Monkeys in Mumbai

We pick up our bags on Saturday morning and decide to stay at the Anjali Guest House, an awesome hostel run by an awesome man named Raj.  Upon Raj’s recommendation, we grab some train tickets to South Mumbai.  As the train pulls up to the station, we see the opposition ready for combat.  As we try to push our way onto the train, jockeying for position with our fellow future train mates, a surge of people escaping the train pushes us back.  Old people are trucking little kids, little kids are tripping up old people, and we force our way on the train after a few good pushes and swim moves.

To say that the train from Andheri station to Churchgate iss crowded is a bit of an understatement.  Support handles suspended from the roof hang down everywhere as the walkways of the train are a sea of humanity.  Many people hang out of the open doors in order to have an advantage in leaving the train and to enjoy the refreshing breeze.  A small homeless child covered in dirt and dust, probably around 3 or 4 years old, approaches us and taps our legs, making the Matrix come bring it motion, begging for our change.  He eventually gets on the floor and repeatedly taps his palm to his head and to our feet, a sign of deference as the Indians believe the feet to be the dirtiest and least important part of the body (everyone removes their shoes before entering a home and it is considered rude to point with your feet).  Ultimately, we wind up offering him a drink of water, upon which he takes our water bottle and rushes off to another part of the train.

Once in Churchgate we walk around the city, passing by a large park filled with kids playing soccer and cricket.  On the far side of the field is the High Court, a palacial buiding next to a Big Ben look alike clock tower that belongs to the University of Mumbai.  On the streets we buy some phan (and Gabe buys some concoction promised to grow lustrous locks, we’ll see how that works out).  The phan had many different ingredients such as cherry, nutmeg, and other unknown spices wrapped in a fresh leaf that is chewed and then swallowed or spit.  The phan is extremely flavorful and very refreshing, great for a walk around the city.

The architecture in Churgate is pretty sweet, especially near the University of Mumbai campus.

The next day we decide to get a respite from the bustle of the city and check out the Sanjay Ghandi National Park, located in the north central section of the city.  Renting some bikes, riding gangsta style on our small frames, we start the trek to the Kanderi Caves.  On the stairs leading to the entrance of the caves, monkeys with white fur and red faces lounge around and groom each other.  Baby monkeys wrestle with one another, jumping from tree trunks to the ground to deliver epic bows to their brothers and sisters.  As one monkey bends over a pool to drink, another comes up and dunks his face into the water.

Looking fresh after that grooming.

The Kanderi Caves are a set of 110 caves dug out of a mountain dedicated to the Buddha, with man engravings showing the Buddha in different postures.  Upon reaching the top of the beaten path, we decide to trail blaze our way to the top of the mountain, dodging cactus (somewhat successfully) on the rock face on our ascent.  From the top of the mountain, we are able to see not only the vast valley below us but also the buildings of Mumbai in the distance.  They expand for our entire view from many miles away, demonstrating how massive the actual city of Mumbai is.  Mumbai is a crazy place and we have only scratched the surface of exploring the city, but we decide to grab an overnight bus to Goa and see what the beaches have in store.

The main section of the Kanheri Caves. The caves are lined with stone carvings of the Buddha in different postures.

The city backdrop extends way farther than the eye can see from the mountains. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is in the north central part of Mumbai, the expansive city surrounds it.