Mumbai [Bombay]

10/20/03 Jumped right into the Bombay masala by taking the local trains.  Following concierge directions, we took off the wrong way across the bridge, but happily since we found a large dhobiwallah community.

Then asked directions for Mahalaxmi and inevitably it was 'straight on then turn' so once we got going in the right direction we did fine. Extremely hot, moist, high 90's. Eventually ended on the shore -looking out across low tide mudflats to the Haji Ali Mosque at the end of a long causeway. Walked out, past vendor stalls and beggars [who seemed to be fed by a local restaurant]. Inside, a highly decorative shrine -mirrored walls, ceiling. Pilgrims bring bags of food that are blessed by rubbing them on the catafalque's shroud.

Several of the older men are brushed with a peacock feather duster. At nearby Mahalaxmi Temple, similar setups with separate ways for ladies & gents. Both end up at the shrine featuring 3 deities in an elaborate triptych, gilded and shining. This time the offerings are given to two bare chested Brahmins, who present the offerings, extract a few items, and then return the remainder to the offerer.

From here took a taxi to Banganga (tank) Walkeshwar temple - a series of small temples, not particularly interesting. So found another cab and rode through Malabar Hills to Zaveri Bazaar -some truly amazing moments, as oncoming traffic barely made it by --- trucks, motorbikes, hand carts all trying to make their way thru throngsof pedestrians, while vendors are selling on the sides. Eventually the driver seems to give up and lets us out with the advice that the jewelry market is 'straight ahead', back up a street he can't navigate. Turns out to be several turns in addition to straight, but we make our way thru several markets for aluminum, brass and other metals before coming to the silver & gold section. Browse a bit - then try to find a way out. Finally just get in a taxi and he proceeds to work his way thru the seemingly impassable streets -quite a show, and a chance to cool down. All sorts walking by - women in incredibly bright saris, men pulling amazing loads, the occasional cow or goat tethered to a tree, or grazing under a fruit juice stand. Motorbikes thread their way thru, while others just try to cross the street. Taxis jostle for position. At Mumbai Central, cross thru the large central waiting room -people sitting on the floor everywhere in small groups, carts with large sewn padded packages wait at the other end, but get to the suburban railway area, find a train home and get off, by chance, a stop early at Vile Parle -walking down stairs into a lively fresh produce market. Grabbed a rickshaw and arrived back at the hotel about 6.
Track life - workers spread out along tracks, none particularly busy. Shanties -- wherever possible flats adjacent to tracks planted w vegetable gardens. Coconut palms, banana trees, others fill in. Backs of shanties line the tracks, often with a slow but fetid stream in the ditch between, yet see people doing morning ablutions or even collecting water to bring into their homes. On train someone always catching breeze at open doors - others doing business on mobile phones

10/23 Boat for Elephanta Island with early Siva caves. We opted for the deluxe boat 100 but can't tell difference from other except for the 20 R difference in fares. Tankers, dredges, small wooden dhows crawl by. Water very calm. No photography allowed on the boat. Harbor has navy torpedo boats, missile frigates and helicopter aircraft carrier - possibly harriers - large upthrusting curved prow superstructure on one side of bow,

Elephanta Island appears out of the haze - only about 90 today w sea breezes. Fishing boats are anchored near shore, left high when tide ebbs; workers waist deep in water now, scrubbing the sides and bottoms

Headed north today to try Kanderi Caves.  Got on express north to Borovili. Leaving train at last station, told to hold back --here the crush comes first as commuters jostle for space then we can walk off. Another short rickshaw ride [Audrey's starting to think of excuses t o] get more rickshaw rides as they're one the most interesting aspects.  At the gate to the National Park, we're told no rickshaws are allowed in [though later we see some] but they just happen to have a private car available for 900 R!  Two other Indians [and her Luxembourgian husband] show up and get much the same response.  Finally we decide against the 8 km walk to the caves, though it is only 90 deg today.  Walk around for awhile, then wind up at the lion safari bus --\ 30 R, pass thru Jurassic Park like double gates, up & down winding one lane road, then spot a white tiger that stretches for us.  Next set of gates, we find a pride of 5-6 lions asleep in the road, well positioned to allow tourist snapshots before the bus hustles them off the road.  Stop for some cheese pakoras and drinks then head back to the hotel via rickshaw/train.

Adishwar Jain Temple

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