Jozef and Julien join me on my adventures today. Jozef is a 59 year old South African millionaire who has been travelling the world for the last 20 years covering almost 200 countries. He is 7 foot tall, wears a stained white vest and is possibly the most interesting person I have ever met. Julien, Mr France, is a cool 27 year old with a positive out look. We head towards Elephanta Island causing stares and funny conversations on the train. What an eclectic bunch we are, the Indians especially fascinated by the size of Jozef.
On our way from Churchgate station towards The Gateway of India to get the boat to Elephanta Island, we are lead astray by a local called Satish who tries to sell us everything we don’t need. The touts harass us for tickets to the caves on Elephanta Island. Is everyone out for commissions or rupees here? Yes. Everyone. You’re in tourist land dear Michael, what do you expect?!
The boat ride was great but the promised 1 hour trip that actually took 2 hours which left us with only 25 minutes to see the caves. Classic Indian timing. Julien and I entered the disappointing caves. We came out here for this?! We paid for a boat here, plus foreigner tax on entry, some baksheesh for the security people and on
top of this, Indian tourist attractions want to charge you for taking still pictures and even more for video! Ouch. They sure know how to make tourists feel appreciated. Jozef has seen this many times before, he refused to pay, he waited, wise and correct in his decision.
Later on we venture to the dirty and disappointing Chowpatty beach. The rubbish on the beach overpowering the amount of sand on offer. Bathing in the sea would probably kill you. We leave fast and head into the red light district. It’s disturbing. Girls from Nepal and north India are sold to pay for their families debt. Drugged and forced into the sex trade these girls are subjected to a life in the sex trade. I didn’t like the atmosphere here. It made me feel sad. Amidst the flurry of pimps offering us beautiful and ‘off their faces’ Indian women, there is a loud bang. The crowd part, a girl lying still on the floor, cloth covering her face. I fear the worst. My heart stops. She roles over, it’s apparent she is high on drugs, the loud bang the back fire of a motorbike. Jozef puts his hand on my shoulder and says ‘I don’t like it here, we need to get out’. At this point, a kind man leads us on a 15 minute walk to Mumbai Central. We are safe.
Still in shock, fascinated by the days events, I enjoy every minute. Exhaustion setting in, I meet three blokes from England back at the Anjali Inn. I don’t know it now but they become important in my future travels.