I get to Mumbai on the morning of January 6th. Using the airport wifi, I send a message to my AirBnB host and ask for the exact address. I wait around for a reply but none comes. I finally take a taxi to the general area, a neighborhood called West Bandra, where the flat is supposed to be, hoping I’ll figure it out from there. I have the taxi drop me on the street and I walk around trying to find the place. After about an hour of roaming in the searing heat I’m losing hope and wondering what the hell I’m doing here. I sit down in a park to rest and try to figure out a solution.
After a brief respite I decide to hail a tuk-tuk, an auto rickshaw, and ask the guy to take me to an internet cafe (I hope they have those around here). I end up at a bagel shop, of all places. I use the wifi and finally get ahold of my host. She gives me an address and directions from the bagel shop. I’m very close she tells me.
I set out. The directions seem pretty straightforward but I end up running in circles. It takes forever to find the place. The back alleys and winding streets that merge into each other make no damn sense to me. After much frustration, and asking numerous people, I finally find the building. My host shows me to my room and I take a quick rest before heading out to find a SIM card.
I thought acquiring a SIM in Spain was difficult. India is a whole new level. Most places I go tell me I need proof of residence. I finally find a guy who says I just need a copy of my passport, visa, and two visa-sized photos. Oh, and a local to vouch for me. Luckily, my host agrees to do that. After two days and much back and forth I finally have a working data plan for my phone.
I spend a couple of days in Mumbai. It’s a crazy, chaotic city. Even more so than Marrakech. Traffic here is insane. There are no lanes, despite the lines painted on the pavement. People squeeze in wherever they can. And the horns - my god, the horns! Never have I heard such a liberal use of the horn in my life. It makes New York City seem like a library.
Despite the chaos, I quite like the city. It's got an interesting vibe to it. One day, I visit the Gateway to India, where tons of Indians ask to have their picture taken with me. Weird.. But I indulge them. Is it the white skin? Or the crazy hair and bushy beard? Probably a combination of both. I hop on a ferry over to Elephanta Island to check out some cave temples over there. Pretty impressive work. The amount of time and labor that must have gone into carving out these caves by hand 1500 years ago just boggles the mind. It’s a shame that when the Portuguese came in they destroyed good portions of the carvings and statues using them as target practice.
The last day I’m in Mumbai I get up with my friend Sid. I met him through my neighbor in Norfolk, Vijay. Vijay grew up in Mumbai before moving to the States. Sid, his nephew, still lives there. He’s offered to show me around Mumbai. We drive around South Mumbai and eat some really good Indian food before he drops me off to catch my night bus to Goa.
The night bus is fairly uneventful and I reach Goa in the morning about 8 am. I take a tuk-tuk to the hostel and check in. I head down to the beach about lunch time and grab some lunch and a beer at a beachside restaurant. Looking around, I just see a bunch of old, retired Europeans and Russians… not quite the party place people made Goa out to be.
In my hostel I meet an Australian named Matt. We get along well and both agree that this part of Goa is not for the young folk (not that I'm young... but I ain't retired, for god's sake!). We decide to head farther North. We catch a tuk-tuk up to a beach called Vagator. We explore. It seems younger up here. We book a hostel called the Jungle for the following night before heading back south for our last night in the Backpacker Panda Hostel. On the way back, before catching a taxi, we walk south along the beach for quite a ways. We crawl over rocks, climb up narrow paths on the sides of hills and end up at Anjuna Beach. There we see cows lounging on the beach, soaking in the sun, only meters away from tourists in bikinis sunning themselves similarly. It is quite a juxtaposition. Only in India, man. (I later regret not getting a picture of this). From there we head inland and explore some backroads. The scenery is beautiful if it wasn't for all the litter. India is a very polluted place, unfortunately, and some otherwise gorgeous places are tainted by the hubris and neglect of man.
At some point we stumble onto a little cafe and decide to take a break. We have been walking for hours. I order a juice and some french toast with Nutella. Holy shit. It’s amazing. We eventually find the main road and grab a taxi back to our hostel, the Backpacker Panda.
The next day we check into the Jungle Hostel. It’s a much more social environment than the Panda. We meet quite a few people that we end up hanging out with.
I don’t do much else in Goa. Pretty much just recoup from the hectic pace of Mumbai. One day I hike north up the beach and climb a steep hill and find an entrance to an old fort called Chapora. It’s quite a climb but the view from atop is worth it.
The next day I’m on another night bus. Next stop: Hampi.