Hello Family, Friends and Followers,
It's been a while since we've caught up. We're in Africa and it's proven difficult in the internet arena. Plus, it's hard to get the motivation to write these posts and keep going sometimes. Ultimately, the blog is for us to look back on in the future but any encouragement in the meantime is appreciated. We're very far behind but will try to catch up.
We last left off making a beeline out of Udaipur headed to Aurangabad to check out some caves. Our travel to Aurangabad included 3 different buses and a 23-hour jaunt. All was going well until around 1:00 am when the stomach monster visited Leanne. The bus hadn't stopped in over 5 hours for a restroom break and there wasn't a stop planned for another few hours. Leanne did what anyone would do in this situation. She grabbed her head lamp, jumped down for the sleeper bed, crawled over 20 sleeping people on the bus floor and pleaded with the bus driver to make an emergency stop. By pleading, we mean she said "toliet, please" several times in a voice quivering with panic. The bus driver told her to climb in the driver's quarters of the bus and wait for 10 minutes until he could pull off of the side of the road for a "natural toilet." That was the longest 10 minutes of Leanne's life. He pulled off the road and said "sorry, you must go in the natural toilet." Within a flash, Leanne said "no problem" and bolted off of the bus with just the light of her headlamp. Leanne would like to give her apologies to that little gathering of houses that the bus driver pulled off at. Darn that "Delhi Belly" syndrome. Sorry, was that too much information? We just want to make sure we are painting the true picture for traveling in India. We met a couple that said "If you both haven't pooped your pants, you haven't traveled India." As funny as that may sound we are happy to say that at least we don't fall into that category.
Luckily, the stomach bug didn't last long and we were making our way around Aurangabad like old pros. We opted to take the local bus to the Ajanta caves to save some money. It was a bit of a pain figuring out which bus to get on but we were all smiles when we finally realized we had made the right decision about 20 minutes into the ride.
After two hours, we made it to the Ajanta caves. This badminton team's coach desperately wanted them to take a picture with us. The girls faces were plastered with wide smiles, that is until we actually took the picture. They all put on their serious game faces as soon as we said "Say cheese. "
The Ajanta caves are about 30 rock-cut Buddhist caves which date from 2nd century BC to about 480-650 AD. In 1983 they were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The caves are cut into the side of a cliff and form a U-shape. The caves were Buddhist monasteries used for teaching and living, which is apparent from the impressive architecture and beautifully unique paintings. During its prime, the area was said to accommodate several hundred monks and pupils. It was left undiscovered for several centuries when the forest grew back and hid the caves. In 1819, a British officer by the name of John Smith, stumbled upon the caves while out tiger hunting. Within a few decades of its rediscovery, the caves became famous. The caves are truly a site to behold and it's easy to get lost in the history.
The caves were dimly lit to preserve as much of its integrity as possible. We were allowed to us our headlamps for additional lighting.
For around $16 you could have some guys carry you around in a chair. They wanted us to pay them to take a picture in the chair. Instead, we decided it would be fun to carry them around for a change! This guy loved his ride.
We made our way around, one cave at a time.
The monks and pupils slept on concrete beds. Ahhh...nothing says a good night's sleep like concrete.
This was one of the most famous paintings.
In the last cave you are greeted with the reclining Buddha, symbolic of Buddha's end to his journey in life. It was quite fitting.
We did one last lap around the cave and expressed our gratitude for the opportunity to experience something so moving and historical.
The next day we shared a car with two Indian residents and visited some local sites including the Ellora Caves. We made a pit stop at a fort. We had seen so many forts that we decided to sit this one out and brush up on our history of the Ellora caves.
Leanne quizzed Josh on his knowledge of the caves while sipping on hot chai.
Backseat buddies with Himanshu!
We stopped at temple that required all of the men to take of their shirts. Himanshu insisted that we go into this temple. Why do all the men take off their shirts, you ask? We have no idea and we didn't get an answer when we asked either. Josh was reluctant to participate at first but decided to "When in India!" it instead.
After the men put their shirts back on and several backseat picture taking moments, we made it to the Ellora caves. The Ellora Caves were built between the 5th and 10th century and are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These caves have a combination of Buddhist, Jain and Hindu influence and are focused on architecture and carvings rather than paintings and murals.
Cave number 16 is the unrivaled centerpiece of Ellora. It was carved out of one single rock and it covers and area double the size of the Parthenon in Athens!
