Outta of the boat - Welcome to India
Trip Start May 03, 2006
48Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
3rd & 4th May '06:
'(Diary)...Back on the road and back to the ramblings. Took the 11.25 loser cruiser from Bristol to Heathrow. Killed a few hours wandering around and half enjoying a pint before checking in
An Indian family spread themselves out in the middle with the mother and youngest brat transferring to the window seats in front of me for take-off and eventual landing (Note: The husband during these 'tense' moments pulled on a dark grey anorak, flipped the hood over, tied the cord strings tight under his chin and proceeded to rock back and forth mumbling some strange, foreign language!) OK - the flight was fairly non-eventual, I played 'Millionaire' on the entertainment system in front of me for what seemed most of the journey (whilst I was awake) at the expense of the crap movies that were showing - I couldn't believe I won the million only once and got increasingly frustrated at the rock-hard questions for low amounts!!
Flight took eight hours - the food was terrible. It was kinda exciting charting my progress through Europe into Russia and down over Iran and Pakistan - I was surprised to see so many lights over Iran but I'm not sure why. Actually after all the beer and wine I had consumed I must have passed out somewhere still in Iranian airspace
I got my taxi ticket and walked outside. WHOOSH! I walked out into a moist oven, ripped my sweatshirt off, perspiration dripping off my face. Some kid hassled me for money through the window of the prepaid taxi before we set off - I told him to hop it. Soon we were off into utter mayhem, a dodgem car ride through the chaotic traffic passing through Mumbai's poorer districts. No need for any description here - I saw it all - the poverty was my first impression, then it soon became apparent that although it was of slum appearance to a westerner - it was infact fairly organised, low, low quality housing - albeit with a few down and out chappies asleep on the side of the road
After an hour I checked into Bentley's hotel in the hellhole district of Colaba. The hotel had zero facilities apart from the reception and a rather attentive porter who duly set off to some nearby bar or shop for two 'ice-cold' beers at my request. The A/C room which looked bleak on arrival became more comfortable after a shower and a snooze. It was time for an outing - truth be known I didn't care to leave my sanctuary and the repeat of some premiership match I got caught up in on the TV, but I needed to stretch my legs. Sweat started pouring off me the moment I poked my nose out the door. I staggered out and around the nearby Gateway To India, got hawked/touted continuously and was in discomfort from my clingy trousers. Found some sports bar and slumped into a corner for a bite to eat - nothing too ambitious - a cheese toastie. Walked back along Colaba causeway - and was shouted at every two seconds from some chappie or other trying to sell something. Whacked the A/C on and settled back to watch TV with a few drinks. What a couple of days!...'
5th - 7th May '06:
(Summary) So I spent the next few days doing a bit of exploring and getting adjusted
'(Diary)...After the bus station performance got a taxi driven by some wispy, long haired old freak who did his best to give me whiplash and dropped me off on Marine Drive - not to far from Chowpatty beach
'(Diary - Sunday 7th May)...A/C packed up at some point in the night and I had to resort to the fan. Up and out eventually and paid at reception. The porter who had got me beers the first day hovered outside - I didn't tip him - you see I had found the grog shop close by - the kid had already ripped me off!...(later)..Boarded the 'semi-luxury' coach - and wondered what a normal coach would be like since this looked identical to any other battered, rusted, excuse of a bus'
(Summary) The bus journey south to Murud took around 5/6 hrs - it took at least an 90 minutes just to get out of Mumbai, crossing from the island on which it stands to the mainland
'(Diary)...I'll spare you a detailed journey, listened to a few tunes and just looked out of the railed, open window: trees, villages, token elephant, monkeys, rivers, more trees, brick making, cows, rickshaws, toll stops, sleeping man next to me, hills (cooler), palms, proper sea, folk shitting in rivers, golden beaches, cool coastline, castle, Murud-Janjira! Bus rattled to a stop and I was turfed out on Durbhar road just behind the beach....Consulted my RG (Rough Guide) and walked a few yards to my number one choice a small bungalow with nice enough garden/sand pit leading directly onto the beach. A round chappie wearing a prayer cap waddled up to me and after a brief conversation showed me a large room with two double beds and said it would cost 500rps. He asked me if I thought it was expensive - I replied asking if HE thought it was expensive - he nodded and showed me a smaller room, fan, en suite - very basic but good enough and said 250rps. Deal done.
