India is the most intense country we have ever visited. Nothing could prepare us for what was coming, no stories and no “Watch-out” signs. One week here feels like a month. During our travel through this country we discover beauty of it yet still it can be a bit too much for us. This week we travelled through Aurangabad and ended up in Goa. Was it fun? Check for yourselves.
The Train ride
We spent a few hours at the train station in Mumbai. Of course everyone was staring at us and children were coming closer to get some candy. We killed those few hours observing people coming, going and sleeping.
A big part of experiencing India is definitely a train ride. It’s like nothing else we’ve encountered so far; especially the amount of people getting on at a Mumbai station… If you’re claustrophobic, don’t try it, but you are going to miss out on a great adventure.
We booked a general ticket (mistake no. 185) and this random guy told us to go straight to a ticket collector and ask for an upgrade. I guess thanks to the fact that we are foreigners, the TC lead us (or rather squeezed us) through to a sleeper that was left without any reservation. We didn’t even have to pay for it.
People were everywhere, as trains in India have two layers of sleepers on both sides. On your face level you can see passengers’ feet and faces below. :)
Our journey to Aurangabad lasted around 9 hours (360km…). It would probably be so much better if Niki didn’t suffer from a horrible stomach ache. Thank gods for the stomach drops…! Anyway, you could buy everything on the train – from snacks, warm food, sweets and drinks, through jewelry, toys and lottery tickets to wallets, blankets and screwdrivers.
Aurangabad and its Mini Taj Mahal
Eventually we’ve arrived at our destination. Our host, Shoaib, picked us up and informed us that unfortunately he cannot host us at his place, as he has family visiting unexpectedly. He offered us a hotel instead, which was very nice of him, but it didn’t really suit us. The next morning we woke up very late, hungry and in bad moods. India was bringing us down a bit. We definitely needed a new plan or something that would lift our spirits. A first thing to do was a change of venue.
We booked a hotel, packed our stuff and left. In a new room (where of course they ripped us off, we should have haggled – mistake no. 208) we sat down, took deep breaths and checked out activities that we could have partaken. Luckily, a short rickshaw ride away from our place there was a mini Taj Mahal – the copy of the one in Agra. Locals had to pay 15 INR for entry, tourists – 200, but it was worth it!
Twenty selfies with strangers later, we sat down in this beautiful garden and thought. We’ve made a very important decision here – we’re not going to Delhi, Jaipur or Agra. India appeared to be a bit bigger than we anticipated. We’ll explore the South of India this time, focusing on Goa, Kerala and whatever else comes in our way. A month is not enough to do all that we wanted to do…
After this nice trip we returned to our hotel. In the evening we went out for a dinner with Shoaib and his friend Mangesh to a restaurant Tandoor. They tried to maintain a high standard service there, which seem like copying European habits with funny results. It was all so… sweet. Especially when the electricity went off.
It was probably Niki’s first proper full meal in India. Do you know what it was? Chinese noodles. XD
Shoaib offered us a place to sleep at his friend’s (Mangesh) house, but since we’ve already booked this hotel and needed some privacy, we accepted the invitation for the next night. After a tasty meal they gave us a ride on their scooters, so we wouldn’t have to walk. It was awesome! We couldn’t stop smiling, even though sometimes it got pretty scary (ah, the traffic there!). With great moods and new hopes we fell asleep.
The next morning Mangesh, such a good guy, came on his scooter to take our big bags to his house. Our plan for the day was to go by bus to Ellora and see the famous caves (UNESCO heritage). However, at the bus stop Niki got more and more anxious, as every bus was so crowded, we would literally have to squeeze in… People were getting in like there was no tomorrow. Hot temperature and noise weren’t helping either. Every minute at the bus station was making her more and more miserable.
The only answer to this anxiety was a rickshaw. We got a deal of going there and back for 600 INR, with a guy waiting for us there, no matter for how long. During the drive Nick put some of Niki’s favourite music on and gave her the headphones, so she could relax and forget the sweaty reality.
A first thing that we saw in Ellora (except the price – locals pay 20 INR, tourists pay 500 INR) was a monkey tribe. These furry creatures were calmly hanging out by the road.
Before we even stepped inside one cave, this school trip stopped us and asked for selfies. We couldn’t refuse. :)
Cave number 16 was in a middle and it was the first thing you when you walk on the path. It is actually not a cave, but a temple carved in a rock. This whole complex of rock-cut temple caves happens to be the largest in the world.
Insides of this temple are simply breathtaking. Everything is so monumental and so detailed. It’s amazing how they did it by just… carving a mountain.
You walk around, look at this ancient carvings and feel so amazed by it all. Can people still do such wonderful things? Everything from so long ago…! But wait… maybe not everything.
The temple was really big, so we had to make stops every now and then. It was easy to get short of breath.
However, stopping too often was not a good idea – every time we had a break we had to pose for photographs. We also started taking pictures of and with them, it should go both ways after all. :)
Niki happens to be a tall one in India!
There are 34 caves out of a hundred open for public in Ellora. The most beautiful was definitely number 10, its carvings reminded us of wooden beams. To see this one we were obliged to take our shoes off.
