Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Mumbai to Udaipur

INDIA | Saturday, 25 September 2010 | Views [919]

Saturday 18th September - Moving on today to Nasik. Taxi for Rs150 to Dadar to catch a bus. He dropped us at a roadside bus stop. The bus wasn't due for another 90 minutes, so the guy at the ticket office suggested we went to the main Central Terminus where the bus would leave at 10am, which is where we wanted to go in the first place. He insisted on another 50 rupees to take us there. No way. Anyway, we went. The 10am bus had left at 9am, and the next wouldn't be until 11:30am. At this point, the thought of a death wish was high. No option but to sit it out. Of course, they offer an alternative of private car for a whopping 2000 rupees! Oh yeah...do we look stupid? How about an AC bus for 400 rupees. When does that leave? 2pm. It is now 10am. How much is the non-AC. 200 rupees. Ok then. Where is it you want to go then? Nasik...why do you think we are standing here talking about the cost of getting to Nasik? So, do you want a cab to go and get the private car? At this point I just wanted to kill everyone within arm’s length. Is there something about the human brain that never developed in some of the people selling travel tickets? Or do they just enjoy pissing people off and wanting to terminate their life prematurely?

As an aside...On the way to Dadar, the driver bought a bunch of Chili and lemon from a lady and tied to the front of the taxi. We noticed the same bunches tied in stalls. What is that about then? There is something about Indian culture and their religious beliefs that makes even poor people grasp at strange ideas in an aim for some form of absolution. What is the symbology associated with chili and lemon though?

So we are now sat on a bus going to Nasik (Aka Nashik). Not remarkable in itself, but getting from the ticket office to getting on the bus was another one of those 'I want to kill more people' situations. After 90 minutes of waiting around, the ticket office guy had vanished. Another guy arrived and took us to another office. Someone else then arrived after another 10 minutes and ran off into the distance with a group of people in tow. With luggage and the steaming heat we couldn't catch up. I had to run ahead, backpack flapping away and order him to stop so Shiera could catch up. Another hundred metres or so further on and we ended up stood by the side of a road for a while. When the bus did arrive, we had to argue with the conductor over the seats as they wanted to give us the worse seats on the bus. No way again. Everything is such a hassle sometimes. Fortunately, one passenger spoke some English and argued with the conductor on our behalf, who then left us alone. You can end up getting stressed all the time. Lies, mis-information, arguments and bad attitude are a way of life. There have been some really nice experiences over the past few days. But to be honest, the best thing about Mumbai was leaving it. Sorry to sound harsh, but it has been hard work.

Mumbai is vast. It is really an island, but getting to the northern escape hatch where the road bridges link it to the mainland took about 90 minutes. The black and yellow 'Bumble Bee' taxis gave way to Black and yellow 'Wasps'...I.e. Tuk-tuks. The suburbs seemed awash with them, in similarly vast numbers. Like a nest with them all buzzing around in search of food. On the western side of the carriageway two large pipes seemed endless. Not sure, but i think they are oil? What is evident is the scale of the warehouse business here. We passed many kilometers of the most enormous warehouses. I guess that with a city the size of Mumbai, the supply chain to support this needs to be incredible.

After crossing to the mainland, It soon turns green and the road wide and relatively empty. After a meal break we carried on to Nashik through some stunning scenery. Beautiful Mountain ranges and intense green paddies for what seemed endless miles. This has to be some of the best scenery we have seen so far in India. It had to end sometime though, and entering Nashik is a shock after the beauty of the open countryside and fresh air. Back to the congested horn honking noise. We had opted for the hotel Abishek out of the guidebook. What we hadn't realized was that Nasik would be gripped by Ganesh fever. The Ganpati festival is in full flow, ad being one of the major religious cities of Maharashtra state, attracts pilgrims in vast numbers. Surrounding the hotel was more Ganesh displays and animated stories accompanied by sound systems than you could wish for in such a small space. Traffic competed for space. Control police added to the melee with whistles to direct the manic crowd. In short...it was a nuts place to be. Ideal then!

