Monday, 11 February 2013

Sunday 10th - Sleeping Policemen

Our friend from yesterday gets off at Panvel, about an hour before we are due into Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai. When D booked this train the monsoon timetable was in force and the train arrived at the very reasonable 10.33 a.m. The non-monsoon arrival time is a less friendly 4.25 a.m. We were around half an hour late into a surprisingly busy CST - still called Victoria terminus by many locals.

 Booking our luggage into the cloakroom was farcical. First you queue at the cloakroom to have stickers put on the locks on your luggage - but only some not all. Then you take your luggage back out to a scanning machine manned by two Railway Police - who had to be awakened after our bags been scanned so that they could stamp said stickers. We then returned to the cloakroom and joined the queue. The stamps were checked then D was invited to cross over the counter and deposit the bags on the racks. It's frightening really as there was a serious terrorist attack at this station a few years ago.

Out on the streets it is still dark and pretty quiet and we share the pavements with dozens of people sleeping as well as a few rats and stray dogs.There isn't too much to do in Mumbai around 6 a.m. except to take silly photos. We head in the general direction of the Gateway of India, a large monument bult on the waterfront. This is cordoned off and access will not be permitted for another half hour so we move further along the front to watch the sky lighten and the sun appear.

As we wait the crowds grow. Clearly lots of people have a similar idea.  By the time the sun rises we have been in Mumbai for well over two hours - time flies when you are having fun.

We stroll along the waterfront for a while then turn up to Colaba Causeway where we find Cafe Leopold open and serving breakfast. One hardy soul (female) is even drinking beer! Over breakfast we rough out a plan for the morning and head first for the Maidan which is teeming with ad-hoc cricket games and even a boys v girls football match. The activity is frenetic and some fielders appear to be taking part in more than one game. Next port of call is Fabindia - a clothes and furnishings store where R finds a couple of tops.

Round the corner there is some sort of cultural festival going on. It is called Kala Ghoda and features all sorts of stuff including environmental messages such as safe driving and not littering. These provide great photo opps but it remains to be seen whether their message is actually getting through. If it had not been so hot we might cheerfully have spent more time here but the lure of a cold beer proved too much and then it was time to get a cab to CST to recover our luggage. This proved much simpler than depositing although the staff have not yet got to grips with the new charges. each item should have been Rs 15 but we were charged Rs 36 for three.

R here, I am steeled for yet another long rail trip as we emerge from the left luggage office into the taxi rank. We are accosted by the usual mele of drivers and touts so D strikes up a conversation and is deciding against the price quoted in a loud voice.  I stroll on and expect to be overtaken by the result and so it proves.  I am not good at geography so I am a bit surprised when I realise that I know where I am - on Marine Drive opposite the Intercontinental Hotel, a favourite place of mine.  As we pull up in the driveway I am stunned as D tells me he has booked us in for the night as a surprise - fantastic! I do love a bit of luxury. We won't bore you with the photos again but if you missed them look here.

A freshen up, a stroll along Marine Drive and supper at the Gaylord was our plan.  However we arrive at the restaurant an hour before the main menu starts. R vetoes sitting drinking beer so we take a walk over to Churchgate where a bit more of the Kala Ghoda is underway. The crowd is such that we can't get a view of the stage where there is some sort of modern dance performance under way so we settle for admiring the loco outside the Western Railways Headquarters.

Our appetites are not diminished by the hour's wait and we have a splendid supper of lamb kebabs in sauce, vegetable pulao and a shared naan bread. A long but most enjoyable day.

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