Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 2 Mumbai

Getting up early this morning was a non issue... I think we were up at 3:00 a.m.

Todays excursion was to Elephanta Island... about an hours boat ride from Mumbai in the protected harbour of the bay..... at least it is suppose to be an hour if the boat doesn't have engine problems! We did get there. The boats all line up just beyond the Gateway of India that was erected by the British to commemorate the the royal visit of King George V. It was completed in 1924. This same gate was used 24 years later as the exit point for the last British Regiment as India became independent. I am not sure how our guide decided which boat we should take but in order to get to the one you want, you climb across as many as you need to get where you want to be.

Elephanta Island is the home of the rock-art caves carved out of basalt and dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site that has one of the most accessible collections of rock art in India and it served as a prelude for us for our upcoming trip to the Ajanta and Ellora caves in Aurangabad. The temple caves are thought to have been carved in the 6th to 8th centuries. To say they are awe inspiring is probably a gross understatement. They are huge. These were not caves that were made into temples... these were carved out of the rock to become temples in the form of caves. The island is not inhabitable as there is no source of water or power. The Hindu priests who oversaw the construction of these temples dug cisterns in the rock to collect the water in the monsoon season. Their engineering skills in this and the construction of the temples and statue art is mind boggling considering that all they had as tools were hammer and chisel.
Monkeys are the main inhabitants of the island these days.. they are very bold and will go after you if you walk with a drink in your hand... don't ask me how I know that!

Our return boat trip was uneventful. The Gateway to India sits right in front of the Taj Hotel where President Obama will be staying in a few days. It is a beautiful building but we wanted to get out of the area early as the traffic was already starting to be diverted in anticipation of the the visit. OK, I need to vent some here... I have to wonder who was the genius who scheduled this trip during Diwali. This is the time of year when shopkeepers make a substantial amount of their yearly sales... think Christmas and New Years for us. Streets were cordoned off and it was next to impossible to move around the area.... and this was still 5 days prior to Diwali and Mr. Obama's arrival.
After running some errands and dodging traffic, we arrived back at the hotel early in the evening. It was going to be an early night for us.
Driving in India is an art form in itself.. there are unwritten rules that the rest of the world does not know. We would never survive... they also drive on the other side... holdover from British rule I suppose and of course the cars are mostly stick shifts. My brain is simply not programmed to shift with my left hand and to drive on the left instead of the right. Thankfully, I do not suffer from high blood pressure. Travel is an adventure in and of itself. Oh, did I mention the horns? They are incessant. They are used to tell someone to move over, or to say you are going to pass them they should not move over... and that is only for starters.
Besides regular taxis, Mumbai and many other cities have vehicles known as auto rickshaws. These are three wheeled "cars" with open sides and less expensive than a standard taxi. Some are metered and some you strike a deal with the driver. They are much smaller than even a compact car... a necessity to fit down some of the winding and narrow lanes that make up the old cities.

2 comments:

Rayna said...

oy!

norma said...

What an exciting adventure and you tell it so well. I'll be sure to follow along, my vicarious trip to India.