November 9, 1997
I finally slept all night and feel much more refreshed and feel ready for the day's activities. I ordered breakfast from room service - scrambled eggs, toast, sausage, orange juice and tea. It was elegantly served on a fancy 'trolley' complete with a silver tea service. The food was OK, but not the best I've ever had. The sausage tasted quite different than what I was accustomed to and I didn't care for it all that much.
We checked out of the hotel and checked our luggage with the bell captain, as we would retrieve it before we headed back to the Leela. Unfortunately, I had to leave my beautiful flowers there as there was no way that they would keep. We took only what we were planning to use during the day - camera, film, water (3 l.) etc. Since we had purchased the tickets for the ferry ride to Elefanta Island last night, we proceeded directly to the boarding area at the Gateway of India. At 9:30 the beggars and merchants we out in full force. On the way to the ferry, we encountered a vendor selling hats. Since we were already very much aware that hats would be not only a good idea, but a necessity, we bargained with him. His asking price was 200 per hat. We were able to get 3 for 420. We boarded the boat and were fortunate to find seats in front of fans,as it was already very warm outside. The scheduled departure of 10:00 occurred about 10:20 for the one hour ride. We rode past enormous oil tankers unloading their cargo at the terminals as well as many other very large cargo ships. The pollution prevented us from seeing clearly more than a couple of miles. Everything was shrouded in a haze.
We docked at the jetty and began the walk to the caves. The boat would leave for the return trip in two hours. By now the heat was brutal and we noticed it more all the time as the walk to the caves took about 20minutes. It was a very steep uphill route and we had stop and rest several times. Of course, the path was packed with vendors on each side, as if the shops at the base of the site weren't enough. We finally reached the top, paid our 5 rupees for entrance and began exploring. At least it was a few degrees cooler here, mainly because of the shade and possibly the elevation. We found that the caves were not really caves, but religious shrines that had been carved into the rock. There had obviously been some man-made modifications done to the area because I doubt that the ancients knew about re-bar, which could be seen in several places. It was interesting, but not what we expected. It certainly wasn't the 'caves' that we had pictured in our minds.. dark, cool caverns.
As is typical of any tourist spot, the place is overrun with beggars. These were mostly women carrying water pitchers on their heads insisting that you take a picture of them (for a price, of course, usually 10 rupees). They don't seem to know what the word "NO" means. They would also try to 'accidentally' get into any pictures that you were taking. Linda Anderson finally agreed to take a picture of three girls for 10 rupees. By the time the picture was finally taken, there were at least 7 girls in it. They then tried to press her for more money, but she reminded them that she had originally agreed to 3 girls and 10 rupees and that they would have to figure out themselves how to split the money. True to her word, she gave them a 10 rupee note and they quickly told her that they would not accept it because it was slightly torn. Linda dug out a fresh bill and gave it to the girl. She also quickly realized that the girl was still holding the original torn note and she quickly snatched it back!
We wandered around the area for a while, watching the monkeys and the goats. We decided it was time to head back to the boat and began the return walk which fortunately was all downhill. On the way, we perused the vendor's wares and bought a few trinkets. I found some small carved owls that were priced at 35 each. I left with 2 for 40. Brian found a polished agate ball priced at 450 which he got for 100. His best and most interesting bargain was a malachite (green stone) necklace. The vendor told him that it was 600 rupees. Brian said it was too much and started walking away. The vendor asked what Brian would offer and he told him 450. This was refused and Brian again started walking away. The vendor appeared a few minutes later and again asked Brian what he would pay, but he told the him that he was no longer interested and walked away. Quite a while later, the vendor reappeared and again asked what Brian would pay. Trying to get rid of the guy, Brian said 150 and he got it!
We were among the last on the boat and were not able to get a seat in front of the fans. It was HOT and we were melting fast. Once the boat got underway, we stood outside in the breeze. It was a trade-off of sorts - either bake inside with no breeze, or fry outside with a breeze. We used sun-block liberally. We arrived back at the Gateway of India about 2:45 and made tracks for the Taj hotel. We rested in the lobby for a while and pondered where we could get a cold Kingfisher. We found a restaurant in the hotel where we could get lunch and a Kingfisher. I began to order a vegetable club sandwich but remembered the admonition about eating raw vegetables that you have not peeled yourself. I changed to a spicy chicken pita. Others had pizza. It was all quite good, especially the cold beer.
During lunch, Linda mentioned that she had seen a silk shawl at one of the shops in the hotel and was having trouble deciding if she wanted to buy it. We convinced her that she probably ought to buy it because we didn't want to be responsible for her kicking herself when she got home because she really wanted it. Not only did she buy the shawl, but also another Kashmir silk rug. She had already bought a rug in Agra on the trip to the Taj Mahal. Lisa talked herself into buying an amethyst ring that she had been looking at, and I purchased some earrings. The jewelry is exquisite and inexpensive compared to the states. I have yet to buy anything for myself other than trinkets.
At the start of the shawl-buying errand, Brian had gone to arrange for 3 air-conditioned cabs for the return trip to the Leela. He came to get us and mentioned that the cabs had been waiting, with the meter running, while we were shopping. We took our treasures and headed back. Traffic was relatively light and the trip took only 45 minutes compared to the traffic-snarled and smog-choked 1 ½ hours on Friday night. The fare was only 350 per cab (about $9.75, as 1 rupee is worth $0.0278).
We checked in and retrieved
our luggage that we had checked Friday night. We were all quite worn out
and didn't want to do anything except go to our rooms. My room this time
is much nicer that last week. It appears to be in the 'new wing.' I took
off my dirty smelly clothes, showered, and unpacked. I wasn't extremely
hungry but did want a little something. I ordered the "Fancy Fare"
sandwich of chicken, ham, and cheese from room service. It was quite tasty
and just enough. I watched some TV and then went to bed about 9:30.
Gateway of India, with Taj Mahal Hotel
|View from Gateway of India|
State Police Headquarters
Our group at Elephanta Island with our hats
Kingfisher, the local beer
|'7-girl' picture on Elephanta Island||Fuel Station in Bombay|
|Back to Bombay, Day 5|