Well, HELLO INDIA! The second you step off the plane, India wraps itself around you: that overpowering and unique smell that you only get here, of spice and sweat and incense and sewage and flowers. We are in Mumbai, India's largest metropolis of sixteen million souls. But let me rewind a little...
After Christmas, we bade farewell to Wasini Island, our beautiful island retreat.
So, how was saying goodbye to Kenya? To be honest, by this stage I think we were all ready to go. Packing up a house, saying goodbye to everyone and everything that has been familiar to us for the past five years, it's all hugely emotional. But that's the hardest part, as you're actually going through it. So by the time we came to leave, we all stood at Nairobi Airport asking one another how we felt to be leaving. And the answer was the same from all of us: We felt good. We felt ready.
We flew to Abu Dhabi where we had a short and sweet reunion with Andy's sister Tanya who lives there and brother Pat (who lives in Dubai) and their families. Abu Dhabi, with all its sparkle, shine and straight edges felt rather surreal after Kenya, but it was fascinating to see this city that has exploded out of the desert in the past five decades.
We loved visiting the hugely impressive Sheikh Zayed 'Grand' Mosque. Myself, Granny Amma and Maya had to don long gowns to cover ourselves during our tour. (Maya was unimpressed - yikes, may need to factor in some cultural sensitivity classes to the home schooling!)
The flight from Abu Dhabi to India was surprisingly short and here we are, in India! This is what I wanted to do during our 2 days in Mumbai:
Go to visit ancient UNESCO heritage caves on Elephanta Island, go to the modern art gallery and take an evening bus tour of Mumbai's illuminated sights by night. I had also earmarked a few restaurants in the guide book that sounded wonderful. I thought all this was a great little mix of history, culture and food to kickstart our India trip.
This is how much we did of the above:
Nothing. Yep, precisely nothing.
All I can say is this is a lesson for me! What I hadn't factored into the above plans was the Mumbai traffic (which even makes Nairobi's look tame), getting lost in 2 different rickshaws trying to find a breakfast place then spending the rest of the morning trying to reconvene, the energy levels of the children and how everything is also, frankly, pretty overwhelming for us all. An example: the taxi stops at traffic lights and suddenly the car is surrounded. By children begging with even smaller children on their hips, by ladies selling cashews and men selling stickers and the children want to look at all of it but at the same time, none of it. Of course we had this sometimes in Nairobi, but I think here in India it's the sheer scale of it all. There are so, so many people, everywhere you look.
So, instead of this, we changed our objectives to something far more simple: eat and walk. And that was just perfect.
Tonight we take our first Indian train journey, sixteen hours cutting south to the Karnataka Coast to a town called Udupi. We are leaving from one of the world's busiest train stations at 10pm...wish us luck!