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The Deep Dark Carved Caves of Aurangabad

Written on: Friday February 27th, 2009

A journal entry from: Trails in 2008

Since we loved Petra in Jordan, we made a detour to see these caves.   It's only abot 150kms away from Mumbai but the best way to get there is via an 8 hour overnight train.  We got a sleeper carriage, where each alcove has 6 bunk beds and 2 in the aisle.  I woke up at around 2am to find every single piece of floor used up by sleeping bodies, and realised why it was important to have a seat reservation.  If you are on the bottom bunk more likely than not you will have someone perched on the end, I even saw two full grown guys top-and-tailing on a middle bunk, and these things are tiny!  Our co-passengers were very friendly and helpful and it makes a nice change to be able to chat, unlike in South America.  It's especially nice because here everyone knows where NZ is - we're not just "near Australia".  They especially know Napier, Wellington and Christchurch's cricket grounds fairly intimately.  By now I have mastered the art of bluffing cricket conversations but always divert over to Al before I get exposed.

I digress, back to the caves.  So there are two lots of caves, and we did one by public bus (a 2.5 hour bus journey for the grand total of $3NZ) and the next day we are pretty worn out from all the walking in the mid 30 degree heat so when a little muslim guy called Shik beckons us to his fancy auto rickshaw outside our hotel we don't need much convincing that its a good idea to hire him for $16NZ to take us arond the second group of caves for the day. 

The caves date from 2BC to 7AD and are quite fantastic (if you can ignore the sound and smell of the bats which have made home in some of them).  Some of them are 3 stories high and these huge rooms have been carved from the top down, amazing engineering, and their thought in collecting water and chanelling it to central points was very advanced.  Some frescoes have survived, and contain amazing detail compared to places of similar age in the Middle East and South America.

The Iranians must have told these guys we were coming!  We've been followed by the locals paparazzi-style, although in the Middle East Al (aka Ricky Martin) was top pick, here they all want yours truly so I'm soaking it up like a movie star should.  I've been included in about 30 photos with business groups, school groups and family groups alike.  We certainly weren't expecting this in India...