We woke late(ish) and were on the road by 7.30. It was quiet and flat as we ambled North from Murud. We passed a series of places where the road had been improved and then suffered the bumps and jarring as we hit sections of road with more potholes than road. We later learned that this may be down to local politics.
Apart from Bernie having her first puncture of the holiday, it was an uneventful morning. The terrain was largely flat with the occasional hill, but there was no wind and we motored along. As we went we reflected on how the Indian countryside had become so “normal” to us. There was nothing amiss in seeing cows in the road, women in saris carrying water or goods on their heads or a group of motorbikes at the side of the road, with the occupants practising cricket before school.
There was roadside litter at times but we largely looked past it now, knowing the efforts made by the community to clear it up and recognising that these will not always be wholly successful.
We stopped for coffee at a café and had a conversation with a motorbiker who had come down from Mumbai to meet a friend. You have come from where – Kanyakumari – not that is not possible – Wow – you guys are amazing. Then, his friends on the phone and the whole café got told about us in his local language. Slightly embarrassing but sort of gently flattering; and all done in a really good spirit. He asked us the same thing several times and we did not understand but worked out he wanted to know how much weight we had lost on the trip. Never mind asking us how old we were (which we have had) or how much we earn (which was asked on our last visit but never now), his focus was on losing the kilos. We had no answer for him due to the lack of a set of scales, but assured him we were both thinner than we had been for years.
So on to the ferry port and, of course, straight onto a small ferry that ploughed its way across the estuary between Mandwa and Mumbai. It took about an hour and saved us 60km of congested road. The entrance to Mumbai’s main harbour has the famous “Gate of India”, which is most impressive. It is a huge arch which was built for the arrival of King George VII in 1911 (but not actually completed for the visit and not finished until 1924). It is next door to the equally impressive Taj Mahal Palace Hotel that was built by the original hugely successful Indian businessman, Mr Tata in 1912 after he was refused entry to one of the city’s grand hotels of the time, Watson’s Hotel, as it was restricted to “whites only”. Mr Tata outdid them all as his hotel has 560 rooms, 44 suites and has 1,600 staff including 35 butlers!
We were met at the port by Daniel, our warmshowers host and taken to the flat he shares with his parents. This is in a very old building in the Colaba section of the city, just half a mile from the Gate of India. Mumbai was built on a series of islands, although the land between is now reclaimed. This building originally fronted the water, but is now inland. It has high ceilings and a series of rooms which are separated by partitions that reach half way up to the high ceilings. This ingenious arrangement allows the cool air to flow throughout the apartment, and keeps it all at a lovely temperature.
Daniel is a keen cyclist and lives here with his father, Kevin, and mother, Jacinta. They were hugely welcoming and we instantly felt at home. The families originate from Goa and have a house just around the corner from the guest house we stayed at in Panaji – and they were there at the same time. We may have walked past their house as we explored the beautiful Portuguese quarter of that city.
Bernie and I went for an amble around the Colaba area, securing things we could not get anywhere else (including suncream – which is of course in short supply in most of India). We ambled into the market area which was just fascinating to walk around, did some planning, resting and chatting to our wonderful hosts. Then, after a delicious meal, we went to bed at about 11.30pm. This was – by about 3 hours – later than our normal turning in time!
So we had made it from the southern tip of India to Mumbai. We delude ourselves that we not “goal orientated” on our cycling holidays, but that was the first “target” of this trip. It felt great to arrive, experience the warm of new friends and start to think about phase 2 which will be to explore Rajasthan.
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