When I relocated from Kolkata to Mumbai, I brought with me luggage weighing 49.9kg. I remember the sigh of relief that me, my husband and the lady at the ticketing counter at the airport released. The joy that we didn’t cross the 50kg prepaid threshold.
Yet when we decided to visit the Elephanta caves, I had no ‘proper clothing’ with me to suit the early March Mumbai weather for an outdoor excursion which might involve a bit of hiking. I frantically searched for something and the best outfit I found fit for the occasion was my track pants and gym wear. Ofcourse the running shoes accompanied them.
My second Mumbai local train ride came to an end at around 11.30 AM in the morning of that day at Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). We took a cab from the station to reach the iconic Gateway of India.
Elephanta Island is located on the Arabian Sea off the coast of Mumbai. Ferries leave from the Gateway of India to the island on a regular basis. The first ferry from Mumbai coast to Elephanta Island leaves at 9 AM and the last one leaves at 3 PM. The departure time of the first ferry the other way round is 12 PM and the last ferry is at 5.30 PM.
The entrance to the Gateway of India is well guarded. Everyone who intends to visit the seafront needs to queue up. They are allowed in only after a thorough security check. Just by the side of the entrance is the ticket counter. Tickets for ferries leaving for Elephanta Island, Alibaug and some other places can be purchased from here.
Our tickets cost us INR 180 each. It was written on the ticket “Do not travel on upper deck; do not pay extra charge”. Unfortunately, we saw this later. We boarded the boat from the docks of the Gateway of India. The first thing we noticed when we were boarding the launch was that some co-travellers were paying a man and straightaway going to the upper deck. The man let us climb up the stairs when we paid him INR 10 for each of us.
Now seated on the upper deck I observed my co-passengers. Sitting just opposite to us were a group of Caucasians; behind them a large group of Bengalis shouting and yelling like typical tourists. Everyone was trying to get a seat under the shade of the make-shift canopy. And then there was that one couple – sitting in the open air portion of the upper deck under the blazing sun wrapped up in each other’s arms, in search of a few precious moments of privacy.
The launch chugged on and the shore shrunk farther and farther away from us. From the Arabian Sea the monumental beauty of the Gateway of India increased exponentially. The architecture of the Taj Hotel struck the eye even more.
How odd that it felt so soothing in the company of a small set of complete strangers right in the middle of a sea!
The journey was not a short one. We don’t exactly remember how long it took but it was definitely more than an hour. Elements of the sea kept us from checking the time. When we were a considerable distance away from the coast a flight of sea gulls surrounded our boat.
The birds gave us company the entire time until we reached the island. We watched our winged companions chase each other — the vast expanse of the open sea did not scare them; if anything it made them free. If there exists something called “next life” (which I strongly don’t believe in) I would love to be born a bird. Not an ostrich ofcourse – something that can fly.
The sprawling Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and its complicated network of building were visible far away in the horizon.
Finally we saw our boat pacing towards the direction of a green hill – The Elephanta Island. The Elephanta Island is host to a series of caves. The island owes its popularity to these caverns, the insides of which boast of rock cut sculptures. Hindu deities and characters from the epic Mahabharata and Ramayana can be seen intricately carved out of the basalt walls. The influence of Buddhism is also present in abundance. The artists and masterminds of this historical delight are not known. Several theories and controversies regarding the origin of the caves float on the internet.
The greenery of the island is worthy of praise. Everything around Mumbai turns brown in the dry season so the abundance of green caught us by surprise.
Our vessel moored and we boarded off the boat. The events of the rest of the day will be fodder for my next blog post.
I have been to the mountains a hundred times but my stint with the open sea has always been quite limited. Now that I am living in a beach town (technically, at least), all that is going to change. I am making sure I thoroughly enjoy each bit of my new lessons of living by the sea. May my voyage of self discoveries never end!
P.S : I went for this daytrip again in early June and the journey to the island wasn’t pleasant at all. Even in the middle of the sea there was no breeze and not a single seagull!
Do you plan to visit the Elephanta Islands soon? Do you have some questions regarding the trip? Go ahead comment below and let’s get talking! Have you already been here? Share your experience with us by commenting!
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