The detail of the carvings are unreal. It's hard to even imagine how this masterpiece was created. Astonishingly, it took over 100 years to complete.
It wouldn't be a visit to the Ellora caves without the obligatory picture with school kids.
This artwork is human genius, right?
This prize winning photo was brought to you by the local private school kiddos. Shortly after this picture was taken, the three hams in the front were scolded by their teachers for getting out of line. Sorry about that boys!
"Can I have one picture with you?" said the beautifully dressed women. Of course Leanne was honored to take a picture with them.
Strike a pose, there's nothing to it...
Our last stop was the Mini Taj (Bibi Ka Maqbara) - an imitation of the Taj Mahal in Agra.
We didn't get this pose at the real Taj so we thought it would be the perfect time to capture it. If only Leanne could have kept a straight face instead of laughing the whole time.
Role reversal - this time Leanne asked these pretty ladies to take a picture with her. They were so excited. Don't you just love the girl in the background getting after her game of badminton?
It was a wonderful day of sightseeing. To top it all off, we had some local buddies meet up with us at night. While on the bus ride from the Ajanta Caves back to Aurangabad, Leanne chatted it up with Vishal (guy with the glasses) for almost the entire 2-hour ride. He was so thrilled to meet us that he and his friends hung out with us for our last night in Aurangabad. In some of our prior posts we were beginning to get a little crabby with our visit to India. Vishal and his buds reaffirmed our love for India and its people. Thanks guys!
Since we are on the topic of amazing people, it's the perfect time to talk about why we were headed to Mumbai. We mentioned during our Delhi post that we got an extension on our visa to attend our friend's wedding. We were thrilled as we made our way to Mumbai to partake in Pashmina and Guv's wedding celebrations. We had a couple of days to do some sightseeing in Mumbai before all of the wedding fun began.
We had lunch at Leopold's Cafe. It's a famous restaurant for tourists and was one of the first sites attacked during the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. The restaurant was reopened a mere 4 days after the brutal attacks but was closed by police within two hours due to the unexpected size of the crowds that gathered. It's still a popular spot for tourists despite its gruesome past.
There are bullet holes in the walls as a reminder of the horrible incident that took place there. Yes, it's sounds morbid to visit a place that was part of a terrorist attack but it's history.
From Leopold's we visited the India Gate. Let us introduce you to Pashmina's friends and our new great group of friends too. From left, Amie (representing Denver), Jennifer (representing Denver), Johanna (representing New York) and Matt (representing Denver). We were like the six amigos for a week straight! We were instant friends and it was like we had all known each other for years. We did some intense shopping for traditional Indian clothing to wear to the wedding events and if that doesn't break you, nothing will.
Since Josh was the photographer for the group picture we took a couple's picture too.
Let the wedding events begin!
Indian weddings are full of family, friends and fun. Pash put it best when she wrote us "Officially there are 3 events, but unofficially part of the wedding fun is that we spend a lot of time together, before, after and during. Indian weddings are the anti-thesis to alone time. Even for the couple!"
First Official Event: Hollywood/Bollywood Welcome Dinner
(Side note: We attended an unofficial welcome dinner at a delicious chinese restaurant but we were too busy stuffing our faces to take pictures.)
Here's the beautiful couple and the reason we were all in Mumbai together. Let's celebrate some love!
Pash = gorgeous
Guv = handsome
Pash + Guv - one darn good looking combination
Josh gives them two thumbs up! On a side note, Josh got his beard shaped for the festivities. Doesn't he look handsome? Sometimes, when he looks at himself in the mirror, he doesn't recognize the man staring back. It's amazing what 13 months on the road can do to a man. (Amendment by Josh: Leanne wrote this.)
We were asked to play along in a tongue twister game. Leanne won because Josh didn't even realize the host was speaking English until we sat back down after the game.
Second Official Event: Mendhi (Day) & Sangeet (Night)
During the day the ladies gathered in Pashmina's suite for a henna party. Pashmina's mendhi was so elaborate and exquisite it took over 3 hours to finish. It even included secret messages to the groom.
The ladies had a turn at it too. Since Leanne was a little girl she had an aversion to any ink on her hands. If she accidently was marked with ink, she would scrub her hands raw until it came off. She put her fears aside for the occasion and let the artists go to town.
