One of the first things you notice about the city is its constant foggy conditions; you can see a maximum distance of 5 miles before everything disappears into the polluted smog cloud. There is the main highway that takes you into the center of the city, this is the fastest traffic I have seen move in a city – it seems to be a race as we bump along the road with many areas of extensive potholes because everything is moving so fast and so close the breaking for these death trap areas is very hazardous, after a few seconds the smell of brakes and them the cloud of exhaust smoke fills your already damaged nostrils as everyone has to get to their destination fast. It is also the first place where the driver and only the driver, are mainly wearing helmets, most likely because statistically the risk of crashing is much higher. This road gathers traffic from all the a-joining roads as if flows down towards the heart of Mumbai, the gateway of India and famous markets. It took 2 hours from where we were staying to get into the city center and that was on a quiet day! It’s such a sprawl of a city with some of the most concentrated areas of people in the world. The city has around 18.5 million residents – from the full trains with people hanging on, to people sleeping in the central reservation and the sheer amount of traffic bears witness to its overpopulated state along with the flow to the center being clogged.
One boy, about 14, with crutches, was wandering between the cars wearing a Santa hat and looking in each car window for money, with a translator I discovered he had polio and had lost a leg, the lights went green and he was left standing alone in the Centre of the road. We arrived at Crayford Market built in the mid 1800s, this was a busy area and we met a boy about 8 with no arm. He was carrying some rubbish in big bags on his shoulders to make a few rupees. His eyes light up when we talked to him, this is something that we found common; that no-one had taken any interest in people like this little boy. They may have given money but never had much of a conversation.
On new year we visited the biggest slums of the East, Dharavi. It is estimated that between 600,000 and over 1million people live in the 0.67 square mile area it was the biggest slum in Mumbai but now 4 others are bigger.
We explored deep into the heart of the area, we arrived at 8am and many we opening their little recycling shacks, bakery shops, metal workshops, fruit stalls and cafes, it’s a hive of activity! Some of us enjoyed a coffee and some breakfast in the slums. The area is divided by the main road – complete mayhem – a million or so people cross the road everyday with their fruit trollies and stock for their shops. Some of the slums are surrounded with liquid… you would hardly call it water due to all the rubbish and dirt floating around in it. There was a few bridges over the swampy water into the community. Some of the small alleys and houses never see the sunlight and small stairways disappear into the darkness of someone’s house. We had some very nice orange juice and in the evening came back for an evening meal, they certainly know how to cook! Tonight we also saw a baptism, another thing to celebrate for the new year!
For the night on the 31st we went into the center for the new year by the gateway of India and the Taj Hotel it was sad to see many people sleeping at the side of the road too tired from earning a few rupees to see the new year in. Many were preparing to burn the ‘old man’ which is like a guyfaulks type thing. They say the new year time for the new man, it is time to change and burn the old man.
Mumbai is a 24hour city amd there are often traffic jams in the early morning, even at 3am. There is never a moment when the city sleeps.
The last day we were in Mumbai we visited Elephanta Island. This is famous for its caves and statues, the largest is pictured below:
The last night I stayed in a slum area and had a meal, the only mistake was drinking the water! There was also no toilet but I survived!
It was time to say goodbye to Ryan, he’d been a quarter of the team/family for 3months and it was the first part of the return leg for us so it was a sad goodbye! We had all experiences some unbelievable things and now we were all breaking off to our separate placed.
The short Mumbai experience was well worth it, and we also met some very kind people and saw some of the poorest and most needy parts of India here.
I was in Mumbai from Dec 27 to Jan 3. I then travelled by train by train to Secunderabad arriving on Jan 4.