My arrival to Mumbai early in the morning showed me an empty Mumbai. Mumbai’s streets, because the train station was chaos. People everywhere, literally. I moved stations taking a taxi for the first time in India. There are no rickshaws in the South of Mumbai. I left my backpack in the cloak room and I was ready to start the day! But the city was not, nothing was opened yet to have some breakfast and I ended up wandering and having some street food. In my walk I could realise how in big cities the sides of the roads that are supposed to be used for walking, are used to live instead. Poverty hits hard in big cities and this one was no exception. Tired as I was and with all the day ahead until catching my next train that evening, I found a starbucks where I could crash for a couple of hours until I woke up and get some rest. I took the time to write, chat and relax over coffee, despite my little appreciation to starbucks in general. Also, I could pay with card and in these times where we face so many currency problems and lack of change, it is something! After a couple of hours I left what I considered my base camp in Mumbai to move towards the unknown. I got to hit many touristy places, such as the Gate of Mumbai or the Taj Hotel where I felt like a homeless person, as it is a super luxurious hotel and I was walking by it with horrible clothes, sweaty, dirty face and messy hair. It just made me feel out of place and how the contrast in India is so big…
Then I continued towards less touristy places such as the Port and got the fishy smell with me the whole day, which was exactly what I was needing after the Taj Hotel visit. The day was quiet, I actually got some time to cue in a bank to change some of the old notes and I drove myself crazy trying to find an ATM, which would become a daily routine from now. Tired enough of all day wandering around, I just happened to find myself on the way to starbucks again, something familiar where, in exchange of a coffee I had some chilled place to stay with very nice Wi-fi. And after that, I got my next train towards Aurangabad!
My arrival to Aurangabad at 4am in the morning had been previously prepared to avoid myself another bad experience and I had a place booked for me very close to the railway station. Some place where I could catch up with my sleep, after two days sleeping in a train. Funny enough, the train was full of students coming back from their school trip. Not as nice as the Gujaratti ones, I have to say, but they did get to say hello and ask me a few things. I woke up and this was the only day I truly had to explore the town, so I just started walking, trying to check as well where the train station for the next morning would be. On my way to the baby Taj Mahal, or the Poor Man’s Taj as I call it, as I knew it couldn’t anything but disappointing (how do you manage to make a cheap copy of something that is bloody perfect!!!??? The result won’t be satisfactory!!!) I had a motorbike coming to me in the middle of the road. There were two girls on it and one of them happened to be a journalist that wanted to ask me how the ban of the 500 and 1000 rupees notes was affecting me. I took the chance to speak loud and clear, as I was a bit annoyed and struggling with cash to survive and I also explained to them that I was going by foot to see this place because I didn’t have enough money to afford a rickshaw. They quickly offered me a lift. And that’s how I ended up making it to the local newspaper!
Next two days I visited the caves of Ajanta and Ellora. Beautiful the way the stone is just carved to form a cave that was a temple, or a granary, or a two and three-story cave… Amazing that they are actually that old and people just thought about doing it and created from the rock huge openings. The visits were nicer because I had the company of a Georgian girl, a French girl and an English guy for the first day and the French girl stucked with me the second day as well as the others left the previous night.
Three days after my arrival to Aurangabad I got back to the train station to catch another overnight train to Secunderabad in Hyderabad. I was quite worried about the quality of the accommodation in this city and its price as I couldn’t find anything decent online and this city has no foreigners at all. But it took me 5 minutes to find a hotel with a reasonable price plus good Wi-fi. That was all I needed as I was only going to stay in this city to wait for Nicolo, my Italian friend and my plan was to plan a bit of my trip after India, decide on things and clear my mind. And internet was a powerful tool to use for this purpose.
I got to see a temple, quite good, that was next to the station. When I decided to get in I realised that something was going on, because there were lots of people inside and especially in a huge hall, where they were sitting down in groups or families on the floor. They had a little short metalic table in front of them and they were using it to put fruits and flowers and other stuff on in, in a funny way as it seems to be recreating something. There were chants and mantras and lots of prayings, but I didn’t dare to take a picture for respect to their praying time. I was only observing and trying to understand.
Unfortunately, days in this transition city were enough to realise I couldn’t be there for much longer. With not much news from Nicolo about his plans, I panicked and went to the train station to get tickets to get out of there in 1 or 2 days maximum. The days were passing getting food, looking for an ATM and researching a bit on the Internet, but I couldn’t be doing that much more! When I got to the train station to get tickets, the plan was to leave on the night Nicolo had said he would be arriving. I didn’t hear much from him at all except that he was waiting to “convince a French girl” to come with us. I didn’t understand if he had ticket to come already, how this girl would get the ticket if she was going to come with so short notice or anything at all. So I got impatient when Í arrived to the train station and realised how difficult it was to get train tickets and the huge difference in money and comfort with the bus and after speaking and begging to the supervisor to get me my ticket out of Hyderabad, I got 3 train tickets, my next 3 destinations! Unluckily I would not be able to leave on the agreed day but one day early and that’s where the big mess started: I spoke with the guys after, when I got Wi-Fi and Nicolo just happened to have a huge surprise that would not be a surprise anymore; Elia had stayed in India and he was “the French girl” he was convincing! They were both arriving to Hyderabad the next day of my departure. Damn it! I felt bad because the surprise was spoiled but also I needed to get out of a city that was only offering me cheap eats and markets.
Next day I checked out of the hotel and went to explore Hyderabad (I was only staying in Secunderabad and wanted to see a bit so I can say I have not only stayed in the city but saw something as well). I walked and walked and walked to see a giant Buddha and the area of the palace. More markets were around and I was doing short stops to get some chai or lassi, which I found it had ice and worried about how my health would be next day, but nothing happened. Looks like I am a bit immunised now! I got to buy some (a lot) of henna with the thought of send a parcel home and get to do henna to everybody when back at home. And for the way back, I took a local bus. I love these local buses that have what it seems to you an improvised stop but they are the real stops that everybody happens to know where they are but you don’t because no there are no notices at all. You hop on with the bus moving and hop off whenever you can, in an attempt to keep alive in the middle of the traffic.
And that’s how I got back to my hotel to get my backpack and get in another local bus to the train station that would get me to Hospet, the closest town to my next destination: Hampi