It was unbelievable work. The longer you take care of the mehndi, the longer it stays on your hands. Leanne did her best to keep it as long as she could. She even received compliments in Ethiopia and Kenya that it was some of the best Mehndi people had ever seen! Kuddos to your artists, Pash!
Flashing those pretty hands.
We got all Indian dolled up for the night portion of the event.
As an extra special bonus, the bride-to-be rode over to the event in the same car as us.
That evening we celebrated in style at the Sangeet Party. We picked out our outfits with Pashmina a few days prior and after a slight alteration to each we were ready to show off our new threads!
It may only be a point and shoot camera but it still takes great pictures.
See? Simply beautiful! It's hard not to take a good picture when the bride is absolutely stunning. Pashmina is a sport because this custom outfit weighed over seven pounds!
Cheers to good times and great friends.
Uh oh, Josh on the dance floor? There must have been alcohol involved.
Although our pictures might be blurry our memories were not.
Good times with new friends.
Third oficial event: The Wedding
Leanne's henna looked beautiful with her wedding day outfit.
Owning that kurta pajama!
Getting ready to enter the temple.
Josh with his new buddies. Can't wait to see you guys in London and Georgia!!
The ladies hanging out with the bride-to-be before the wedding.
No Pash, there's nothing on your lip. We just couldn't stop staring at how beautiful you looked.
The wedding ceremony.
Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Bhatti!
It's a tradition at Indian weddings for the ladies to steal the groom's shoes and then have the groom and his party pay to get the shoes back. There was some tense negotiation but a deal was finally struck.
Having fun after the wedding.
Fourth oficial event: The Wedding Reception
Leanne had to do some recycling on her Indian attire while Josh parted ways with his shaped beard.
Dancing partners for life
Woah! Save that kind of stuff for the honeymoon!!
It's so good to have so many new friends. We miss you all.
We wanted to say another thank you to Pash and Guv for allowing us to be a part of your wedding festivities. It was truly and honor to be a part of everything. It was one of the highlights of our trip. We will forever cherish our times in Mumbai and can't wait to see you again!! Guv, practice saying y'all and remember, no matter how much you hate it, football is now called soccer.
We headed straight to the airport after the wedding reception to catch our 5:40 A.M. flight to Nairobi. We had a layover in Ethiopia which was fitting since we were flying Ethiopian Air. It was a great flight and will try to fly them again.
We arrived in Nairobi and passed by a park with hundreds of thousands of people in it. We didn't want to pull out our camera so we just used the newspaper article from the next day. The elections were coming up and it turns out that people were praying for peaceful elections. In the last election there were major riots and the entire country almost went down the drain. Many people told us to leave the country by the time the elections took place so we planned on it.
One thing that needed to be done first was some dental work for Josh. During the reception in India, Josh was doubled over with pain but didn't want to miss any of the action so he powered through it. The pain was excruciating but he made it through. We got a recommendation for a dentist at the hotel we were staying and made an appointment.
It turned out that Josh needed a root canal. A root canal in Africa?! Oh boy, this is something that would have been beyond our wildest imaginations a year ago but here we were. Dr. Mwenge turned out to be great and after two visits everything was fixed. It has been weeks now with no problems so we think we're in the clear. Josh says you haven't really experienced Africa unless you've had a root canal. Leanne vehemently disagrees with this. In either case, the dentist did a great job and if you find yourself in Nairobi needing dental work reach out to us for contact information. Who knows, maybe Africa will be the next hotspot for dental tourism?
Proud doctor and patient. This was the first time Josh had smiled in days.
As a reward we treated ourselves to a little hotel picnic of fine salami, cheese, crackers, olives, sparkling water, and South African wine. YAY!!
Scenes from Nairobi during the election.
Vote for me, says the guy in the pinstripe suit, pimp hat, and gold chains.
Can you imagine this bus in the States?
or this? Kracklelicious!!!
Fish and chips stands are really fried chicken and fries stands. They are everywhere and they are delicious. It was so good to eat protein again. After two-and-a-half months of vegetarian dishes we were ready and ate fried chicken several times. Leanne doesn't even eat fried chicken but she loved it. They slow roast it and then when you order they drop it into a fryer with no batter. It comes out tender and juicy. It reminds us of a fried turkey at Thanksgiving.
That's enough for now. We'll see you next time! We still have a safari and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to write about. As always, thanks for following us.
Leanne & Josh