14/12/2000You are here: Home > Travelogues > India 2000 > 14/12/2000
Back to bloody reality!
Well folks, this is it! Last email before home-time. :) I must say it has been a blast. Definitely worth any hassles we've had.
So - to our final adventures. After I last wrote we hopped on a train to Aurangabad, about 7 or 8 hours northwest of Bombay. This is quite a touristy place, but worth visiting as there are various places nearby of interest. Specifically, the caves at Ajanta and Elora, and the meteorite crater at Lonar.
In the end we didn't get to Ajanta, due to lack of time, which was a pity, because it was supposed to be very nice.
Our first excursion was out to Lonar. It's a bit off the beaten track, and in the end we decided to get a taxi out there and back (a round trip of about 400kms!). Cost quite a bit by Indian standards, but we figured it was worth it, and in reality it worked out at about A$70. Pretty damn good when you think about how far that gets you in Oz!
It was also well worth it. The crater at Lonar is a really lovely place. It is thought to be about 40,000 years old, is about two kilometres in diameter and several hundred metres deep. A sign at the site proudly proclaims that it is 'the only natural hypervelocity impact crater in basaltic rock in the world'. Very impressive sounding, but doesn't do justice to the beauty of the place. We had heard there was a lake at the bottom, and had visions of a small mucky thing with a few trees perhaps.
In reality the lake was rather large, and was a gorgeous green colour. There were trees and greenery galore around it. We walked down into it and about a third of the way around, to a temple that was there. On the way we passed a couple of small disused temples/buildings. They were both full of bats. It was easy to imagine twilight falling and the ensuing horror movie scene with bats flying from the 'crypt'. :)
There were also all sorts of other creatures living down there; birds, big wildcats (a bit bigger than housecats), and of course our favourite - monkeys. It was what I would call a definite oasis in the barren area. Well worth the visit.
One other funny story from that day - we stopped on the way for tea in a small village. By now we're quite used to drawing a small crowd of people at times, especially when you're off the beaten track, but this time took the cake big time!
At first there were maybe 10 people, but by the time we had finished our tea there were easily 100 people. I'm not exaggerating either! All crowding around and staring at the strange tourists. It was quite funny. Unfortunately we didn't get a photo. I don't know where they all came from!
Our other excursion from Aurangabad was to the Elora caves nearby. These are basically a series of caves hand carved out of the (rather bloody solid) volcanic rock. They date from around 600AD to 1000AD. They're quite impressive when you think about the work involved - these aren't tiny little things at all. There is one really big one, which is more a temple than a cave, but it is carved out of solid rock. Apparently is is twice the area of the Greek Parthenon, and much higher. About 200,000 tonnes of rock have been removed to make it.
The whole place was quite lovely, and the serenity of some of the caves is quite wonderful (there are bats in quite a few as well). The serenity though was strained a little by the groups of Indians, who don't seem to know about silence, or at least talking softly. Ho well. Another amusing anecdote on Indian noise levels follows below.
So that was the last of our 'tourist' stops. From there it was back on a train to bombay. The train journey was pretty good this time - on the way out there it was packed. Not just people who had seats/beds reserved, but many other people packed the carriage (or 'bogey' as they call them here); there was no floor space at all, people were everywhere.
Some considerate gents decided to have a heated argument at about 3am. One fellow was outside the train (we were stopped), so the shouting went on through the window as well. But as I was saying the trip back was pretty good. We had a good mix of people in our little booth - a French guy and an American lady. We all fell into conversation and were having a fine old time - it's not often over here you can talk quickly and about complex things as a lot of Indians speak english, but not too well - when we got told off by an INDIAN guy for being too noisy. I think perhaps he didn't understand why we found this so amusing. Eventually we went to sleep, to the usual sounds of snoring and farting through the night. Too much noise indeed! :)
So now we're back in Bombay, or Mumbai, or whatever it is called now.
Bombay itself is actually a lot better than I thought it would be. The air is in fact remarkably clean given the number of people here. And as for the 'smell that hits you as soon as you get off the plane' that various people had mentioned to me, I haven't noticed it particularly. The slum area tends to pong a bit, but then again so does a public toilet. But the smell is hardly all-pervasive. Delhi's air was far worse.
The city is indeed much more cosmopolitan than anywhere else in India. There are even high-rise buildings here - rather an odd sight for me after two months.
There are certainly some things I'll miss when I'm back home.
For starters, the chaos. It can be a bit much at times, but it's fun to be swept up in it. I know Sydney can be chaotic too, but it isn't the same. Everything is so damn *safe* back home. It is so nice to be in a country where everyone isn't afraid of getting bloody sued all the time. Fireworks are legal. Roads are chaotic, but seem to work pretty well. You can smoke just about anywhere. The attitude is best summed up by a sign on the trains - "please do not smoke if other passengers object". Simple solution. Everyone happy.
I'll also miss the friendliness of the people. It can grate a bit at times (like at 5am when you've just gotten off a long train or bus ride) to be surrounded on all sides by eager people. And sure, lots of the time people just want something (well, money) from you. But there is a genuine friendliness here that we don't quite have at home, especially in Sydney. I suppose, thinking about it, that country areas are much better in Australia, and a fair bit more similar in that respect.
I'll miss the fact that, for 50 cents or a dollar, I can get a shave here. And I mean a proper shave - brush, lather, trim followed by various potions and powders rubbed and splattered liberally over my face.
I'll miss the animals everywhere. I remember coming round a corner in a taxi when we were in Varanasi and nearly running into a herd of braying donkeys. Over here, especially in the more rural areas, there are always cattle, goats, dogs, pigs, donkeys and camels roaming around, generally happy as larry. Lots of baby animals tagging along behind their Mums too. Baby goats (I won't say kids for the sake of clarity) are bloody cute.
I'll miss being able to get a good feed for about 5 bucks.
I'll miss the excitement of finding out if there is hot water every morning. Ooops... lapsed into sarcasm there. But it's not so bad; it's a warm country. I'll wager it's about the same temperature here in Bombay as it is in Sydney - and this is winter. Summer might be less pleasant I guess. :)
And I'll miss the weird and wonderful english written everywhere. And menu items like "Brain Egg Fry" (not to be confused with "Brain Plain Fry" - try and say that quickly five times).
So it's back to reality, or our version of it. I'll definitely come back here some day though. I can see how it gets into the blood, and once you've gotten used to the way things work it's pretty easy to get along (and you get to impress people who have just arrived with your extensive knowledge). ;)
India is definitely recommended. You should all come here (if you haven't already. If you have, you should come back).
Anyway time to sign off. Thanks for the encouragement and stories of home. Poo to those of you who NEVER wrote, even in two months! ;)
All images in this gallery: