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Backpacking Scorecard: Day 1 Incredible India
We landed in Mumbai to find that our bags had gone missing somewhere between Johannesburg, Addis Ababa and India. Rather disgruntled and extremely frustrated as a result of the incompetent airport staff, we took a "cool cab" from the Airport to Mumbai's backpacking epicentre: Colaba Causeway. Several minutes outside of the green gardened and relatively clean airport area and our taxi, literally, descended into the madness of Mumbai. We had never seen such a place: a balmy amalgamation of scooters, taxis, cows and pedestrians with little consideration for their well being jostled for space on the congested streets. The pavements are lined by crumbling multi-story structures all equally dilapidated. While stray dogs and heaps of trash share the pavement with vibrant shop owners and colourful customers. If you can manage to see past the sheet mayhem, Mumbai will grow on you. In fact by that afternoon we had already fallen for Mumbais beguiling magnetism and salubrious charm.
Colaba may as well be backpacker central and few backpackers stray from its hostels, shops and restaurants. We clambered out of our taxi completely overwhelmed and drenched in sweat, we felt as if we had landed on a different planet! After negotiating a particularly busy street and dodging several piles of dog and cow shit we were approached by a rather shady looking character wanting to use us as extras in a bollywood film that day. We refused several times and made our away across the street to the popular hostel: Salvation Army. But their rooms are too pricey, so after some more aimless searching we settle for frappes at starbucks (insanity, but necessary). After prodding and poking at our map of Colaba a traveller asks if he may join us at our table. We agree and instantly begin chatting about our travels and plans. This is his 4th time to India. He offers to take us to a supermarket so that we can purchase some toiletries in light of our missing bags. We emerge back into Mumbais buzzing milieu. Hawkers approach from each side, a flower bracelet is fastened to Sharne's wrist in the increment of the moment by a little girl in search of rupees. We both know that it will take time to truly get used to this place. After a successful shopping spree we part ways with our friend and begin asking around for a place too stay. Eventually we manage to find a rather grubby looking restored colonial mansion which houses, on its ground floor, Hotel Prossers. The rooms are somewhat foul with peeling wall paper and splintering wooden shutters but its half the price of salvation army and we are too exhausted to keep looking, so we settle. Moreover the hotel manager is friendly and sincere.
That afternoon we head out to Explore Colabas streets. Its easy to fall for this area: its colonial - pastol coloured raj era buildings are sublime, the people are some of the friendliest that we have ever met and the restaurants and bars provide a welcomed respite from Mumbais humidity. Sharne buys a dress and we head into a bar /restaurant for our first taste of Kingfisher(the local beer) and True indian food.
That evening we take a long stroll along Colabas promenade. On the right hand side the sea holds a heavy mist however a multitude of diminutive fishing boats make their presence felt with small lights, and the left hand side, Colabas imposing colonial buildings rise up into the darkness of the night sky. The promenade is packed with Mumbaikars chattings, laughing and buying snacks and the entire scene is watched over by the Gateway of India in the distance, illuminted in colourful lights. Several locals approach us asking to have their photographs taken with us or just to greet us and make conversation. This is, without a doubt the friendliest place that I have ever been.
First impressions of mumbai are positive and we look forward to what it has in store for us.