Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Mumbai to Goa, India

Ready to ride out of Mumbia, India.  This school behind Markos and Sampson is not the school they attend, but no worries.  Both boys have successfully taken monitored midterms through their distance learning school at  Vista Virtual, Alberta Distance Learning Centre.

Markos' 15th birthday.  Shrilaka, Rahul, Mukta and Radha invited us into their family and styled us with an exceptional celebration. (Complete with appropriate attire!)

A glimpse of the road before us.  One of the numerous small villages we've ridden through on our journey south through the state of Maharashtra.

We finally reached the beaches of southern India.  Anita, Raj and Arya got us out to the beach (one hour drive transporting by car and moped) the night we arrived at their home.  What a treat it was!

This is a kingfisher.  Don't know how long he survived in the forest...his wing was injured.

Welcome to India – Where are you going?  Goa?
10 days in India
Ist night – arrival at Mumbai airport, arranged shuttle to reserved hotel.  Settled in by 2am.   Our 1 star hotel fortunately has been hugely improved upon by all accommodation since.
Day 1 – 1 ½ hour taxi ride (2 taxis for all our stuff and family) across Mumbai 26 km to Coloba District by the Gateway to India.  Crazy traffic and horns, our drivers, 2 senior Islamic Indians, were awesome.  The air pollution was so thick that I had a constant mild headache the two days we spent in Mumbai – skyscrapers could barely be made out as we looked upwards on our ride.
Day 2 – built the bikes back into riding form (from airplane transport mode) Our hotel A/C helped us cope with the pollution and the street noise.  Found great places to eat.
Day 3 – Rode 5 km to ferry port and took 1-hour ferry to Port Rewas, south and out of Mumbai and 19.2 million people.  Excellent exit strategy.
….Day 10.  Cruising and jolting down the Mumbai-Goa Highway, sweat flowing, heat intense, shade of banyon trees and jungle growth breaks slow, sun-drenched climbs.  The traffic flows like a river, filling empty spaces with overtaking cargo trucks, buses, cars and mopeds, all dodging potholes and asphalt patchwork. Brahma cows emerging out of the side brush or stationed directly in the middle of the road.  Horns signal too many things – overtaking vehicle, blind corner approach, emergence into traffic, a friendly (but piercing) hello.  Fortunately, the extreme rumble strips that added additional dimension to the road before each and every village, have thinned out over the days as the villages now are more spread out the further we get from Mumbai.  The refuse piles strewn about the rivers and road have also thinned with villages well taken care of and small neat fields of harvested rice and greens separated by fences of hung fabric, to ward off the wild pigs.  Monkeys eat up the banana peels we toss into the forest and jungle bird-squawk is constant.  Raj, a college commerce and business professor by day, snake-catcher by night, informed us that 2-300 people die each year from snakebite in the region we are traveling.  Needless to say we are staying on the road and not camping at all!!

More than anything, it is the people of India that have enriched our experience on a daily basis. Shibaz approached our dusty bikes in Roja – he knew several places we could spend the night.  We followed his motorcycle through the milieu of people, animals and vehicles.  Then to meet his family (father, aunts and uncles and brother/cousins) sharing of tea and gifts of custard–apple fruit and explanations to questions we had.  This trend continued with five families since.  In Mahad, Shrilaka approached us « I’m ‘Warm Showers’, would you like to be my guests? » We spent an amazing next day and a half hosted by her family.  (The day also happened to be Markos’ birthday!) The father, Rahul, took us on a hike to 2000 year-old Buddhist caves. We visited numerous family friends and joined the family celebration feast for the last day of Diwali.  We took a crocodile safari in a tippy riverboat and wrapped up the day with a dual birthday celebration for Markos’ 15th and  Rahul’s 44th birthday, complete with loaned Indian dress.  That was a crazy action-packed day.  Shrilaka and her family took us under their wing and have continued to do so.  Now, five days later, we hear from Shrilaka daily with the connection to our home-for-the-evening: friends and connections she has arranged for us to meet and stay with.  Each experience with these hosts has been golden, and broadened our India far beyond the bumpy and often chaotic road we travel by day.  « To serve people is to serve God » is the mantra of Indian hospitality.

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