeys in the trees (pretty cool) and then back to the road. At this point, I was feeling special because I thought "Shop 98" was just helping me out. Then I decided to ask, how much for this? I gave him 250 rupes, about $5.00. When we reached the top, he told me that he would see me afterwards. I was very confused...(When I returned back to the car, "Shop 98" was waiting for me right at the entrance of the shops, and asked me to help out his family again because he helped me out. I made it easy, and bought a few things. Funny thing - as I was entering "Shop 98's" shop, an American couple was just leaving after going through the same thing).
Upon reaching the caves entrance to buy a ticket, I began to get a little nervous. This whole time, I have been use to so many people in such a small space. Even the parking, it was intense, and the walk here...interesting. Now, I am waiting in another line with more people paying no intention to who is where in line. The idea of easily getting a ticket (every foreigner has to pay a lot more than Indians) to see some caves, was soon turned into a tense cluster of vacationers. You see, this weekend that I decided to travel was the holiday weekend for Ramadan. Everyone had off on this Monday.
Below are some pictures from the caves at Ajanta and Ellora:
Ajanta caves, excavated between the 2nd century B.C. and the 6th century A.D. are renowned for Buddhist paintings and Ellora caves spanning the period between the 5th and 11th A.D. comprise of Buddhist monasteries, and temples of the Hindu and Jain faiths (Mittal Publications).