Mumbai

We have arrived in Mumbai and found it easy enough when we got off at Central Station. We jumped straight into a taxi and asked the fella to take us the Colaba area where we are staying. This area is very popular with travellers as its central and we did have some trouble finding somewhere to stay but have made a reservation with The Volga 2 Hotel.

When we arrive there it is 7.30 in the morning and eventually the miserable night porter lets us in. He tells us our room is not available until 12 so we leave our rucksacks and head off to find some breakfast. Downstairs is a very popular restaurant called Leopolds and I’m pleased to see bottles of Corona lined up on the bar- hurray!!

I consider having one but decide it can wait until later and have scrambled eggs and coffee instead.
We then walk to The Gateway of India which is 2 minutes away. This huge archway is Mumbai’s icon and a symbol of colonialism. But only 24 years after it was built in 1924 the last British soldiers symbolically marched through it as India gained independence and the British left.
Its good to see the sea and after nearly a month of eating vegetarian food supplemented only by a bit of chicken and occasional goat I am looking forward to eating some fish here.

We decide as we have a few hours to kill to blag it and walk into the lovely Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel this gorgeous old hotel is in itself an institution and we do look out of place but we just act like we are staying there and make our way to their dining room where we order some coffee.
I want to use the toilets to freshen up but when Maisie and I go in there the toilet attendant is too posh for words and I just don’t have the bottle to get my toothbrush and wet wipes out so I leave it.

We make our way back to The Volga 2 and are informed that there is only one room available. It is no bigger than 13ft by 8ft and like a cell without a bathroom. We tell the fella that we reserved 2 rooms and want a private bathroom but we are wasting our breath and he just shrugs his shoulders. As we are so tired agree to take it anyway , I’m not sure how we are all supposed to fit on 2 single beds, especially as it is over 30 degrees here but I’m sure we will manage. The cheeky sod then tries to charge us an extra 150 rupees for the “privilege” of all being in the room together but Simon’s having none of it and tells him where to get off !

Its now 4.30 in the afternoon and we have just come back to our prison cell after having lunch at Tendulkars. I’ve never heard of Sachin Tendulkar but Simon tells me he is a famous Indian cricketer and it’s a bit like The Hard Rock Cafe with balls on the wall instead of guitars. We had some great food there, I had seafood risotto and creme brulee and I’m now lying on my bunk next to my cellie Maisie planning to diet tomorrow.

Mumbai is India’s most cosmopolitan city and I can’t wait to get out of here and explore it. From what I have seen so far it reminds me a bit of London, there are lots of signs of British colonial rule here and the architecture looks very familiar. Many of the landmarks such as Victoria Station now have Indian names which were changed when the city of Bombay was renamed in 1996.

We have a busy few days planned and are planning to visit the Colaba market, Mani Bhavan (Mahatma Gandhi’s old home) and Chowpatty Beach tomorrow. Simon and Ali have gone out to buy some sunglasses and for now I intend to lie here peacefully and soak up all the atmosphere that The Volga 2 has to offer.

Bus to Mumbai

I didn’t wake up until 9am today which is late for me, despite this I’m feeling pretty tired. We stayed out last night until about 11.30 and made some calls to home. Mum was telling me about our little niece Hope, who is apparently growing fast. Maybe my only regret about the timing of this trip is that we won’t be around for her first year and I have asked my brother to email us some photos of her.
I then spoke to Dad and Pauline they are following our journey closely and enviously by the sounds of things! It was great to talk to them and again I am reminded of the powers of the lovely internet. As Pauline says, we sound as if we are around the corner and could almost just drop in for a mince pie and a drop of sherry – That does sound quite tempting!

The Skype connection was excellent and our total bill at the end of the night for over two hours of calls to the UK, two hours of internet for the kids, one beer, 2 cokes and 2 litres of water is about 4 pounds 30, what a bonus.

Simon manages to get the hotel owner to agree to a late check-out on one of the rooms at no extra cost. This is good as it means, if and when the power comes back on in the daytime we can charge our various gadgets that will help the bus journey to go quicker.

I was a real baby earlier and started crying at the thought of the bus. I read the information in The Lonely Planet and have discovered that bedding is not provided and long journeys can be very uncomfortable, couple this with the thought of no food for hours and no toilets and to say I am shitting myself would be something of an understatement. There is however, no alternative other than to fly straight to Goa and then we would miss Mumbai altogether. I am trying to stay calm and compare it to all those vile night shifts that I used to hate so much. At the end of the day I guess I did get through them and they, like this bus journey were a means to an end.

Simon is spending some time teaching the kids maths this morning. I have never understood even the most basic mathematical concepts and I get very frustrated about this as I am unable to help them at all. I’ve decided when we get to Goa that I am going to spend some time looking at the kids work and try and learn some simple maths myself.

It’s now 5.30 and we have been on the bus for 2 hours, when we arrived at the bus station I had to go and pee through nerves and made Maisie come with me. The toilets were quite horrible, we have adjusted to the Indian toilets well and I actually quite like them as at least no part of your body touches anything.
But these were something else entirely; no hole just a gently sloping tile back to a gully of unmentionables and no water to rinse the thing down with. I never realised I had such a talent for holding my breath.

The bus on the other hand is ok so far, it is a private sleeper bus and the sleeping compartments I suppose are something like the overhead storage lockers on planes but a lot bigger. Although there aren’t any sheets its hot at the moment so that’s not a problem, Maisie and I are in one compartment and Simon and Ali in another and although we have several bags and a guitar in with us we aren’t particularly cramped and there is room to sit up and lie completely flat.
It is very noisy though, our main travelling companions seem to be women with children although they are mostly in single berth compartments with at least 2 children each in with them. The lady opposite gave Maisie some sweets and I watched her little son while she nipped out to get some chai.

5 am and I have had 2 hours sleep max. Maisie and Ali have slept on and off all night and this amazes me as Indian pop music has been blasting through the crackly speakers since we started our journey.
As we left Udaipur we stopped for half an hour whilst the roof of the bus was loaded up with tin buckets and its now unloading time. Then noise of men scrabbling around on the roof and the clanking of the buckets is slightly nerve jangling especially as I have spent the last hour or so alternately smacking my head against the window as we bounce over yet another bump and trying to stop my teeth from being rattled out of my mouth by clenching them together. It has been a very long night.