India: Namaste!

Tuesday afternoon, after spending a bit of time on the beach laughing at the lifeguard who incessantly blew his whistle anytime someone put so much as a toe in the raging ocean water (a busload of Indian tourists drowned in the same spot just a few days ago), Hayli and I hugged Cecy goodbye and boarded a bus out of Goa. This bus took us to our next bus stop, where we had to wait a few hours (in the pouring rain, without umbrellas or shelter!) for our overnight bus to Bombay to arrive. Finally, just as dusk was beginnning to envelope us, we climbed aboard and hopped up into our shared sleeper berth.

Last overnight bus ride! Posted by Picasa

Unfortunately, we were in the very back of the bus, and that provided for one wild ride! Every little bump meant that our whole bodies were slammed into the ceiling. It was continuing to pour down the rain outside, which meant that a waterfall spewed through the windows. Needless to say, I did not get much sleep on the bus ride, but I had a smile on my face the entire journey, knowing that this would be the last overnight bus trip I would have to endure for a very long time!

We finally pulled into some strange area of Bombay around 11:00 Wednesday morning. Unsure of what to do or where to go with our bags, Hayli and I finally decided to go ahead and head to the airport. Of course, our flight was not until early Thursday morning; however, we agreed to leave our bags in storage at the airport, wander around the city all day, and then make our way back to the airport that evening in time to retrieve our bags, manage a catnap, and be ready for airport security around 3:00 am.

Dancing in the streets of Mumbai. Posted by Picasa

After dumping off our bags, Hayli and I made use of Bombay’s public transportation system, first hopping on a bus, then into a train, and finally a short cab ride to Colaba (which ended up costing us a grand total of less than $1 each…a taxi ride all the way from the airport to Colaba would have cost us about $20!). Today was Operation LMS…Last Minute Shopping! Yes, I have been traveling for nearly eight months now and have had plenty of time to shop along the way, but when your life must fit inside a forty-liter rucksack, you can only carry around so much! Fortunately, I had already completed most of my “shopping for others” agenda; today was purely all about me! Yay!

Hayli and I were on a mission, and we were quite the efficient shopping duo. I, for one, knew what I wanted, and at this point of the game I am a seasoned bargaining professional, so it did not take long for me to rack up a nice collection of silk scarves, sunglasses, pashminas, earrings, handbags, and a Bollywood Star T-shirt (yes!)…the typical girlie stuff. We managed to fit in lunch, as well as a nice dinner at a gorgeous little cafe. We even got to witness a spectacular annual festival in which truckloads of young men ride around the city in search of hanging pots. They have to climb on top of each other, forming a human tower, and break the pots. It was a pretty interesting and amusing sight, especially since the rain-soaked bodies proved to be quite slippery! Finally, around 10:00 pm, bags in hand, we naively attempted public transportation again, and after a few wrong turns and bad information, be made it to the airport around midnight.

That’s one slippery human tower! Posted by Picasa

By this point, it had been thirty-six hours since I had taken a shower, so I felt (and probably looked) absolutely disgusting. I hurried to the airport bathroom to take a splash bath, cleaning the cow poo off the back of my legs and trying to make myself look and smell halfway decent. Hayli and I then began “The Wait,” which really did not last very long because they called us to security early due to the increased terror alert. As we were going through the first baggage screening, we were dismayed to discover that we were not allowed to take anything other than our ticket and wallet onboard…Hayli begged to take her book, and they finally agreed. Hayli and I then hugged goodbye, as she was taking a flight to London and my flight was to Frankfurt. I refused to check my purse, which only contained some snacks, my wallet, and a book or two, saying that I would see how long I could get away with it. Turns out, not very long. While I made it through all the airport security, as I was boarding my plane, they took my bag and had me dump all its contents into a plastic bag. Hey, at least I got to take everything with me, albeit not very stylishly.

The Air India flight to Frankfurt was short and sweet…perhaps because I popped my final sleeping pill just after eating the icky breakfast. I awoke just as we were preparing to land. Even though I was on the same flight that would take me (and most of my fellow passengers) on to Los Angeles, we had to deboard the plane in Frankfurt to go through security. Therefore, a few hundred of us, clutching our pathetic plastic bags, slowly filed through one metal detector and a full body search by two haughty Germans before turning a corner and finding the end to another long security line. Yep, we had to go through another long process to get back onto our plane. Therefore, our one-hour stop in Frankfurt for refueling actually turned out to be a four-hour concentration camp nightmare.

Rainy day in Mumbai. Posted by Picasa

Finally, we were back in the air (as was the tension, since many of my fellow passengers were realizing that they had missed their ongoing flights out of L.A.). Again, another uneventful flight before eventually landing in Los Angeles around 8:00 pm, four hours late. I rented a car (a hot-mama minivan, to be exact) and made it to my sister’s house.

Well, it feels great to be back in the USA, albeit a bit strange and surreal. I am defintely looking forward to a fun weekend chock-full of shopping (I left all my ugly, worn-out, and stained backpacker clothing in the hotel room in Goa…no time to burn it!), lying on the beach, and spending time with all my old friends. Next blog…a recap of India!!

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