An argument on check-in as they changed their price twice. 345 rupees, when I viewed the room, followed by 395 rupees and then 500 rupees. It was clear that is asked for a double for two people, but their price kept climbing. Chaos or what? I got fed up with them as it had bean a long day of arguments at every stage in getting here, so my patience was running very low.

Anyway, not much time to waste, so dumped the luggage in our room and hit the streets. The main area surrounds the Ramkund bathing tank. An amazing area where pilgrims in large numbers bathe and offer Pooja. Floating candles on the Godavari river. It is quite a dramatic sight. The light was fading and the scene emotive.

What was even more dramatic was...and here's a question....are we attracting dead bodies, or just unlucky? On the way into the bathing tank area, we noticed the body of a lady on the entrance steps, covered in a blanket. Someone passed and offered the suggestion that she was just asleep. I don't think so. It turned out to be yet another dead body. Our third in 2 days! We wandered around to find out what was happening to have the corpse moved. The total apathy amongst most people was saddening. We eventually found some police who were more interested in us and where we came from, than another dead body. An ambulance would be due within 10 minutes. So how long has it been there...a day was the reply. So, for a whole day, thousands of pilgrims had walked past this body, and the police were no more than 10 metres away from it....and it was only just about to be removed. The lady's body would go to the hospital. We guessed, to be used for students to poke, prod and analyze. Nobody would care who she was. Did she have any family. Another nameless cadaver and one more to add to the statistic. Three dead bodies in short space of time is too much to take. It makes you cry!

You have to absorb this type of situation. To understand it. To rationalize what is going on. To come to terms so that you can carry on and enjoy the sheer potency of what is an intoxicating culture. Around the Ramkund are a couple of ancient temples. At night, the atmosphere is interesting. The stairs climbing to the Kapaleshwar temple are lined with Sadhus and beggars reaching out for a rupee or two, or other offering. The extremely devout Hindus pray, offer, anoint, in their ever familiar ritualisation of their faith. Up the road from the temple, a line of people, mainly male stand in queue with their bowl, for their prassad offering. Their free meal of the day. Glitz and glamour of one Ganesh display after another seems to be a complex contrast to the poverty, squalor and death that surrounds. The human mind is complex to understand...but, some cultures more than others.

Tired and hungry, we tracked down a great restaurant at the Sahib family restaurant. A nice cold Kingfisher beer and superb food. Aahhhh... What else but to track down a goodies shop after wards, and indulge in some Gulab Jamun. Followed by another shop for some gloopy Rasmalai looking thing that was deadly for 20 rupees. Had to go back to the hotel before we reached calorie overload. It has been a long, tiring and thought provoking day.

 

Sunday 19th Sep - A couple of old shrines to visit In the morning, close to the hotel. Went into the Seeta Gumpha, which had an interesting multi-headed figure on a chariot, but just looked at the Kalaram temple aross the road. Both small shrines. The town was more subdued than last night. I was so tired last night. I remember the incredible noise from the street that just faded out as I went to sleep. Normally I find it so difficult to sleep amidst noise. But last night nothing would have kept me awake.

A majot attraction of the Nasik area is that it is a burgeoning player in the Indian wine market. The climate is warm, the soil good and the terrain reaonable flat. We took a rickshaw out to the Sula Vineyard, about 13km away. Only took about 25 minutes to get there. The vineyard runs a tour and wine tasting from 11:30am, so we had a little time to relax and take in the view. Takes me back to France and endless landscape of vines.

150 rupees each for the tour and we got to sample 6 wines afterwards. A mix of 1 sparking, 2 white, 1 rose, 1 desert and 1 red. Harvest time is January to March, and production isn't running now, but at least we could see their storage vats and machines. The wine market here is growing steadily each year by about 0.5% total consumption of alcohol. The climate is a bit too warm for storage, so it has to be treated carefully after purchase. One of the highlights was a deluxe cheese and mixed fruit and nut platter. We both crave for cheese and crackers and with the nie wine and a cappuccino to follow, made for a perfect setting and experience. Considering the tormented day we had yesterday, it compensated in a big way. It was Shiera's first time in vineyard and a really enjoyable one.

