Elephanta Island & Mumbai TourFebruary 1 in India
After a hearty breakfast we left with Anil at nine o’clock. The traffic wasn’t too bad and soon we were driving along a new bridge, 4.9km long that got us onto the peninsula proper. Here the traffic was more heavy, though no tuktuk, these are replaced by i10 black and yellow taxis. We eventually arrived at the Gateway of India, where we needed the loo. What better place than the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, grand lobby and memorial to those killed in the terrorist attack of 2008.
Out on the quay we boarded a boat (10 rupees extra to go up top) for a leisurely trip across the Arabian Sea out to Elephanta Island, named by the Portuguese for an elephant rock, now in the zoo. On the way we passed the old HMS Hermes, some other Indian navy vessels, coal ship unloading and a tanker preparing to leave. Arriving at the island, which has a ship breaking yard and is opposite a nuclear power station and oil refinery, almost lost in the haze, we met our local guide and travelled by train the 1.5km to the end of the pier and start of 120 steps up to the cave temple of Shiva. The temple is carved from the solid rock, pillars walls and statues. For preservation purposes the temple is only used one day a year, though there is evidence that Portuguese used the statues for target practice. Our guide was very thorough in his explanations. He is a local lad and lives on the island whose population is 1200. His English is self taught from speaking with tourists. It seemed pretty quiet. By now it was getting pretty warm, so we were glad to get back on the boat, with a cooling breeze.
Arriving back at the Gateway to India, our guide, Philip, was delayed in traffic so we had time to grab a tea and snack spinach and sweet corn toasted sandwich.
The traffic being so heavy we opted for a drive through the main interesting parts of the city, mainly constructed in victorian times, including mini Big Ben designed by George Gilbert Scott, Victoria Station facade, hanging gardens, which cover water tanks and passed the silent garden, where Parsi, of whom there are 72,000, ‘bury’ their dead by exposing them to the elements and birds. Last call was the largest laundry in Asia, where washing is done by hand and dried out in the sun. It was right next to the railway, so no idea what happened in steam age, nor in monsoon.
We then headed back to our airport hotel for a swim and dinner before preparing for a very early departure.
We were really pleased to have visited this vast buzzing metropolis. So many historical and contrasting aspects where what you see does not always reflect what’s really going on, e.g the amazing laundry operations which collect wash and deliver in three days with little error - this is also the case with the huge lunch delivery service run by a similar caste. The trains reputedly run every 3mins on time and through the night.Read more