7th - 13th May '06:
(Summary) Murud seemed such a relief after Mumbai - it was so much quieter
Every morning I awoke to some chap wailing through a loud speaker from the mosque next door at 6am, at first it haunted my big style - but it soon became familiar and no problem. The influence of Islam n the village also meant that this was very almost a dry place!! There was one restaurant along the front that was really a front for a bar - and I think there was some grog shop down in the fishing, Hindu side of the village that I found one night in the dark and got scared off by dodgy looking drunks and stray dogs that looked seriously diseased. I frequented the restaurant along the front later in the afternoons for a cold beer and to write up my diary - but I seemed to be drinking in sin
Me eating patterns changed and I was soon tucking into veg thalis (literal meaning meal) in a few locations round town. It seemed the entire restaurant's eyes were on me as I spooned in the grub, normally consisting of rice, a popadom, a chapati, some veggies, dhal and some other sauce all presented on a silver plate - cost usually around 50p. Didn't do much for a few days - found it tricky to sleep with just a fan, bought a few items of clothing and some cheap flip-flops that subsequently produced a blister just behind my right toe. The sea looked tempting but having witnessed folk squat at the water's edge I initially didn't fancy a dip.
'(Diary - Wednesday 10th May '06)...Better night's sleep last night perhaps it was that extra bottle of KingFisher that did the trick? The Prop (Proprietor) had kept asking me when I was going to the fort - I couldn't get put it off any further, got my act together and went. Soon found myself bombing along in the back of some rickshaw - those yellow three wheeler jobs you find all over this country and which I believe featured in a Bond chase (Octopussy?)
Went up over the headland and there standing proud in the estuary was the Janjira fort - an impressive sight for sure with some fishing village below and a few palms swaying
On the leeward side I sorted out my ticket after another ridiculous stage show from the 'officials' selling it to me and walked down some steep steps and hopped on a small crowded wooden sailing craft with a triangular sail (well this is the Arabian sea!), no seats - sat on the raised floor in some discomfort whilst we slowly flapped our way in two slow tacks to the fort and its 'secret entrance' (meaning it wasn't visible from shore). It suddenly became apparent that the pre-monsoon swell would make disembarking slightly hazardous on the slippery stone steps that led down into the sea. I went native for the first time this tour, barged my way to the front of the vessel, saw my chance and in unison with an upward swell leapt across and safely onto dry land or in this case a damp step that thankfully wasn't too slippery. Relieved I wandered up through some vast roofed passageway into the fort proper.
Some Indian chappie and a rather scruffy one at that, rose to a sitting position from his slumber on shaded ledge and offered to be my guide for a few rupees - I laughed at him and waved him back to sleep
Anwyways this water was obviously invaluable to the fort's occupants as they/it never got breached...after sweating my way round I nervously approached the 'steps' and stupidly asked one of the 'helpers' if folk fell in - 'all the time', he replied. I admit - I felt slightly anxious at the prospect of taking an early bath - I had my small ruckasack that a held a few important items that were not waterproof. Boat appeared and even though I was first on the steps and in a favorable position - Indians began flying in from all over the place and before I knew it was packed - 'sod it' I muttered and jumped. I leapt across just as some chappie dropped his flip-flop and sent a searching foot back to reclaim it, what it didn't expect was me landing on it
Time went fairly slowly in Murud - the 'Prop' took me on a couple of excursions through the countryside, firstly a visit to some caves that folk lived in - back in the day, complete with a few buddhist carvings, and the overpowering stench of bats and their droppings. The caves were infact rooms etched into the rock - quite a feat. It was a fair old ride on the back of the 'Prop's' motorbike and my lower back ached as a result of the back rest digging into it on the bumpy roads.
The second excursion was to some waterfall which I found puzzling, considering we were right at the end of the dry season. Anyways the waterfalls that I eventually saw, set amongst some woodland/jungle reserve a few hundred feet above the plains turned out to be slabs of rock with a series of dammed pools containing green water. The 'Prop' explained how impressive they were in the rainly season - great