The Bombproof Water Bottle
On arrival we centered ourselves around the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the major railway depot but also one of Mumbai's most exuberant buildings. Its beauty is lost as it is almost impossible to draw yourself away from the chaos surrounding you at eye level. Simply walking along the street is an exhausting but strangely rewarding task; dodging human and vehicle traffic , negotiating beggars and leering men (Victoria's chest is hugely popular) all set in a confusing haze of thick choking smog and deafening noise. Dead cats and refuse pile up in the roads and cows mingle in among the cars and carts - probably having a good laugh at the chicken only menu at the McDonalds that seems so out of place. We didn't fly 14 hours to eat McVeggie burgers, although they were the ones with proper peas in, so we headed to a local restaurant. Lacking tourists and with Victoria the only female present, the waiters laid on a feast of foods we hadn't ordered to sample, which gave Nanny Turvey's egg sandwich mountains a run for their money in volume. Systematically breaking every Hindi social taboo, Victoria enjoyed (and the staff enjoyed watching) drinking a number of glasses of cheap Indian wine. A party-cab ride around the city ensued with Victoria and the cabbie locked in battle over who could shout 'wooo' the loudest along to the Bollywood mix music. Several lucky Mumbaikers were priveledged to be high-fived out of the window. I had to pay a street boy 10 rupees for having to endure Victoria singing outside the hotel as a small crowd gathered. A few more wines and we would have been slaughtering cows and selling McBarnes's from a street cart, which would have gone down as well as Vanilla Ice's tour of Bombay. Every transaction is so slow in India, everything is written down and recorded, so purchasing anything as simple as bog roll is more drawn out than standing behind an old lady in Tescos who wants to tell the cashier about how nice Noel Edmonds seems. Despite this we managed to get our hands on train tickets from CST to Karmali in Goa. The 6.55am Mandavi 'Express' finally departed at 10am ; our 3 tier sleeper cabin was occupied mainly by pale looking tourist who all seemed extra chatty and eager to share their experiences of Mumbai. One bunk below us contained Guru Walter Picardo of the Nav Nirman Foundation, an Ashram that deals with 'those suffering from alcoholism, drug addiction, mental health problems and other compulsive behavoirs'. After a long chat with Victoria, he decided that we should probably book ourselves in for a lengthy stay. The slow 13 hour journey may have been quite restful if it wasn't for the constant cries of the catering staff walking the aisles selling 'chicken lollipops' and 'chicken soup', we waited an waited for the garlic bread man, but he never came. Arriving in Karmali at 11pm, we had to stop overnight at a hostel in Panjim City near Old Goa before loading up in the morning for the bus ride of death to northbound to Arambol. The local 'buses' only cost around 35p, but for that you have to survive hundreds of people all crammed into a 20 seater van. At one point we stopped outside a school and 30 odd school kids were allowed to board. These were folded up and shoved into the luggage racks. Arambol is a rural, under developed beach town. It contains a contrasting mix of Indian families, scousers on day trips from Calangute and yuppie hippies (yippies) who think they have become enlightened beings after a 30 minute meditation session. Tourists are serviced by a small number of ramshackle beach hut restaurants and bars. Cows wander aimlessly on the beach eating tourist's books and dogs catch some shade under sun loungers. We are currently staying in a room rented out by a local family. A bull headbuts our door at night, presumably frustrated at the lack of china shops in Goa. Not sure where we are heading to next, but as the wise man in seat 25 on the Mandavi Express said: 'Don't live in the future or the past...and don't eat the chicken lollipops'.