Montag, 14. Oktober 2013

Day 102 - 114: Waiting for Kalimero - not at the worst places on earth!

While Kalimero was on the ship (he started his journey one day after being packed into the container), we flew to Mumbai to wait for him to arrive. As we were backpackers now, we took a riksha to the railway station - the Indian Railway (the largest civilian employer in the world) is very comfortable to get around in this huge country and ideal for travellers without own means of transport. 

On our way, we passed by a lot of festival trucks, colorful Ganesha statues and crows of dancing and paint-throwing people. September 18th was the last day of a 10 day festival honoring Ganesha (Ganesh Chaturthi), which we took for a great welcome party for us.

Indian traffic: what would happen in Germany?

The area around the railway station (CST) was exactly as Katha (who has never been to India before) expected - or lets say - as she tried to be prepared for. Millions of people, walking, driving and riding in every direction. Tons of garbage, people living on the sidewalk, pooping on the sidewalk, starving on the sidewalk or bleeding to death from an untreated accident. This all goes side by side with other Indians talking on their Iphones, wearing rayban sunglasses and with commercials for real estate investment or european cars plastering the walls. There seemed to be some kind of organizing level and the inhabited parts of the sidewalk looked rather tidy. Most people seemed to be aming for one direction. But you really have to look where you put your feet and better do not step near the puddles (after all, it was still monsoon in Mumbai).

British colonial architecture: the Victoria Terminal, now called CST.

We decided that we are not ready for this yet and better start India with some sightseeing in the hinterlands. The night-train to Aurangabad was not available anymore so we booked the last available tickets (2 class / non-AC) for the next morning and looked for a near and budget place to stay (just being backpackers now). 

The lady at the "foreign-tourist-counter" told us to be at least 40 minutes early (for the 6:10am train), so we had the chance to see the same streets at night and in pouring rain. Almost every single sidewalk now was a home, neigborhoods built of blue plastic foil and corrugated plate huts which were used as shops during the day. It was very quiet, almost peaceful and we did not feel unsafe for a second. Of course we tried not to wake anyone as we knew that most of these people have workdays we wouldn't survive for more than 3 days. 

The train was empty when we got in, the two of us sitting on a narrow bench, waiting for the chai-whalla. As we rode through the city more and more people came in and soon we were in real India again: the train was packed, and we had chai, samosa, chai again, another samosa, all brought to our place by the IR employees....and we started to like the country a bit. 

Aurangabad - as far as we have seen it - is not a nice city, there are a lot of sights easy to reach from there, though. We rented a taxi with driver for a day and after a good banana pancake breakfast (true backpackers at heart) we started our sightseeing tour with the Daulatabad Fort.
We were pleasantly surprised that uncountable other tourists (Indians) wanted to take a picture with us, obviously there are regions in India which are still rarely frequented by European tourists.

Roaring cannons at Alautabad Fort.

Our next stop was at the Ellora caves. A group of 34 cave which were used as buddist, hinduist and jain temples and built in the fifth to tenth century.
The caves look a bit like a mixture of angkhor wat and the rock churches in Etiopia and belongs to UNESCO world herritage.
The place was not too crowded, a maintainence guy opended some hidden caves for us and explained a lot and we were not forced to buy any souvenirs or ice cream - we enjoyed the site very much. 

After an amazing veg thali at a restaurant our taxi driver suggested (though ringing all our alarm bells at first) we let him drive us to the "mini-taj" (Bibi Ka Maqbara). The "mini taj" was built as a mausoleum for one of the wifes of Aurangzeb, a Moghal Emperor of the 17th century. To round up a great day we had some delicious food at our hostel and soon went to the railway station to get our night train back to Mumbai, where we expected Kalimero to arrive in two days.

Sightseeing, Indian style.

Unfortunately, our train arrived very early so we wasted some time having breakfast at McDonalds before we met our agent. We expected him to tell us where we can take Kalimero in our arms the next day and that he problably wanted to get some money from us. When we finally found his office he was not there, but his coworker told us that customs will be done by the 26th or the 27th if he really pushes it. That was a shock, maybe we are a bit naive - but we did not ship a car before, therefore we thought we could get the container and its content the day the ship arrives. Plus, the Dubai agent neither said a word about 2-3 days customs, but always told us about the 24th as date of arrival.
With this news, we were a disappointed, but we could at least leave Michis passport and the carnet at the office and were allowed to leave the city again for some days.

Michi had written to the Indiamike forum looking for someone flying to Mumbai from Germany the next couple of days to bring us some fresh Dekalin (the company offered us a tube for free, but shipping would have tripled the original price). Daniel, living in Mumbai and working at his parents' petrol pump offered some help. We were very thankful that we had a place to go next, as we were a bit clueless what to do until the 26th. Daniel and his parents were extremly friendly and welcoming and originally being from Goa, they had some suggestions for us where to spent a good time.

Luckily, we got the last 2 AC sleeper train tickets to Margao for the very same evening. When we had the tickets, Daniel and his friend took us on their motorbikes to get to a car window shop, which might sell something similar to the sealant we needed for the roof light.
Thank you guys for this great sightseeing by night tour, we loved it! 

Unfortunatly Daniel had no time to have dinner with us, but he suggested an amazing restaurant which again made us like the country a bit more. The night train soon left and we had a decent night sleep and a chilling morning looking out the window into the lush green, reading and planning our stay in Goa.

The next two days were extremely relaxing, we rented a scooter, enjoyed the incredible rich flora, walked the beaches and looked at the churches the Portuguese built during their colonization.

On the train to Goa.

Katha having a hard time waiting for Kalimero.

Still off-season, much construction was going on to prepare for tourist masses.

If you try to finance your trip with some trafficking, you might land here.

Would be quite picturesque, but we guessed it does not have 4 stars.

The Portuguese churches - huge, old, incredible. Old Goa was one of the biggest cities in the world some hundred years ago. Now it is a village.

Another famous sight in Goa: a EUROPEAN!

...until a message from our agent arrived - he told us that he was very sorry but the ship just landed in Gujarat and will be in Mumbai on the 28th and we could get our car October 1st. WHAT? Unloading the car in Gujarat was not possible, so we "had" to stay in Goa for some more days, OK, that does not sound too horrible but chances for us to do the Manali-Leh-highway were shrinking with every day of delay.
Now we finally were in the situation we did not want. Shipping Kalimero to India cost piles of money and before shipping we agreed that this would only be worth it if we have around 8 weeks in India. Leaving Iran on September 8th, we thought this would easily be possible, but now with several delays we have less than 6 weeks left and might even not be able to go to Leh. This would still not be too bad if we would have gone to Oman instead, but due to the empty promises the agent in Dubai gave us this also did not happen.

When we finally digested the latest news, we jumped on the scooter to get us a train ticket back to Mumbai for the 29th.
After a 150km scooter marathon, we had our new train tickets at hand and even got some money back for the ones we would not use. We decided to go to south Goa next (but not to Agonda yet, not without Kalimero!). 


Scooter rent, anyone?

Train station Margao, trying to get the tickets back.

With all the delay news, we briefly considered converting this one to an interim camper, until Kalimero arrives. The body might need some polish, though, and few parts might be missing.

HUGE butterflies.

Our beach hut near Palolem, where we stayed 3 days.

Here again we had a great time, with a lot of rain, though and headed back to Mumbai, just in time to meet our agent again in the morning. Now everthing really went smooth, we payed our depth, stayed one night in Navi Mumbai, at Santosh's – great man, perfect host and phenomenal cook! The next day we went to the port, where we changed the rims and did not have to take care of anything else and 5 hours later we were on the road again! Finally!

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