Mumbai – our very first moments in India

Mumbai was the place where our round the world journey has been started. It was a beginning of our adventure in Asia.

 

We arrived to Mumbai at 5 o’clock in the morning. Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport is one of the most beautiful airports we have ever seen. We were positively suprised. We waited till dusk and about 7 am took pre-paid taxi to our hotel. Right after we left the airport area our eyes saw what we had been told from other travelers about Mumbai. Massive skyscrapers and the most expensive house in the world Antilia surrounded by unbelieveable dirt, bad odour and rubbish flying around everywhere, people or even whole families with small children sleeping on the streets, stray dogs and total chaos on the road. It took about 40 minutes to get to the south part of Mumbai… but that wasn’t just regular taxi ride. Our taxi wasn’t in good condition as driver was revving engine to have it running. We managed to get out from the airport on motorway in taxi which was falling apart. Motorway had three lanes but there were six vehicles in one row trying to overtake each other. Our driver wasn’t bothered about it so we assumed it was everyday life on motorway. He didn’t look at the mirrors when changing lanes at all or when overtaking. Driver was sharing the same lane with other vehicles. He was using klaxon to let other drivers know about himself. We thought it was time to fasten seatbelts, but what seatbelts? They weren’t there. Anyway, everybody was using klaxons when manoeuvring. Red hot car horns seemed to be used instead of indicators too. When driver was trying to overtake big lorry he almost drove into a group of people carring… a tree… A real tree in whole piece with branches and leaves about 30ft long on motorway! We got off motorway and were heading to the first junction with traffic lights and light was red. Everywhere red light means STOP but our driver seemed not to be bothered. He carried on driving, just pressing horn button and manoeuvering between other rickshaws, motorbikes or cars. Everybody was using klaxons and somehow we went through traffic alive without collison. Driver obviously couldn’t stop the car in case of engine stall, so from there we did all junctions with red lights in the same manner. We did 17 miles, but our adrenaline spiked higher than on a roller coaster!

Another days we were wandering around our neighbourhood and learning India, for example how to cross a street and that wasn”t as easy as it seemed to be back at home place. Doesn’t matter red or green light on, vehicles carry on going like our taxi driver did. To get on the other side of the street, do what local people do. Squeeze through small gaps beetween rickshaws, motorbikes, cars and lorries (and those are not slowing down).

When jet lag was gone and our body got used to new day and night we went for a trip to the north part of the Mumbai, to Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The cheapest and best option to get there was by “slow train” (train that operates inside borders of Mumbai). Return ticket costs 30 rupiees (30p) for about 33 miles. Difference between 1st and 2nd class is only a price, other than that both are exactly the same. We noticed there is one more class for females, handicapped and people with cancer (really?!). What we kept in mind was picture of Indian Railways delayed and way overloaded, more than train could take on board. Our train was on time and barely any people inside our car. We picked our seats and started to enjoy Indian tracks. It didn’t take long that our joy was interupted as soon as we stopped on the next station. Indian males were flooding the car, literally flooding. Over 100 people got into cars in few seconds and they had to do it very quick because train didn’t stop for long. Whoever didn’t manage, had to wait for another train. On next stops there were only more and more pople getting inside and there were no more standing places left. People were sticking out the open doors and if there were no bars in the windows, train would look like caterpillar. Our concern was how to get out from the train but luckily for us Borivali station was the last stop for this train.

Slow train at Grand Road Station:

Slow Indian train
Slow Indian train

 

And train that we missed on our way back to the hotel:

 

 

We decided to take rickshaw from station to our destination and started to bargain for the price (everybody does it in India). We had little help from local man who knew English and told us what the price should be. We finished half way of the starting price. Rickshaw’s driver accepted the price not shaking his had up and down (like it is in Europe), but drawing symbol of infinity with his head what means ‘YES’ in India. Sometimes it is hard to keep poker face when speaking with few Indian guys and they all shake their heads for ‘yes’ at the same time 🙂

Sanjay Gandhi National Park is rather not very famous for foreign tourists. Definitely there is more Indian citizens. We wanted to get out from overcowded and busy city, didn’t want to go to Colaba like everybody visiting Mumbai. Finally we could breath fresh air without pollution. In the park itself you can take defined paths, mini train, walk/cycle on asphalt road or buy a safari experience by bus to see lions and tigers. Safari is not for us as there is nothing interesting to pay to look at caged animals. We almost took mini train, but someone who just got off it told us it wasn’t worth to do it. We had taken a walk in the park for a bit and then, later on, we took taxi to Kanheri Caves – in our opinion place worth to visit and we recommend it. There was only one interesting and funny thing, the entry fee. Indian citizens pay 5 rupiees when foreigners 100 rupiees 🙂 Unacceptable thing in Europe…

 

Pricelist at the entrance to Kanheri Caves
Pricelist at the entrance to Kanheri Caves

 

„Kanheri” means „black mountain”. 109 caves chiseled out of a basaltic rock were home for local people. The exact date of creation is unknown, but they’re dated from the first century BCE to the 10th century CE. Many caves have beautiful Budda’s likeness.

 

Sunday morning about 8 we got into Koyna Express train heading up to Satara. It wasn’t our destination place, rather just a stop on the way to Mahabaleshwar.

 

Konya Express
Konya Express at the station

 

Koyna Express inside
It’s how train looks inside (class C1, car chair AC)

 

Stickers on seats
Stickers on seats 😀

Train stations are away from city centres in India. Our station to Satara was about 4 miles away from city and by the time we got there it was too late to continue the journey, so we stayed in Satara overnight. There is nothing interesting about this place, pollution from vehicles is very high and there is no air to breath. Local people were wearing balaclavas to protect lunghs. We were coughing all the time. One night exhausted us and we wanted to get out from there as soon as possible.

Next day we wanted to pay some money out from ATM because we were running low on cash but unfortunately our cards weren’t accepted by all ATMs in Satara! We checked them all, walking with heavy backpacks, sweating out in very hot 35C degree climate. In some of them only indian Visa was working and some others were working with RuPay cards. We were left with 220 rupiees (about £2.20) in our pocket and huge wish to leave Satara behind. You only live once – we got in to the bus to Mahabaleshwar spending 114 rupiees out of our ‘budget’. Only information about that place we had it was small, quiet hill station at 1353 metres above see level and chance for banks with ATMs was very small. How we were doing in Mahabaleshwar and more about this place soon. In the mean time movie from the bus to Maha… very bumpy road:

 

 

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