It was 4 pm when we came out of Ellora. I was amazed to see how correct Ilyas was. He knew we would finish in two/three hours. Maybe most of the tourists do.
Ilyas was playing cards with other drivers when we came in. It was a game of 29 going on. He was not very surprised to see us.
-Oh. You came so fast.
There was little sarcasm in his voice.
-No. I thought we will relieve you at the earliest. Also, the other half would have taken more time and I felt we would be late.
I tried to be normal.
It took around two hours to reach our Ajanta resort. It is at the heart of Ajanta called ‘T-Junction’. This is the place from where all eco-friendly busses for Ajanta start. Ever since I booked this resort online through MTDC site, I was tensed. There are only two resorts available online out of five and I was not able to talk to the manager ever since. The office phone number also never worked. This failure of mine led to huge concern about the quality of the accommodation here. I always thought that this will be middle of nowhere until I came here.
Ilyas stopped at a place which looked best as a town car parking place. It never looked like an entrance. There was no site of a resort, too.
-Where is the resort? I wanted to go to MTDC resort in Ajanta. I told firmly.
-You will have to go inside. Ilyas showed me a way.
I was skeptical but told everyone to wait there until I come back. I didn’t want to take out my bags off the car without making sure it was the right resort and I have confirmed booking there. I went inside a small iron gate and entered a well-maintained garden area and then five small cottages came in my site.
As I was walking through the red-tiled criss-cross pavement through the heart of the garden there was hardly anybody in sight. I tried to see if any of the cottage doors were open but in vain. I continued to go inside the resort and lucky enough I found the door of one cottage to be open. I peeped in without caring if I am barging into someone else’s privacy as that was my last choice then. One young boy was cleaning the room.
-Excuse me. I said. Ihaan ka office kahan hai. I asked in Hindi as he seemed to be the service boy.
-Aap aabhi aa raha hain? He asked.
-Mere saath aaiye..he came out of the cottage
-Your name? I asked while we were approaching the farthest building. I was wondering if he would turn out to be the manager, too like our previous hotel.
-I am Raju, sir. I take care of all your needs, and he is the manager.
No, this time the service boy look like Raju didn’t change a shirt and became the manager. The manager was better dressed. He was a young chap just around 25-26. I confirmed my booking with him and took Raju with me as we came out to take our luggage.
-How is this place? The first question my wife asked me when she saw me back.
-This place is beautiful. I whispered in her ears as I didn’t want Raju to hear that. We still had to experience the services there.
Apparently, both Raju and the manager looked to be very polite and helpful at the first meeting. I didn’t want to form an opinion though that early.
It was 6:15 pm and that area still had sunlight. As we walked inside with our luggage we started cherishing the beauty more. The cottage was built in a vast land of 2/3 acres on the backdrop of Ajanta hills. Only 10% of this land was concrete construction and the rest was nature. The resorts are completely eco-friendly with a lot of free space. I knew my wife was very happy with this beautiful place to stay. Moreover, he we have AC, Water heater, fridge, TV, kitchen everything for a very minimum fee.
The first impression of the resort has won it all. Soon we forgot the pains of our Shirdi hotel. I set out to capture the nature of my lenses.
The TV was on while Jayeeta and Piklu were busy freshening them up. Well, definitely mom helping the boy. I came back to the resort after a one-hour shooting. Nature has given this place all the beauties together. Birds, butterflies, trees there are so many things to shoot. Since the sunlight was fading away fast, I had limited time to capture the beauty around.
After the fall of dusk, I came back to my resort. Raju had fitted the swing in my balcony by now. I wanted to set free the child in me. It was Id that day and the moon was visible in the clear sky flanked by two stars on both sides. It was a calm, serene and holy site to view. The same day was Ganesh Chaturthi as well. No wonder, the day was so fantastic.
The light outside the resort was off as that would have attracted numerous insects to me. Only a few lights in the common passageway were lit. The whole place was abuzz with sounds from many unknown creatures some of whom were coming and sitting on me in the dark. I could only feel them but could not see them.
I couldn’t restrain myself from filming the moon. Where do I get so clear sky in Hyderabad or in Kolkata? Our sky is lost amidst the skyscrapers built for our comfort and luxury. That is the reason we come to nature once in a while.
-Get up! Get up, are you listening to me?
