We were sad to leave Stefan and Naski, we had had such a great time, and been spoilt, but it was time to carry on with our adventure. We flew with Emirates to Dubai where we had a 4 hour stop (from 12.00-4.00am!) before a short flight to Mumbai, where we landed at 8.30am, local time. Having read all about the hassle of taxi drivers pestering tired tourists on arrival at any airport/train station to take them to their brothers/cousins hotel etc.. we were pleasantly surprised to find no such hassle, just a pre-booked taxi stand, where we arranged a taxi, at the amount suggested in our guide book! Very civilised. All the taxi's are numbered and paperwork is filled out and various copies dispersed, including to a policeman as we left the airport..
The drive to our downtown hotel took 45 minutes and we passed many sights and smells (not all very pleasant!) but again, we were pleasantly surprised to arrive at our very clean and western hotel. After being told that our room wasn't ready, but they had a top floor suite that we could have, at the same price, we gladly accepted the offer and enjoyed 2 hours sleep before venturing out to explore.
We were well situated for a stroll down the main road, past crumbling colonial buildings housing museums, hotels and market stalls, to the port to see the famous 'Gateway to India' - a monument very similar to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and a tourist trap for locals and visitors alike. Whilst there were a lot of people about, there was none of the pushing and pressure to buy things that we had been expecting - in fact everyone seemed very friendly. The staff at the hotel told us that the roads were quiet today as it was a Sunday, but it still seemed pretty busy to us, and we were glad not to have to contemplate crossing the roads if it was a week day.
After enjoying a nice meal out we ventured round the back streets to get some provisions for tomorrow's train journey.
We were up at 5.15am to get a taxi to the train station where we were stopped at the security check and told 'no wine on train'. We weren't planning on drinking on the train, but we had brought some south african wine with us to share with Pete and Ali to celebrate New Year and they had spotted the bottles in our bags. Whilst we were trying to undo our bags though, another chap (not in uniform but we assumed he was security) wove us through, and whilst the 2 of them were arguing we quickly picked up our bags and made our way to the platforms.
We shared our 4 berth area of the carriage with a newly wed Indian couple who enjoyed watching movies on their laptop which they shared with us (Fast & Furious 5 and Ice Age 4). The carriage was air conditioned which was great but the view from the window was poor as the windows were dirty and didn't open. We enjoyed our journey but arrived two hours late at our station! Another 50 minute taxi ride bought us to Patnam village in Goa where Pete was stood at the side of the road to greet us. After a quick beer and a bowl of veg rice at their favourite restuarant/bar they took us to our home for the next month. They had rented a nice little place for us, two rooms with a kitchenette and bathroom. They had spent the day making it homely with a new kettle, tea, sugar, milk powder, biscuits etc. It was a real treat to have all of this sorted! Then they broke the bad news that the rent is 500 rupees a day. But not bad news at all as this is 5 pounds!! We are intending to be in this part of India for about a month so we will use this as a base.
New Years eve started with a bit of yoga practice followed by a swim at the beach and lunch at the resturant. We spent the evening with Pete, Ali and Helena who is also in the area for the christmas break. After some South African Bubbly and nice Indian wine, we left Pete and Ali and made our way to Patnem beach. The beach was busy with all the restaurants full and tables on the beach. We enjoyed a nice indian meal sat on the beach watching the firworks that started at about 10pm and went on until the early hours. It was a great evening and a great way to welcome the new year.
The photo is of Vanda in front of our train, note the dead rat in the bottom of the picture, well this India after all!