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Saturday, 26 January 2013

Elephanta

Yesterday morning Mum and I got up early once again and made our way to the Gateway of India where we bought return tickets on a launch to Elephanta Island. It is 10km away and the journey is 1hr each way. We had meant to be on the 9 o'clock boat but I had an hour or so of not feeling well after breakfast and we thought better than get the boat then! All recovered, we got a boat just before 10. It was a very murky day in Mumbai (pollution is pretty bad right now) so there was very little to see from the boat...I therefore slept! On arriving at Elephanta, we had a reasonable walk to the bottom of the hill, with lots of signs telling us to "Keep your Elephanta clean" and "Do not annoy the monkeys...they will attack you." The hill was steep, long, busy, slippery and lined with stalls wanting to sell to us. Finally we arrived at the top, huffing a little, and paid our entrance fee to the site. Interestingly, it was 10 rupees for an Indian to enter and 250 for a foreigner...

The caves were created in the 5th Century AD, entirely using hammers and chisels. We saw 5 in total, with 2 of them being temples and 3 just caves (I say just loosely because for caves they were pretty amazing. The first is by far the largest and Mum and I, along with two Australian-Indian girls, took advantage of one of the free Government guides. The temple is dedicated to Shiva and she explained to us in great detail the stories and meanings behind the many different statues which displayed many different forms of Shiva (e.g. Shiva as half man half woman, Shiva the dancer, Shiva the destroyer of evil...)





We visited the other caves by ourselves, being stalked by adventurous little monkeys the whole time! It was absolutely boiling but really interesting.
The island itself is fascinating, quite tropical and very untouched for the most part (excluding the site which is very touristy).




On the way down the hill we stopped at a couple of stalls where I bought a little Ganesha statue and Mum bought a marble plate. We skipped the little train that you could take back to the jetty (it was just a tad crowded!) and walked instead, having to walk on the railway tracks at one point!
On the boat to go home (I hope you're not thinking of luxury here, they are basic to say the least and no form of health and safety is in sight!) the bottom was incredibly crowded so we forked out 10 rupees each to sit on the top deck. Wise decision, the wind was a necessity in cooling us off and it was nice to have the sun on us as we traveled and to have plenty of room.
We had a Heritage Tour of the hotel that afternoon, led by a man called Viren, whom my Dad knows. He is quite the character. He managed to make the 1.5 hour tour captivating whilst also being a major flirt!
After that we went out to dinner with Mehli and Mehru at a lovely modern Indian restaurant called the Copper Chimney.


Today we had a lovely lazy day, laying by the pool and swimming. We had lunch with Viren, a fun, lively hour or so where he requested that the song "Lady In Red" be played for me...oh dear! This afternoon Mum and I indulged in massages and I had a hair treatment (where they also cut my hair which I DIDN'T want them to do but oh well...) We are getting a car to the airport at 2230 tonight (one hours time) and I will be sad to leave this amazing place... All I can say is I'll talk to you from Sri Lanka!

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