I just returned from dinner with Glenn at the Cafe Mocambo which is very near our hotel. It is a very small air-conditioned restaurant with fewer than eight tables and sixteen chairs.  The restaurant serves everything from Italian food, sea food, Chinese food and lamb chops. Glenn had lamb chops and described them as some of the best that he has ever eaten which is high praise from a sheep-eating Aussie. I had penne pasta with basil and tomato-based gravy.  It was good. I had not eaten for more than twelve hours and I couldn’t eat any more rice and curry tonight. The pasta was a nice change. I’ll take that ferry ride tomorrow. I’ll choose the luxury cruise even if it does cost 150 rupees (about $2.50). I also intend to see the caves at Elephanta.

Indian River Ferry

Indian River Ferry

I visited Elephanta Island, also known as Gharapuri, with Glenn and several thousand Indians today. It was 40 degrees C (104F). We rode one of several dozen ferries which crossed the 10 kilometers of the Arabian Sea from the

Gateway of India

Gateway of India

Gateway of India, a monument in Mumbai harbor next to the Taj Mahal Hotel, to Elephanta Island. There are several caves high on the island which were hewn from solid basalt stone sometime between the third century BC and the 5th century AD by persons unknown. There are Hindu and Buddhist temples on the island but the temple dedicated to Shiva is the largest of them. The Portugese desecrated the temples in the 16th Century. They were partially restored in the 1970’s and they are now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

We left the hotel at 9 and took a taxi to the Taj Mahal, a one hundred year old five star luxury hotel with 560 rooms and 44 suites, located just to the south in Colaba. The Taj was heavily damaged in the 2008 terrorist attack against Mumbai. At least 167 people died in the hotel during the attack. There is a tower located adjacent to the original building built in the 1970s.

Taj Mahal Hotel

Taj Mahal Hotel

The docks were full of the usual hustlers who target westerners. The round trip ride cost 180 INR apiece (about $3). The ferry ride lasted about an hour each way because the ferries must use channels which are not direct routes. I estimate that each ferry carried about 80 passengers and it was not equipped with life jackets or other flotation devices in the event of an accident. We passed Indian navy warships and many vessels large and small on the way. I was able to gain a real sense for the first time of the size of Mumbai. It is vast and the skyline stretches for miles along the shoreline of the Arabian Sea.

Mumbai Skyline

Mumbai Skyline

We arrived at the dock of Elephanta Island and took the small train from disembarkation point to the village. The ride cost 5 INR each (about 7 cents). There is very long stone stairway from the water’s edge up the hillside to the caves, I imagine the builders wanted to get closer to God. The climb is one huge bazaar with stalls on either side of the stairway. We passed several very friendly monkeys, two goats with swollen udders and a young bull. We paid the 500 INR (about $8) admission fee charged non Indians. Indians pay 30 INR or about half a dollar US. They pay taxes here, and it is their country. Besides, $8 isn’t much money for me.

Elephanta Island Monument to Shiva

Elephanta Island Monument to Shiva

The main cave is about 100 meters by 60 meters in size with many round columns supporting the roof. Many people nakedly stared at me on the island, and several asked Glenn to photograph them with me. They were either impressed with my height or thought me to be someone important. We will ask Pan Singh why I attract so much attention here. We walked through all of the caves, made our way back to earth from heaven and returned to Mumbai by ferry drenched in sweat. I jumped in the shower fully clothed. I am cool now and my clothes are hanging in the shower to dry.

Gina Marie Stanley is an adventurer, traveler and diarist. She lives in West Virginia.