I felt a jolt and came back to the resort from the land of utopia. Jayeeta was calling me. I looked into my mobile and it was almost 8 pm. Time to go for dinner. We planned to go to MTDC Hotel in Fardapur for our dinner as we heard that there is no other better restaurant around.
We locked our resort and went out. In the meantime, we had made plans for next day’s Aurangabad visit. Raju has called Ram, a local travel agent who rents out cabs to tourists. I couldn’t finalize the deal as the rate was quoted very high. I wanted to check with my Aurangabad agent before confirming and took some time before confirming.
As we walked out of our resort for the T-Junction to catch an auto both of us were amazed by the surrounding beauty. My wife was inside and she was overwhelmed by that.
-Oh, what is this?
-My god. It is only 8 pm and the place is totally empty. I just saw a bustling market sometime ago.
Both of us were very surprised and shocked to see a deserted T-Junction. We could not imagine that a bustling marketplace and parking area will soon turn into a deserted place. I realized that we were closer to nature but very far off from civilization. Anything can happen there. If someone wants, can kill us there and nobody will know.
We rushed back to our resort. All other resorts were also closed with an uncanny silence looming over the place. Some other resort lights were on from inside indicating that there was some life inside but nobody cares what is happening outside. The resort office is the farthest building and now there is a new service boy came for that night. He is Naga, I met him sometime back while enjoying my swing ride.
-Naga, Naga. Are you there? I was shouting at the top of my voice. We went searching for him as he was last resort for help in that no man’s land. I was not sure if he was in the office as the door was closed.
-Yes, sir. He came out. His face was not visible as there was no light outside the office for insects. I was speaking to a silhouette.
-How can I get dinner today? I tried to go out but nothing is available outside. It is completely deserted. Will you be able to bring something for us?
-Umm…ok sir. Write down what needs to be brought. I can go only after one hour as someone is scheduled to come anytime now.
-Now? There is nothing outside. I felt like saying that only ghosts can come now but stopped there.
-Ok, go after 9.
I was wondering how he could bring food at that time. He didn’t have a vehicle either. But that was his headache. I gave him 500 bucks for some egg fried rice.
-Ding dong. The bell rang quite sharply reminding that our food has arrived.
-Naga, come inside. I opened the door and brought him in.
We can’t keep the door open for nature’s other beautiful creation, the insects. Otherwise, we need to sleep with them. The door was opened only for a few seconds while he came inside but that was enough for the insects to barge into my abode.
He took 300 bucks including his auto fare. There is a place nearby from where autos were available until that time. I was surprised. I gave him some instant tips as well.
He didn’t go to Fardapur hotel, brought the food from a nearby shop. Egg fried rice that was enough for us for one night. I asked Jayeeta to have her dinner first while I take care of Piklu as she had to feed him later. She took the dinner plates out and started taking her dinner on the dining table. I started watching some Bengali serials for the first time along with our son. He stays with his mom and already developed a good taste for these serials. I can’t change the channel to a business or news channel now. He will cry at the top of his voice, may even throw up and soon we will be in a mess.
-Waaaalllk….Thhhoooo. I heard the sound of someone throwing up and I was very scared. Piklu is not eating anything now..then why the hell he is vomiting?? Can’t we have a nice good night sleep tonight?? I was looking around as I wanted to see the source. No, it was not him, but his mother this time.
-What happened? I was scared.
-Fuck..is this the food they have here? Just see this.
I saw the rice. It is one of the lowest cost rice, thick, reddish fried in one of the lowest cost oil with all local herbs and flesh available in the nearby jungles. I hope the egg given in the rice is chicken egg and not of something else.
We could not eat that food at all. We would better be hungry that night rather than eating that rubbish and falling sick. We went to bed after Piklu took his last feed of milk for that day.
Day Three: Ajanta
We got up early on Sunday. I didn’t want to take risk of asking Naga again to bring food. At least now life is back again in this locality and I am sure the market will be open. I got ready quickly and got dressed while Jayeeta started making Piklu ready for that day’s trip. I went out to bring some food before we check out from the hotel.
-Where are you going, sir? Do you need anything? Naga intercepted me on my way.
-Oh no. It is ok. I just ignored him. I was little upset with him for bringing substandard food for us the previous night.
