Up at the crack of dawn today, 4:00am to be ready for a 5:15am pickup to the Aurangabad airport for two flights, Mumbai, then on to Jodhpur. The Aurangabad airport was a straight forward affair, wish I could say the same for Mumbai. We were directed to domestic connections, where for some mysterious reason we were required to go through security again. We got in line, only to be told we had to go to the women only lines. There were only 3 lines for women. We got in line again, to be told we had to go to a nearby check point and leave all our carry on bags to be rescanned. We returned to wait in line to be body scanned and were finally allowed to retrieve our worldly goods. I was so nervous, as all our bags with money, credit cards, iPad, camera, etc. we’re sitting out, with hoards of people milling around. It has been a bit of culture shock with India’s conservative attitude towards women. And I wasn’t coping well, because of course with the early flight we both woke up long before we needed to and we’re lacking sleep.
Speaking of women, this reminds me that yesterday Suzanne and I had been talking about how we hadn’t seen women driving motorcycles, the main mode of transportation, during our ride out to the temples. Suzanne asked our guide Gulati if women drove motorcycles and he kindly explained that women only drove scooters, because motorcycles were too difficult with having to change gears. Thought Suzanne would have to bite her tongue off….
Made it to Jodhpur early afternoon and were driven to The Ajit Bhawan a heritage hotel owned and residence of the younger brother of the late Maharaja of Jodhpur, Umed Singh Sahib. Our room is a vision in pink and white.
We had a great dinner in the garden and noticed small animals darting into the trees and under the tables. When being quizzed about how we were enjoying our stay, I asked what the animals were. Our interrogator looked around with a puzzled look and said there weren’t any animals. We have been here 7 hours and this is a guy that spends all his time out in the garden talking with guests and he hasn’t noticed the furry critters? Suzanne and I were laughing, that he didn’t want to say, “madame those are rats”! There was a wonderful Indian music (featured photo) and dance program during dinner that we enjoyed immensely.
Tomorrow we are off to see the Mehrangarh fort, the Mandore gardens. Lots of climbing, so we took the afternoon off to save our energy.
Day 4, Aurangabad
Ooookay…well, we went from total inactivity to climbing hundreds of stairs in 90 degree heat with our Sikh tour guide, Gulati. It was totally worth it….The Ajanta and Ellora temples were mind boggling with incredible architectural feats and carvings. These sites are called caves, but in reality they are temples carved out of basalt cliffs. The construction was started from the top down, nothing was pieced together or carved off site. Everything was carved in one continuous stone structure.
Ajanta is the oldest site, initiated by Buddhist monks in 2 BC and abandoned sometime after 6 AD. The 30 temples at Ajanta were deserted for about a 1000 years, then found again by a British tiger hunting party in 1819 led by John Smith.
The 32 temples and living quarters (in the featured photo) of Ellora were developed by Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks. Although there is debate, it is thought the site was build between 600 AD and 1000 AD. With the awesome Kailasa Temple the grandest of all. It is the world’s largest monolithic sculpture. It took approximately 7000 workers 150 years to complete. This Hindu temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
It was 2.5 hours to Ajanta, so we got plenty of time to take in the countryside and traffic. The horn is an intrinsic part of driving in India, but rather than an expression of frustration or anger, the horn is used to communicate with other drivers the intent and position of the driver. In fact other vehicles want you to tootle them so them can stay out of the way. Many times we were driving down the center of a two lane highway with trucks to one side and an endless string of motorcycles streaming by on the other.
Suzanne and I are practically comatose, but did manage to make it to dinner. 5:15 am pick up tomorrow for our flights to Jodhpur, where we get to explore for 3 whole days.
Day 3, Delhi to Aurangabad
We have been traveling for 3 days and so far have seen the inside of airplanes and hotel rooms. Although it’s been nice having down time after arrival in India, it will be great to get out and actually see some sights tomorrow.
The featured photo above is of the largest breakfast buffet I have ever seen. Our beautiful Pullman New Delhi Aero City hotel offered the buffet as a complimentary breakfast. After stuffing ourselves, we were tired of sitting around our hotel room so wandered around the hotel and found a fun art exhibit and the large Chef’s garden.
One of the things that has surprised us is the level of security everywhere. Baggage security checks at the hotel entrances, body wanding, and men with submachine guns. On one hand we appreciate the serious security measures and on the other are taken aback by the necessity.
The Pullman hotel room was spacious and very comfortable. The bathroom could be shut off from the bedroom with sliding screens.
There was a noise on our Airbus flight with Air India to Aurangabad. It sounded like a loud barking dog. Suzanne asked the attendant what it was and he said, “the engine”. Wow, well that was reassuring! Would have really preferred listening to a barking dog. We sat with a charming young Indian woman who spoke excellent English. She had lots of questions about our current political situation, traveling in the US and our trip. I ducked on the politics and let Suzanne handle that one. Seemed like a good time to read my book.
Aurangabad, population 1.18 million as compared to Delhi’s 25 million, was named after the last Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and is situated on the Kham River. These days it’s main claim to fame is as a base to explore the World Heritage Sites of Ellora and Ajanta. These cave temples were chipped out of rock over 5 centuries by Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks. Of the two sites Ajanta is the oldest dating from the 2nd century BC to the 6th century AD. These two magnificent sites are where we are headed tomorrow.
Days 1 & 2, Portland to Seattle, Seattle to Tokyo, Tokyo to Delhi
Suzanne and I met up at the Alaska Counter at 6:45 am. The goal was to try and check our bags through to Delhi on a non-partner airline. I went through check in and baggage first as I got there early. After much confusion (my error) and great customer service from Alaska, I was able to check my bag through. Of course Suzanne sailed through without a hitch. Then through security, followed by coffee…good grief, never sleep well the night before a big trip. Don’t think Suzanne slept much either. We spent the rest of the day catching cat naps whenever possible.
We flew ANA, Nippon Air from Seattle to Tokyo and on to Delhi. One of our adorable cabin attendants in her pink cherry blossom outfit. The Japanese crew was so attentive, kind and polite.
After months of planning, boring our friends and family silly, Suzanne and I toast to take off!
It was getting dark fast when we took off in Tokyo. Couldn’t resist a photo of this very unusual ANA jet.
So sad that it was dark when we flew over China and looped around Mt. Everest.
We finally landed in Dehli at 11:30 pm. Had already slept through the night on the way with the 13 hour time difference. We fly again tomorrow, so will try to sleep again tonight. The minute we got off the plane, I could smell the thicker air and undertones that are part of the sensory experience of India.