We got the driver to drop us at the Central Bus Terminal in town afterwards. Next destination Aurangebad. 196 rupees and should take around 5 hours leaving about 2pm. We had to laugh...the conductor from the bus next to us came up to the window and offered 150 rupees for the same journey. We had already paid. The bus was identical. I asked our conductor why we paid 196 and the identical bus next to us only wanted 150 rupees. This is a 'Luxury Bus'. It was so funny. They were identical. Both falling apart and parts of the bus missing...doesn't it feel better now that we know we are travelling in a 'Luxury' Government bus! I also felt happier that our driver had more hair growing out of his ears than out of his head. Reminded me of the Planet of the apes movie.

Most of the route is flat agricultural land. More vineyards, Maize, Beans, plus some crops I couldn't recognize from the bus.

We arrived back into the busy traffic of Aurangebad at about 7pm, and aimed for the Shree Maya Hotel (Rs15). A comfortable place for Rs495 for a double. Food is good quality and also had a small bottle of Merlot wine with it that I had bought at the Sula Vineyards.

 

Monday 20th Sep - A day of sightseeing. Outside the Shree Maya, Sheik was waiting with his Rickshaw and it seemed a fair price to pay 500 rupees for the whole days transport and sights. Clean rickshaw and he spoke reasonable English. First stop was to survey the travel agents to book our onward overnight bus to Ahmedabad. 650 rupees for an aircon sleeper departing at 4:30pm, giving us about 5 hours to see everything and get back for a shower and a meal before heading for the bus.

The Bibi Qa Maqbara is famous for being a mini Taj Mahal...also referred to as the 'Poor man's Taj'. Constructed by Auranzeb's son Azan Khan in 1697 as a mausoleum for his mother and originally planned to be constructed in marble like the bigger version, his spends were cut by his father, so he had to settle for cheaper materials, mainly lime cement and stone. 100 rupees foreigner entrance fee. It was quiet when we arrived and was really pretty. Like its larger counterpart, it has a central avenue lake pointing towards the 'Taj'. The reflection was nice and clear and a super platform to take photos from. The main mausoleum does have some really nice marble trellis design windows. Inside the central dome area a rug in the base with thousands of scattered donation coins. There is some restoration work being carried out on the outer dome roof and some has already been done on the walls.

Next stop was a 30km ride out of town along the road we came along from Nasik yesterday, to the Ellora caves. Along the way are a few places to stop for photo shoots. There are some interesting phenomena in this part of the world. Number 1....yellow cows! Yes, yellow cows! Well, they have an animal festival, during which the farmers are so happy, that they paint their cattle yellow. Number 2...the guys like wearing Pink turbans. It is so colourful. We were lucky enough to see phenomenon numbers 1 and 2 together. A cart being pulled by yellow cows with red horns, and driven by a guy with pink turban. Like a moving rainbow.

Ellora caves are immense. 34 caves stretching for a couple of kilometers along the face of a hill, they are a system of temples and caves hewn out of solid stone over a period of 5 centuries around the 7th century onwards. The centre of cave system avenue is the immense Kailasha temple (cave 16), dedicated to lord Shiva. An amazing feat of human endeavor and engineering. 200,000 tonnes of rock were hand chiseled out of the hill by 7000 laborers over a period of 150 years to create three huge trenches, followed by the carving of the temple itself. It is the largest monolithic sculpture in the world! Only one word for it...wow....

 

We only did the stretch of caves from 1 to 16 due to limited time, but it was enough to get the feel of the place. The Ajanta caves in the north of the state are equally famous but earlier in construction, and both are Unesco World Heritage listed.

On the way back we stopped at Aurangzeb's tomb. A tour by a blind guy who as usual wanted to tell us his life's history so that we would give him a personal donation.

This area is famed for Figs, Guava and Custard apple, all of which are cheap by the roadside.

Not much time left, so we rushed back to the hotel for a quick shower and an even more rushed meal, before Sheik collected us and delivered us to the bus pick-up point.