I bought Puri-Bhajji from a market shop. He prepared fresh and given that in a parcel. Five puris for 20 bucks, not bad. I packed for two and went back in a hurry. We needed to check-out by 9 o’clock and proceed to Ajanta Caves.
We just took two small bags, one for our son and the other with our snacks and left for the caves. The main luggage was kept at the resort reception for picking up later. In the meantime, I had to book Ram’s cab for Aurangabad trip in the afternoon. Even with best of my intentions, Ram didn’t want to reduce the charge from 1500 bucks for that 115 Km journey. By any standard that was high and again I ended up paying for both sides of the cab journey. I only thought I was wiser enough to book a single cab for this entire three days of our trip. That could have been more economical.
We wanted to take the AC bus for the caves from T-Junction but that was not available. These buses start little late once the heat becomes more. We had to catch the normal one. We saw fleets of Buddhist monks and elderly people accompanying heading towards the caves in different other buses. Ajanta came to life with hustle and bustle of tourists.
The bus took us to Ajanta entrance. Just beside the ticket counter, there is an MTDC restaurant and a cloak room. After crossing these we went through a small revolving gate to enter the foothills. There is a staircase which we will have to climb to reach the caves. The stairs were too steep indeed. One will get porters or small handheld chairs for the invalids. Porters will even carry your luggage or baby if you wish to. We already planned that Jayeeta will sit at a comfortable location with our son and I will go around taking the snaps for our memory. At least this worked out better for us previously.
After climbing some forty-fifty steps we reached a sloping road that led to the main entrance to the caves. This road is fully metalled and the best thing is there is no dirt anywhere nearby. It is great to see that in-spite of attracting so many tourists daily the authorities could successfully keep the area neat and clean.
We could get some really good snaps and my joy knew no bounds as I found Ajanta to be better maintained and a lot of subjects for my photography. After visiting two/three caves Jayeeta wanted to take some rest with Piklu while I continued with our water bottle for other caves. The writing before each cave gave me a good insight into the history of the caves and I didn’t need a guide for my tour.
There are a total of 29 caves here. These are mostly Buddhist caves and they attract a lot of Buddhist monks and Japanese tourists. I found a couple of tourist-guides who knew Japanese as well. The day was perfect for good photography. Enough of sunlight and the curvature of the hills is just right to give a good opportunity to take nice snaps.
I traveled to each cave learning a little bit of history everywhere. Ajanta road is well constructed and very clean. This is a delight for the tourists. I traveled until the end of the row to the last set of caves too. The road came to almost an end and I saw a billboard on the railing. It read –
A muddy road goes inside the gate through the heart of the forest. I stepped in carefully with the camera in my hand. I didn’t know what is at the end but expected some adventure for sure. After walking for two minutes even in this forest I saw a couple of vendors selling local artifacts. They were trying hard to attract each tourist passing by them. I was in no mood to buy anything as everything is available in Aurangabad and we have plans for shopping there.
The road is just beside a small river. At the end of the road lies a small bridge connecting the other bank of the river. I saw a few people crossing the bridge and joined them soon. The bridge gives a view of far-off hills and the running stream on both sides. I could also hear the sound of a falling waterfall.
I continued until the end of the road after crossing the stream. In the end, there is a small area where people can assemble and from there I saw the beautiful white stream of water coming down a height of approximately 70 meters. I could see only two cascades but I came to know that this comes through seven cascades from the hilltop. This experience of true wild nature in Ajanta will keep this in my heart forever.
I came back to the place where my wife and son were resting. My son was nice this time and took one round of food without vomiting. We wanted to go out at the earliest as it was around 11:30 am by my watch and we wanted to go back by 1 pm after lunch at the MTDC restaurant near the caves.
The restaurant had a good variety of food to offer at the reasonable price. We took plain steamed rice with chicken and egg curry. The lunch was really good even though we felt that the place could have been air-conditioned for better comfort for weary travelers.
We came back to T-junction by 12:30. We still had half an hour for shopping. The market has a lot of things to offer and we really liked the handicrafts on display there. Idols made from Basalt rock were amazing.
We felt like buying a lot of stuff for our collection, but I had to restrain myself considering the money to be paid for our transfer to Aurangabad. It was another one thousand and five hundred rupees for 115 KM journey.