A big day – a lot of ground travelled and a lot seen. Our taxi was awaiting us at 6:15am, to drive about for 45 minutes through the dark pre-dawn to the airport, but of course the plane ended up being delayed about 1½ hours anyway. We met a young Israeli guy called Nir who was heading in the same direction, so he sort of hung out with us today and tomorrow, though we were getting a bit sick of them by this evening! The plane was fine and it was a pleasant hour and a half flight; it was strange to be flying again, though we landed with a bit of a jolt. We walked onto the main road outside the airport and caught a packed local bus into Aurangabad.
A completely different feel down here which we really noticed – the weather was much hotter for a start, but the people seemed to smile more and the countryside seemed more prosperous. We were sweating profusely by the time we got a hotel room (after a couple of tries) in the Depelya Hotel on the romantically-named Bus Stand Road.
It was early afternoon so, after dropping our packs, we went to the eponymous bus stand and organised an auto-rickshaw to take us to Ellora and back (about 36km each way). A nice ride through the countryside, passing the ruins of Davltabad Fort, up into the hills. A beautiful, hot day.
Eventually we arrived at Ellora and got our first gob-smacking sight of the row of rock-cut temples, and the imposing rock façade of the Kailasa Temple. Astounding. We headed right down to Cave One. Quite a lot of people about, mostly Indian tourists, several of whom stopped K and I for photo opportunities (we always feel grotty when posing for a photo with beautiful, sari-clad young girls). The caves were amazing, especially one with a carved barrel vaulted ceiling. Beautiful detailed columns, and fascinating caves that were only partially finished, allowing us to see how they carved them right out of the cliff face.
Eventually we reached Cave 16, the Kailasa Temple, which was indescribable. We first got an amazing view of the temple from above, and couldn’t believe how huge it is (1½ times the area of the Pantheon and twice as high), and how astounding it is that it was cut out of the rock. We wandered around and through the temple (with hordes of tourists), open-mouthed with amazement. Truly incredible.
We saw a few more caves but the Kailasa overshadowed all the others, and we were tired, so we found Nir and headed back to Aurangabad.
Stole out by ourselves to a Chinese restaurant (average food) for dinner.