It looks like these posts are turning into more of a travel guide and less of a personal story. For that I am sorry and I hope it hasn’t been too dry. I have wanted to share the fantastic places I have seen, but neglected to include the experiences. So read on for the back story behind my journey to India’s ancient caves!
Traveling to Aurangabad by myself was a big challenge. Although that was part of the point, to go out and navigate India on my own, it was quite nerve wracking at times. I booked the entire trip on my own, arranging bus tickets and finding a nice hotel on Booking.com. I e-mailed the hotel for help with the travel arrangements and a guide for my trips to the caves. A woman named Yvette from The Meadows Resort was very helpful. So I was prepared for my trip, or was I?
I told Venkatesh I would keep in touch by phone during the bus travel, but when I arrived in Pune with my Indian cell phone it wouldn’t work. I had three days of wedding events coming up so I wasn’t worried. Luckily, my father in law, Gopal, was able to fix the service from Bangalore and by the time I boarded the bus it was fine. Thank god, I couldn’t have done the trip without my phone! I’m sure I would have been standing on some street corner after dark, in an unknown city, and hailing an auto to a hotel I didn’t really know how to get to. Phew! Mom and Dad, please don’t panic, I am now home safe, and I didn’t tell you before hand so you wouldn’t worry!
I was dropped at the side of a busy road in Pune, by the Royal Orchid Hotel driver and Leah. I watched them drive off to the airport, leaving me to wait for a bus that was almost an hour away. I was pretty sure I was in the right place so I was okay, just thinking – I can relax once I’m on the bus. The bus was ten minutes early, so I gave them my reservation and found my sleeper berth. It was quite clean and I settled in for the five hour journey. At the last stop in Pune, a family came and told me I was in their berth. None of the bus personnel spoke English, but it turned out I was on the bus that comes before mine. I had to get out and wait for my bus at a stop on the edge of Pune (who knows where). Luckily there was a bus office and I could sit in a chair outside and wait for my bus. I felt uprooted and nervous, but there were some nice people helping me. A twelve year old boy wearing a green t shirt with ‘smart boy’ written on the front sat down and started talking to me. He was very curious and sweet. I think he wanted to practice his English and he had a lot of questions about my family and the U.S. He really helped me get through the half hour wait. He even showed me to a bathroom down a narrow alley and filled a bucket of water for me to use. Finally my bus came, not as clean as the last and it felt like I was travelling in a coffin, but it got me to Aurangabad feeling only slightly nauseated.
I had arranged for a hotel driver to pick me up at the bus stand, but when I texted the contact person that I was on the bus approaching Aurangabad, I got a one liner back, ‘sorry?’. This is when I began to get really nervous! Thanks to a working cell phone I was able to get the contact person to talk directly to the driver and I had someone waiting for me when I arrived. Another phew! I arrived at the hotel around 10:30 and it was a ghost town. I was worn out from the trip and had a little trouble communicating with the man at the front desk. The helpful Yvette, it turns out, works at the main office in Bombay – not the resort. Maybe things would look better in the morning, I thought, so I settled into my cottage, locked every door and window and went to sleep. In the morning, another man at the front desk pointed me to the restaurant (he spoke even less English than the one the night before). I didn’t see another guest in sight, just some men cleaning the garden. At the outdoor patio there were two men eating, they turned out to be the only other guests at the resort. Have you noticed there were quite a few men and no women? I was given a menu, and when I ordered, nothing was available. After all, how do you keep a restaurant running when there are only three guests? I was given a choice of four items, I picked one and ordered coffee…..
The coffee came out, they called it milk coffee, but it was really just milk. I said ‘where is the coffee?’. ‘This is coffee Maam.’ ‘But coffee is brown, not white’, I said. ‘Light coffee Maam’, said the waiter. They had little packets of Nescafé that had to be added if you wanted to get any kind of a buzz. Okay, a resort without good filter coffee? I would think this would be priority number one! My entire resort experience continued like this. It was advertised as a garden spa resort; with pool, massage, steam room, weight room and hot tub. They showed a wide range of eastern and western foods, and baked goods that they made on sight. I was looking for a little pampering, but this was definitely not the place for it. The room was comfortable, the staff were quite nice, but it was unsettling. Thankfully, my day trips and guide were fantastic. After all, that was the main reason I went. The worst part happened when I went to check out and none of my international cards could be processed through their machine. I didn’t have enough cash and it took two hours of negotiations. Finally, Venkatesh had to call the hotel manager to work something out. By then it was late and I was completely wound up and worried that they were going to kick me out on my last night. I had a 5 am taxi going to the airport the next morning and I was never so glad to go home, to family and Malleswaram. Adventure over!