Thirty six hours including 3 plane changes and 2 quite long layovers I arrived in Bombay/Mumbai India. Thanks to friends including Monica and a new friend, CK who I met on the plane I was itching for the adventure to begin. We got off the plane and were all thermo scanned to see if anyone was running a fever and potentially had the H1N1 virus. All clear, through customs over to the change desk. $80USD turns into 3350.00 Rupees… I’m going to have to work on my math skills!.
On a tip from CK I was off to the ‘prepaid’ taxi desk. No need for an ‘extra tour’ if it is already a flat fee. I paid the 332Ir. and found my way outside. There were hundreds of people waiting behind strictly patrolled barricades waiting for friends and family. It could have been Valencia. I headed out an opening to the right and found the taxis. I had asked for the cheapest way so walked past the blue air-conditioned ones and found the tiny black and yellow taxi with my number on it.
As we left the airport the smell changed to a mixture of dust, moisture, salt and fire and we ran right into India. We were engulfed by other cars and the spaces were filled in by a whole bunch of people standing in the streets and a whole bunch of other police officers directing them and traffic, many while also talking on their cell phones. All of the civilians were really nicely dressed in Indian-Muslim clothing but they seemed a little extra sparkly for people standing essentially on the fast lane curb of a motorway.
The shift on the steering column taxi also had a problem at low revs. I started counting how many times we stalled but my driver was an expert at restarting the engine, often on the fly so I’m sure I missed some. Restart 10 was a bit significant as I was more concerned with the cement truck that we were trying to cut off and obviously failing to do. Restart 14 was accompanied by squealing tires and us going from 30 to 0 in 30 feet. And all along this 20 minutes of driving there were more and more of the fancy Muslim dressed people standing on the motorway. I was looking around for a reason, no bars, no parks, no dancing… they were just in the middle of a motorway! We came to a screeching halt one more time, engine quit and there were people everywhere. I could see the road opening up to the left and a commotion to the right. Through the bodies, a green 1940’s type sedan with fully lit interior and 2 or 3 people dressed in full white were taking a right exit as people were throwing themselves at the car. My driver was swearing at the people in the road and kind of shouted to me – “Iman”! Ahhh – They were all out in the middle of the night to catch a glimpse of him.
It is now almost 2am I’m in my very nice Comfort Inn Hotel room with a Kingfisher as a nightcap (Monica told me not to drink the water) and I’m about ready to hit it so I can have another day of adventure tomorrow.