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Mumbai

We quite enjoyed our journey by train from Udaipur to Mumbai. The seats/berths were quite comfortable. It did get a bit cold during the night though, especially because we were on the bottom berths and got the draft blowing right onto us from the windows that didn’t shut properly. We met a very nice couple from the Czech Republic that could explain how travelling on this class works (Non A/C Second Class 3 Tier Sleeper). They also put our minds at rest assuring us the bags would be safe while we were sleeping – they swore to travel by this class on the train and had by now never seen or heard of anyone having problems with missing luggage. With this newfound trust in our fellow travellers we started to relax. The journey was about 17 hours with countless stops – which I still find a bit strange for an express train… We finally arrived at Bandra Terminus in Mumbai in the afternoon.

First impressions on entering Mumbai from the station were not the best unfortunately. We got stalked by a few taxi-drivers – one was even so eager he started hassling us on the platform as we stepped off the train completely disorientated – how considerate of him to try to help us out… We thought, right this is New Delhi all over again and started completely ignoring everyone and everything trying to talk to us and made it up to the main terminal building. We had the belief that there was a Metro in Mumbai as we’d seen some Metro maps online before leaving Udaipur. We asked some guards at the terminal and he looked at us like we were from a different universe (we sometimes feel exactly like that, so there might be something to it). We were advised to go down the road a bit to a local suburban rail station and take one of those trains to our destination. Feeling very confused we decided to have a bite to eat in the railway cantina and have a little think and a cool-down. Here we had another look in our guide and spotted a little paragraph about the Metro project that is severely behind schedule, so that would explain the look on the guard’s face earlier. We loaded up our bags and started to look for the suburban station – a very smelly (rotting carcass smell) kilometre and a half later, walking along a slum most of the way, we find the station and travel down to where we’ve decided to stay in Mumbai.

Only a short stay before the journey goes further, so after a bit of sleep we head out to get our bus tickets to go to Goa. We get to see a fair bit bearing in mind we only have a few hours to spare. There is a walking-trip in the guide that leads us past various grand buildings with various architectural styles – Gothic, Victorian, Colonial, Art Deco and more – and finally to the boat to Elephanta Island by Gateway of India. The boat takes forever to get there and suddenly our plans are a bit messed up and I’m starting to feel the stress about being able to catch our bus – we have to do a speed tour (as far as it’s possible with the crowds of slow-moving tourists blocking our every move) of the island’s famous cave temple and run back to catch the boat. When we finally get ashore we have about 40 minutes to get to the hotel and pick our backpacks up and get to the bus (I’m by now extremely stressed…). We try and try in vain to get a taxi to take us up to the hotel, but although there are plenty empty ones that say “for hire” none of them are picking up passengers for some reason. “Sod’s Law” is a phrase that springs to mind – when you need a taxi then none are for hire, but when you don’t want a taxi it seems you’re unable to walk two meters without someone shouting out to you “Taxi! Where you go?” I start pondering about what the Indian equivalent phrase would be – in Ireland it’s “Murphy’s Law” maybe in India it’s “Singh’s Law”? We just keep power walking towards the hotel and finally get our bags. While loading our backpacks on to our shoulders the hotel concierge informs us that a very prominent political figure (Bal Thackeray) had just died in Mumbai and as a result shops were closing, and transport in the city had started come to a halt. That all explains why none of the taxis were picking up passengers… We had planned to try to get a taxi for getting to the bus from the hotel, but now it looks like it will be difficult, and the time keeps ticking… Again we start power-walking it to get up to the bus-stop in time. With about one minute to spare we manage to sling our backpacks into the hold and get onto the bus to Goa. Phew!!!

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