I had reserved sleeper berths on the Gujarat Travels aircon bus to Ahmadabad. It arrived promptly at 4:30pm and once we all got into place, set off. Fairly smooth and quiet by comparison to the buses we had taken in India so far. Hoping for a good night's sleep, but not much chance of one. A bit like riding along on a bouncy castle for the first few hours as we passed through some towns. Settled down a little after that. Time to reflect on some other stuff we have learnt. It is common to see men with almost fluorescent orange, or even red beards, or hair. Something to cover up the Grey of growing older. To be honest, they draw ore attention to themselves than if they just left alone. It does make it colourful though. In the west we are used to women dying their hair as they get older. Most men just accept it, or shave it off like I have. My reason is one of practicality, in that I have to shave my face anyway, so why not just shave the lot. In a few minutes every other day, it is done. Saves money when you are travelling a lot. There is a downside. I am always getting by scalp sun burnt. Forget to put lotion on, and occasionally forget to take a hat on cloudy days. The rays are still there and I get burnt. Used it now though. How about I take their idea and grow my hair back but dye it orange, or pink, or green? I will file that idea in the same section of my brain that is thinking....yet again...about ear piercings and tattoos. Both Shiera and I have been talking about it. Will it happen? Only if we are committed to it. I have thought about it for years but never done either yet. Which will come first...green hair, pierced ear, or a tattoo of a Gecko running up my arm?

Long periods of travel have to be done with a different approach than short breaks. It is tiring having to plan all the time. Where to go, how to get there, where to stay, what to see, how long to stay, have to do the laundry, catch up with some writing and the photos mount up. Many thousand since we entered India alone in early August. The book I want to write is still in my head. Another day another place. Need to take a break soon to get straight. Of course, we are entering Rajasthan in the next day or two. Not the best place to take a break as there is so much to see and places to go. We have gone past the rains now and it will just get hotter and drier from here, adding to the strain. And so it goes on.

 

Tuesday 21st September - After a crazy journey of mainly rough roads and a few occasions when my whole body levitated off the bed...I didn't know I could do that, we arrived off the state highway into Ahmadabad at around 7:30am. The feeling was to not stay in Ahmadabad, but to carry straight on to Udaipur in Rajasthan. Fortunately, where we were dropped was also an agent for the bus to Udaipur which would leave 45 minutes later. Enough time for the toilet and a cup of chai before we took a rickshaw across town to the departure point. A group og German students that arrived on the same bus were also heading to Udaipur, so we travelled together. 200 rupees and about 5 hours journey time.

With no time for breakfast, we had to make do with some bananas from a passing seller after we had set off. Ahmadabad is a typical commercial city. Noisy, busy and dusty. It does have some mosques that supposed to be worth a visit. The rickshaws are green and yellow which is a change from the normal black and yellow or cream of everywhere else. The style of dress seemed typical of a predominantly Muslim city.

By 9:30am we had left the city and entered the more tranquil green of the countryside. Windows open and fresh air breezing through....time to relax and rest. Not a bad journey other than the usual stop at the most dodgy eatery on the route. Bugs everywhere and food you wouldn't want to feed your worst enemy.

We arrived into Udaipur about 6 hours after leaving Ahmadabad, and were dropped by the railway station. A 40 rupee rickshaw ride into town from there and the usual driver wanting to take us other than where we asked. Our choice was the last place he wanted to go. Anyway, we were looking for a traditional Haveli. The old house style of Rajasthan with courtyard environment. After checking a few we settled on the Poonam Haveli at 39 Lal Ghat. And we managed to get the 007 room! This area is famed for the shooting of the James Bond movie Octopussy with Roger Moore. The Poonam is a nice and clean place with rooftop restaurant and good view of the palace and Pichola lake. Not the cheapest, but at 1,200 rupees, we are satisfied to be staying a bit more comfortable than usual. After the past couple of days travelling, we were feeling rather grubby and tired. A freshen up, clean shave and a shower made the difference.

An awesome meal on the roof of the Poonam. A superb introduction to eating Rajasthani style, and a great view as the sun went down.

Today is the penultimate day of the Ganesh festival a stage had been erected nearby for a dance show. Initially local children performing some dance hits, followed by some more professional displays in traditional costumes. In front of the stage was a sea of ladies in their colorful sarees and scarves making it quite a picture.

 

 

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