Updated: Jan 9, 2018
All settled in... more or less.
I have been in India for a full week now. The vacationing and sight-seeing in Mumbai was exciting, fun, and hectic. Attempting to "settle" in Pune has been a bit disappointing. I will revisit this topic in a later post with a review of Murphy's law.
I awoke at 4:30am in Fayetteville, North Carolina on Thursday, August 2nd to begin my travel to Mumbai. I arrived 30+ hours later in the middle of Friday night. Whoever said, "it's not about the destination, it's the journey" had never spent the last two days of their life in and out of airports, planes, security, and customs. After collecting my 3 large checked bags and waiting an hour for them to find my surf SUP, I was able to hobble out of the airport, severely overloaded. I'll just throw that fiasco into my training routine. Oh, and by the way, "surf" is not in many Indian's vocabulary, making the explanation of what item of luggage I was waiting for extremely difficult. When I saw Corey (for the first time in over 2 months) he even looked surreal, I couldn't believe that I was actually in front of him! Being the terrible partner I am, I loaded him with luggage before acknowledging him with affection :-)
We spent the next 4 days in Mumbai. This city has a population of 16.4 million. There was no silence, there was no peace. I could never imagine living in a city such as this, although, it was fantastic to visit. We walked around the town to see the sites, shops, and the millions of people. We were intermittently instigated by small beggar children for granola bars, and bananas; which we never refused. Many locals disagree with giving the street folk any hand-outs at all, for the same reason we in the States refuse to throw change to people with their cardboard signs, they probably make more than a working person does. I did not see anyone who looked malnutritioned, nor did I see anyone that was very sick, which was good.
The next two days we spent outside of the city, as I said it was a bit much. Riding in a taxi or auto-rickshaw is a life-altering experience in itself. The only way to make it to your destination alive is to use the horn generously. It is the only way any other vehicle operator knows where you are. In essence, everyone is just driving from point A to point B in no particular lane, on whichever side of the road has room, and as fast as the traffic will allow. "How much signal I need to cut cross 8 lane? None? I turn NOW! Good luck every-body else!!" (Family Guy reference...)
The first out-of-city experience was to Elephanta Island. This island was a great little tourist spot that required an hour ferry ride through one of the busiest shipping channels in the world.
"are we going in there?" "yup"
In addition to the large quantity of boats, let's tack on that it is Monsoon season (wind and rain), so there was a decent swell, and let's also say that there isn't anything like OSHA or the DOT to inspect said ferry. To say that the ride wasn't sketchy, would be to say that Alex Hedman doesn't like rainbows.
We were rewarded with beautiful Hindu caves that were carved out of the mountain in about AD 450. Although, I think Corey enjoyed the feisty monkeys more than the historic caves. After hiking to the top and back along a stretching stairway lined with blue-tarp covered trinket tables, we shared the walkway with a few cows and chickens before re-boarding our vessel. Check out the other shots from this day in the Album!
As if the adventures of that day weren't enough. We woke up the next morning to a quest: Navigate the Indian trains to get to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Getting off at the wrong stop and swapping trains may or may not have been part of our adventure. The trains were ridiculous. But, that was fun! After getting severely ripped of by a rickshaw, we made our way into the park. Being the eco-friendly tourists we are, we opted to rent bikes to get around the park. That may or may not have been our second mistake of the day. Especially if you take into account Corey still has a broken wrist in a cast. Everything was fine in the end, and we had a blast hiking the mountain tops and the 109 caves (The Kanheri Caves that lie in the heart of the park are Buddhist caves that were used by monks from the 2nd to 9th centuries, very cool), taking in the scenery of the city skyline, exploring streams and waterfalls, biking down the mountain with no brakes (we had to disconnect them because they were always engaged - again, not sketchy at all), and finally navigating the trains back to our hotel. Ah, to finally be back at one's hotel after a long day is usually a welcome event. Unless... you lost the very heavy, very expensive KEY to your ROOM!! You would only lose it if you left it in your pocket after your significant other lovingly suggested that you put it into one of the bags.
But I digress.
After paying a fee, and getting in our room, we slept lightly because any one of the 16.4 million residents could have our key, engraved with address. We woke up the next morning to travel to our pick up point for the drive out to Pune, our "home" for the next year. Not quite sure how we managed, but we got there 5 hours early, and had to kill time. Luckily we were able to relax at breakfast, in a chair in a lobby, and then finally next to a pool. So, that wasn't all bad.
Pune... has been a whole other story. More to come.