Monday, 21 January 2013

Weekend in Arangabad

January 19-20, 2013

This weekend, our group took a 2-day trip to Arangabad to see the famous Ellora Caves, a silk factory, and the Taj Fort. Our Saturday started off earlier than we would have liked and we sat down to our usual breakfast of white bread, bananas, and hard-boiled eggs. It may be a while before any of us look at these foods the same way.

Amazingly, all 16 of us piled into two large jeeps. They accomplished the goal of driving for 4 and a half hours along mostly paved roads through both mountains and busy downtown streets; but still, all of us welcomed the stops where we could get some fresh air and load up on our Dramamine. We especially took advantage of the random coffee shop/convenient store right off the highway – and I’m sure they appreciated the business too. You’d be amazed how delicious a $1.50 latte tastes after weeks of drinking nothing but water and chai tea.

Just when it seemed like the bumpiness would never cease, we pulled into Arangabad at a small restaurant for a traditional lunch of chicken and rice. We needed our strength to brave the caves, so we didn’t feel too bad about ordering some big bowls of ice cream too.

At the entrance of the caves, we experienced our first monkey sighting. They were relatively tame (probably due to the high volume of tourists that they frequently come into contact with) and you can be sure that we took copious amounts of pictures. One guide even offered us monkey food so they could eat out of our hands, but our vigilant program leader shooed him away before we got the chance. It was probably for the best – I know I’m not up to date on my rabies vaccine.

Then we got a guided tour of the caves. “Caves” may be a misleading term, as this was more of a large mountain that had been carved out hundreds of years ago, with beautiful architecture and statues of Hindu gods and animals decorating the insides. At times it seems as though a large group of white women is more of an attraction than the actual caves – many people were more interested in posing in front of us, asking us to take pictures with them (not OF them), or just plain staring at us. We’ve learned to just accept that we are just too beautiful to not be stared at all the time. Right..?

After our cave exploration, we took another (mercifully shorter) bus ride back to our hotel. We knew it was going to be a step up from our sleep away-camp-style sleeping and bathroom situation, but
we were not prepared to be in a 4-star quality hotel. There was a spa in the basement, a roof with a
stunning view of the city, and a bountiful dinner buffet. We felt like royalty as we ate our good food,
took our hot showers and slept in our comfy beds with REAL pillows. Then, we acted like typical college girls for a few hours as we sat together in one room and played games. It was a glorious way to end our eventful day.

The breakfast buffet was just as good as dinner, and a welcome change from white bread. We also
bombarded the cappuccino/chai tea latte machine like it was our job. As long as it’s included, why not get our money’s worth?

We hopped on the bus again, this time to the silk factory. “Factory” is another one of those relative
terms – it was a big room with tons of equipment, but only one employee was working on a woven
shawl. Watching how laborious the process of making one shawl is really makes you appreciate manual labor and justifies the amount of money you ultimately pay. And next door is where they count on you taking sympathy on the weavers. There was a giant warehouse of various woven garments and furniture decorations: ties, scarves, table runners, placemats, pillow cases, saris – all made with silk (some 100%). Many of us spent at least half of our remaining rupees, but we agreed that it was worth the splurge. Get ready for some luxurious gifts, Moms and Dads!

Our last tourist stop of the day was the Taj Fort. This time “fort” is an accurate description. Stone walls surrounded a large perimeter, and supposedly did a very good job of keeping out intruders hundreds and hundreds of years ago. We saw more amazing architecture, and even walked through a small bat cave. We treated our flashlights as lifelines – it was pitch black and we could hear the ominous squeaking of bats coming from the ceiling. It was an interesting feeling to say the least. Then, we were told that we could walk 300 stairs to get to the top of the fort if we were feeling up to it. Some of us jumped at the opportunity to finally get some exercise, and some of us were just lamenting the fact that we had to wear long pants. We could all agree though that we wished we were at least wearing sneakers (we were told we didn’t need them. Lies.). Many excruciating steps and some dirty flip-flops later, we were face to face with a stellar panoramic view of the whole fort and the outskirts of Arangabad. We could only stay up there so long, though, because it was 2:30 p.m. and our breakfast seemed like a distant memory. We dodged dozens more photo requests from random people on the way back down (they never end!) and were finally reunited with the rest of our group.

We were treated to another tasty late-afternoon lunch at a roadside restaurant. All I can say is that it’s
going to be very upsetting when we get back to the U.S., where bottomless baskets of naan bread are
unheard of. Who says girls don’t eat carbs?

We reluctantly piled into the backseat of our faithful jeeps and mentally (and medically) prepared
ourselves for the long ride back. At least the scenery along the highway is fun to look at, because you’re crazy if you try to read in the back of a bumpy jeep cruising swiftly down India’s questionably paved roads. Nevertheless, we all made it back in one piece and definitely appreciated our weekend getaway.

No comments:

Post a Comment