I woke up early as at 08:00 AM a driver would pick me up so we could head off to Jin’s hotel and pick him up. We had arranged to have a private driver take us wherever we wanted for the coming 2 days. Our main plan for today was to go to the Ellora Caves, one of the largest rock-cut-monastery-temple cave complexes in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An hour before I was due to get picked up I placed my breakfast order with the guy at the front desk. The only breakfast option they had was bread and butter. I let him know I needed to leave the hotel by 08:00 AM and he said it would take 30 minutes to prepare, after 35 minutes I headed down to see where my breakfast was as I am an exceptionally slow eater. It turned out that he still needed to go to the shop to get the bread and butter, I had actually also asked for a banana but he forgot about that. At 07:55 it was ready and I was handed a plate of 6 perfectly square pieces of processed, sugary white bread and block of butter. A few minutes later he actually personally brought my Chai to me so that was positive. Maybe I just scared him when I got exasperated. It goes without saying that I was pleased that we had hired the driver for the complete 48 hours so it didn’t matter too much that I was now running late. When I went to lock my door the lock seemed to be broken so I had to go and get a new from the front desk, I tested it out myself and finally headed off 30 minutes late.
After an interesting 40-minute car journey which consisted of animals walking over the street and extreme overtaking manoeuvres leading to near-death experiences, we arrived at the Ellora caves. There are a total of 34 caves featuring Hindu, Buddhist and Jain monuments. I had no expectations as it looked interesting online but out of past experience, I know that caves tend to fail at keeping my interest for more than an hour as you are often looking at repeats of the same thing time and time again.
We entered the first complex and it was almost deserted, we enjoyed the peace and quiet for about 10 minutes and then a huge group of school children came running towards me all wanting pictures and to shake hands. It was very amusing that they found my presence more interesting than this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site. As the day passed and we had seen quite a number of caves we saw that 3 hours had passed us by and we were taking way to much time in each complex, it was all just so marvellously fascinating and beautiful. Really like stepping onto the film set of The Mummy or Tomb Raider. I find it so incredible that people were able to hand-carve such masterpieces. The pictures do not do the Ellora Caves justice, you need to be there to understand what I mean exactly, to understand the feeling it gives you like anything is possible. Maybe it was just all of the good energies of the sacred gods that have been blessed there since 600-100 CE. Something that I find utterly inspiring is the fact that people made sacred temples for different religions harmoniously next to each other. It is something I like a lot about India as a country too, the accepting state of mind and just not really giving a rats ass. Please don’t get me wrong, I know there have been many incidents in India involving religion but in general, they seem to be ahead in the game!
Whilst we were walking towards the last couple of caves and having a pleasant chat, a man approached us and was telling us that cave 34 was the best cave and that we just HAD TO go and see it. When Jin and I got to the stairs to enter the last cave it had been shut off, by the looks of it because boulders had fallen on the path, I said to Jin that it must be very dangerous if they shut something off in India. In other countries, I have been to, all of the protected heritage sites you can see but certainly aren’t allowed to touch, in India, you can touch everything and walk all over the ruins. Nice experience but it must be absolutely destroying the last preserved pieces of ruin. As we turned back to the exit, slightly disappointed about the last complex, the same random man popped up again and was really pushing us to take a ‘secret path’ to the final cave. Jin wanted to but I had such a weird feeling about the situation, why was this random man stood there the whole time waiting for us and then absolutely selling us the last cave, apparently not knowing that is closed off and then trying to get us off the path into the middle of nowhere. Smelled like an ambushed robbery to me. I pulled Jin away from the path and quietly shared my theory with him. About 5 minutes later he said that he thought I was probably right and how easy is to fall for something like that because you don’t expect people to be such dicks.
After passing the exit we got some lunch in the restaurant and then we headed towards the Daulatabad Fort, on the way we passed an interesting looking building in a small village so we asked if we could stop to have a look around. As we drew near the entryway we could read that it was apparently the tomb of the old Mughal Emperor. We had obviously entered a Muslim area so I was slightly worried that I was being disrespectful by entering without covering my arms and hear but I had no scarf. It wasn’t a problem and the people in the shrine were more than happy to welcome us and take pictures, they didn’t really seem to understand what we were doing there or why we had interest in them but it was quite fascinating to see them honouring the old Mughal Emperor, it reminded me so much of when royals used to have an entire court living with them centuries ago. People were working, honouring, and kids were playing here. There was so much life and energy in a place where I expected to find just a tomb.
when walking back to our cab we saw another interesting looking building, as we entered it seemed to lead into the community housing area, I felt like I was intruding by not wearing decent clothes so I went back and waited in the car, after waiting for about 10 minutes Jin still had not returned. I wasn’t the only worried one as the driver got out of the car to go and look for him as another 10 minutes passed by I was stressing about things that might have happened to them and if it came down to it I would need to drive that car back on Indian roads! Luckily they came back safe after an extra 15 minutes so that was a massive relief! We passed the main Himroo factory in India and we went inside, I stayed for 2 minutes and headed to their shop. I found the most beautiful cashmere scarf I fell in love with but I wasn’t going to pay 120 euro in India for a scarf. I will never forget it though, so sad.
At a few minutes before 16:00 PM we arrived at Daulatabad Fort, we knew we didn’t have long as it would be closing in 2 hours so we didn’t necessarily intend to complete the hike up to the top of the fort but we did want to see if we could maybe watch the sunset from a nice more peaceful and elevated place. Whilst walking around I thought that I saw 2 familiar looking people, Dennis and Anna! I was right! How bizarre to land on each other’s paths again.
Walking through the area I was so surprised at how beautifully decorated the attaching fort area was. Beautiful carvings and an almost feminine touch is what, in my opinion, makes this fort so magnificent. We walked through an arch on the left-hand side and walked right into the most peaceful place I have ever been. I don’t even mean qua noise, but more so the actual feeling it gave me, like all past worries and fears could now be seen for what they were, just some more emotions passing that wouldn’t matter next week. Just live in the now and enjoy it, observe it and feel it for whatever it may be. Good or bad energy. I think I stood there for a couple of minutes just processing the feeling that place was giving me when it came to my attention that there was a woman sat in one of the archways just looking out into the distance, I knew at that moment that I wasn’t the only one feeling what I was feeling. I walked up to her and told her not to get up for me, I was just wondering if I could take a picture of her. I thought it would be nice to have a picture to remind myself what that feeling of inner peace looks like physically. I showed her the picture and her face lit up, she was an elderly woman who seemed to be local, all of a sudden a young girl appeared as I was trying to get the perfect lighting for the lady’s picture. The little girl wanted to be in the picture too. Normally I would not deny someone such a simple wish, but this time I asked her to move out of the way, I was going to make the elderly woman feel like the pretty one, the interesting one, the desired one.
I regrouped with Jin and we both exchanged our stories of the feeling that place had given us and decided to go onwards. Alas, there were monkeys everywhere, I am always on the watch out in case they decide to attack out of nowhere. Up quite a few steep steps (in my flipflops I dare say) we finally made it to a place where we could get a nice view of the sun setting. I was about to congratulate us on our smooth execution of ‘mission sunset’ when it all fell apart within the next few minutes. A young boy walked past a monkey and the monkey grabbed the boy and bit him in the leg! I suppose out of self-defence the boy hit the monkey with his water bottle and that’s when all hell broke loose. The monkey, who seemed to be bigger in width than in hight started circling around Jin! I was a very bad friend and ran away to the downward staircase haha! From the staircase, I was watching Jin and the monkey walk in circles around each other like a sword fight ready to happen when all of a sudden the monkey luckily went after someone else! All of a sudden everybody was running down the steps scared for dear life by that monkey and I was wearing my bloody flipflops trying to get down ASAP! I couldn’t stop laughing the whole way back, it was so surreal! And yes, we missed the sunset.
On the way back, I needed to got to an ATM to withdraw some cash. The first place our driver stopped seemed shady AF but he promised it was fine. After trying and as a result getting a weird message pop up on the screen I felt physically sick again. What if the money was going directly to someone else or the machine had been played with? The next ATM we went to had exactly the same. At least my internet banking was saying that nothing had been taken off my account. The driver then dropped us at a third one, we had to brave it, man up and cross this ridiculously busy Indian road in the dark, do not ask me how I am alive. That was another traumatising moment right there. At least I got my cash though!
The next evening Jin would be checking out and flying to Varanasi, he had said that he was pleased with his hotel so I decided to take the plunge and book it too. Even if it meant paying for more nights than that I was actually staying in the old one. I just wanted to get away from that place. I booked it an Jin made sure I would get his room and he reassured me that this manager was very professional and would treat me properly.
Back at my current hotel I walked straight up to the front desk, told the man that I would only be spending 1 last night there and then move on and that I would not be paying the residual amount unless he wanted to deal with my nice and honest online reviews. For all of those people who say I can’t be authoritative, the man gave in and said I didn’t need to pay for the days I wouldn’t be there.
for the remainder of the evening, I stayed on the couch right in front of his desk to use the WiFi so that I could catch up on some writing and to be honest, purely to show him that I was done with their behaviour towards me. I asked him for a chai and he did not even charge me for it.
Today was a day of winning, and of a wonderful new beginning!