We stopped in front of a cave number 12 and wondered whether it’s worth to go inside. It looked like three levels of parking spaces, seriously. A security guy spotted us being in doubt and he told us to follow him. He took a torch out and we went inside, climbing stairs after stairs, surrounded by silence that shouldn’t be disturbed by our steps. When we reached the third floor, the security guy pulled out a key and unlocked a chamber for us. There was a huge Buddha monument inside. With our lips whispering “wow” we entered and when our eyes got used to the darkness, we spotted colorful paintings on the walls. It was too dark to take pictures and I don’t think it would capture what we saw. We thanked a guy and stood for a while in a corridor, admiring the art and taking it all in.
From the cave 27 we could see a waterfall.
That trip was great and it stayed on our minds for a while.
In the evening we met Mangesh’s family. Staying with them we felt so welcome! They wanted to share everything with us and with just him being the only English speaking person in the house it was quite a challenge but before we noticed we became a part of it. We shared a meal together. It turns out Indians normally eat with their hands, not cutlery. So not civilized, one might say, but the most interesting part is that it’s not as easy as it seems. Europeans spend years teaching children how to use cutlery and “proper” behaviour by the table. To be honest, because of this “education” we were quite lost – eating semi-liquid sauces with your fingers was quite a challenge.
Of course, we were the only ones having trouble. :D
They cared for our well-being a lot and in a short time we already felt like members of the family. We talked, we laughed, we discussed differences in our cultures, we ate good food. They even showed us their wedding photos, where they had eight thousand guests!
Family is the most important thing for them. In their culture a divorce happens very rare. When we told them that it’s pretty common in Europe and that there are a lot of single mothers or people having children without getting married – they were shocked.
We showed them our Fire Show video and some photos from our journey. Later on Mangesh’s wife did a henna pattern on my hand a gave me some to take with me!
For the night we got our friend’s room and he went to work until the morning. We watched “Brave” and with Celtic melodies in our heads we soon fell asleep.
The next day we were supposed to take a bus to Goa (Colva Beach). But before that we’ve had a nice breakfast and… unfortunately we’ve missed a local market that we really wanted to visit. Oh well, the only thing left was admiring a very elegantly dressed cow. :D
The day before the family heard Niki mentioning how much she would like to buy a sari. With no hesitation they gave her one to try on and then presented it as a gift. She could not be more happy at this moment.
Their hospitality was unbelievable! Mangesh also helped us get a SIM card (finally!) and to top it up. We also went for some bananas for the road.
It was quite hard for us to leave, they were all so nice and caring, but a new adventure was awaiting us! The journey on a bus lasted around 15 hours. First five hours were okay (even though we were freezing due to crazy AC), because we were on a highway, but the true ride started after that… I’ve never been on such a bumpy road. I think we spent more time in the air than actually lying down on a mattress. We definitely prefer trains.
We’ve reached Goa at 10.00 am. After a short and unpleasant argument with a cheeky rickshaw driver we’ve arrived in Palm Crest. Our host, Vikram, was at work but he left us instructions and keys. Niki had a little break down – new city again, the whole night ride on a bus, more stuffy air and the incident with the tuk-tuk driver combined into one black cloud of thunders. Eventually Nick has convinced her to go out and they walked by the beach.
Beaches in Goa, India, are said to be one of the most beautiful in the world. White sand, warm water, palm trees and good weather make them one of the most popular destinations in this country.
The beach was pretty crowded and Niki felt uncomfortable to swim in her bikini, as even the girls that were there swam in clothes. Later on Vikram told us to go more to the right and check this part out, as there were supposed to be less people. It was true! Below you can see the view while looking left and right.
Obviously, we spent more time on the right side. We’ve met a lot of Europeans there and Niki could have a swim not worrying about wearing bikini.
Sand on the beach was really soft and nice, it felt like flour. It also made a creaky sound while walking on it, just like snow. :) Niki managed to find a lot of beautiful shells.
Sunsets on Goa are not as beautiful as one might think. Due to a misty air (is it a mist from dirt or the ocean?) you can barely see the horizon. Sun doesn’t fall behind it, it just… fades away.
We stayed in Goa longer than we anticipated. We needed this time to cool down and plan further trip. Apparently here you have to book tickets at least few days in advance, otherwise there are no more seats left. During our stay here we met this Polish couple on their honeymoon and we spent one day together. It was so nice to chat and exchange stories with people from our land. :)
They helped us create a new cover photo for our facebook site.
We’re gonna miss Goa beaches a bit, although they were a bit touristy for our taste. Abandoned ships and drying fishnets have this sailing-like atmosphere, but you can see them everywhere, including Europe.
Right outside you can see all these stands with clothes, jewellery and spices, but they are no different from the ones we saw in Europe, for example on Tenerife. Of course you have some exceptions, like chilli drying on the ground or “government approved shops” that we were told to avoid. ;)
Well, that was a long post. One week here feels like a month of life. We make mistakes, we learn a lot and we don’t give up. We’ve bought a ticket to Malaysia for the 16th of November, until then we’re planning to explore Kerala.
Stay tuned, it’s just the beginning!