relaxing and exhausting adventures

This is the land of intensity! From Goa I took the overnight bus to Hampi. That was a bit of a trial – air conditioning blasting, the horn going almost non-stop, and the twisting and bumping of the road, not to mention a tiny “bed” that luckily I had another homeopath from the conference to share. Hampi was a welcome reward but it was a bit of a change of scenery going from the quiet and calm of a Goan resort to a bamboo hut where around the corner could be found a herd of goats, some meandering cows, a village of narrow winding streets, much of which is dedicated to the low budget traveler. The “garden paradise” hostel was pretty nice, though, and you could sit at the outdoor cafe and eat momos, drink pineapple juice and just enjoy the passing of the river below and the stories of other travelers.

The sites of Hampi are pretty incredible – volcanic rock and old temple remnants scattered everywhere you look.
After 3 days I decided to move on and head to the caves of Ellora and Ajanta.
The train journey was another trial and I tried to practice equanimity as the train stopped at a station 2 hours from my point of departure and stayed there for 5 hours before moving on. I was booked in the regular sleeper, which seemed okay, but is pretty basic compared to sleeper class back home (like… no comparison is possible!) and I would have chosen air conditioning this time so I wouldn’t have been subject to the hours of heat, smell and mosquitoes.
The train arrived in Hyderabad by about 5 a.m. and my next train was leaving at 6pm so I spend the day exploring Hyderabad. I’m not sure that I would recommend it as a purposeful stop, but it was interesting to see the bustle of another city, to eat biryani where it comes from and to see some tombs and the minarets where you can climb up and have a nice view of the crowds and markets below. There is a lovely buddha statue in the lake, but I felt a bit sad to see that the lake was so incredibly polluted and filled with garbage. I suppose the buddha would remain equanimous and compassionate in any case!
The train on to Aurangebad was a more pleasant experience. I was sharing the space with a family of Muslim Bohra women – 2 mothers and their 3 young school age daughters. They were friendly and sweet and I must admit that I did enjoy the curiousity and friendliness of the women in Hyderabad. Even behind the burka I had many young women smile at me, shake my hand and ask my name and where I’m from.
I arrived in Aurangebad at 4:30 a.m. and could not find a hotel to stay in. I guess everyone has the lonely planet. I finally landed at the pretty basic youth hostel which provided a cold shower and a few hours of sleep.
I took a crowded jeep later in the morning to see the caves of Ellora. By crowded, I mean about 21 people in a jeep which should seat maybe 10. You have to see it to believe it. Every time he would stop to pick someone up I would marvel at where they would go and somehow they fit somewhere and we moved on.
The caves are remarkeable. The main cave is Hindu and was carved out of the rock over 150 years. There are also some buddhist caves and there are Jain caves but those were not accessible today. I enjoyed the relative quiet of the buddhist caves and the man who sweeps them clean took me into a small rock shrine room and chanted the refuge prayer in sanskrit to show me how the sound would reverberate off the walls. It was a very moving moment for me.
I also haven’t been feeling well again today – I think I took some silly culinary risks in Hyderabad – so I took many breaks in the buddhist caves just to cool off and meditate a little. I was aware of bats hanging on the cieling above, though, so I couldn’t fully relax! I wonder if the monks that lived there so many centuries ago shared their little rock cave cells with the bats.
Tomorrow I’m hoping to get to the Ajanta caves which are older and are buddhist, and then I fly out of here on Monday and will be home by Tuesday evening. It’s hard to believe. I’m ready for a soft bed and a bland meal, though, and perhaps some cooler weather to clear up this horrible heat rash I have on my neck.

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