Opening the curtains this morning, we were delighted to see one of our favourite places just across the water. We’d been due to arrive in Mumbai, India, at 8am, but it appeared that we were slightly ahead of schedule. We dressed and went for breakfast so we’d be prepared for another face-to-face immigration party.
From our breakfast table out on the deck, we watched as things were quickly prepared for our arrival.
A few potplants were brought out to prettify the harbourside and a roll of coir matting put out.
In no time at all, we’d collected our passports, been issued yellow landing cards, handed back our passports and were out there, meeting our group for a trip to Elephanta Island.
First stop, the Gateway to India, Apollo Bunder and the pier for the small boats which serve the island. Actually getting onto our boat wasn’t that easy, requiring the transit across several others, but with the firm hand of the charming crew, we all made it across!
Our guide, Meheruk, was elegantly dressed in the brightest of cotton churidar kameez with a matching dupata which she managed beautifully. First question was “where can we buy them?” (Shopping trip planned for tomorrow!)
Anyway, back on focus, we had a grand view of the Gateway and the Taj hotel as we left all the hubbub behind. Much of the area was fenced off in preparation for a festival next week, so we felt quite privileged to get any kind of view at all.
“Oh, it’s ok, as long as you don’t go taking photos of those navy ships and stuff”
We didn’t – we put our cameras away as soon as we were out of the melee that is an Indian pier and made our way through a flotilla of all kinds of craft – oil tankers, container ships, small pleasure steamers, the lot.
Eventually, we made it to Elephanta.
The challenge here was to negotiate 132 steps to the caves in what was incredibly oppressive heat and humidity. Sure, we could have paid to be carried up, but all but the very infirm were too proud to do that! The whole stretch of the staircase was lined both sides with stalls selling more knick knacks but on the way up, we were way too preoccupied.
For some reason, we were not expecting a cave like this, but something way more freeform. In fact, what greeted us at the top was a manmade cavern, somewhat similar to – but more extensive than – Petra. In this cave, carved from a single rockface, were nine temples to Shiva.
Each beautifully carved, each with a story to tell. We listened whilst wilting in the heat, making the best use of fans, cologne, wet towels and bottled water that we could.
Popular with local tourists too, we admired their ability to stay cool and elegant whilst we all dripped!
But hot or not, we wanted to see what there was to see, so we took things slowly, thought cool thoughts and meandered about in the gloom of the cave, each trying to take pictures without anyone else in them.
Though sometimes, a pop of colour was exactly what was needed.
The workmanship and sheer magnitude of the cave was remarkable and we were so pleased we’d made the trip. Both sets of parents had visited here and spoken highly of the place, so we felt that we’d been advised well.
Even so, both of us imagined some cave painting here for some reason – when in fact, the only colour remaining is this small border in one of the caves.
Having seen that small feature, we tried to ignore the attention of the local inhabitants and began to make our way slowly down the steps again.
The “dollies” were waiting, but once again, we chose to go under our own steam. Actually, going down was almost as much of a challenge as going up, since the steps were fairly steep and a little uneven in places.
Recognising that this was their last chance, too, the trinket sellers were a little more active in their pursuit of us on the way down as well.
A mercifully cool hour’s ride back across the bay, including a wave from the Coastguard whose helicopter buzzed our small boat, and we were back on the mainland, gathering amidst the balloon sellers and the photographers who have traditionally worked this particular place. No longer able to offer Polaroid portraits for people, they now carry small portable printers, taking digital photographs of people and printing them out within seconds!
After a brief lunch of a sandwich and cold beer back on the ship, showered and changed, we made it to the TeaTime Trivia….winning for the second day in a row! Woot!
Tonight, we’re going out on the town. What fun will there be, I wonder?