Saturday, 13 October 2007

Ganesh's Revenge

We've been kind of making fun of Ganesh every time we've seen him (which is quite often, given he's probably everyone's favourite Hindu god), so the run of bad luck we just went through might have been his revenge on us...
It started during the train from Dehra Dun to Delhi, I didn't feel that great and spent most of the trip lying on the top bunk of the train. When we got to Delhi and found that our hotel had conveniently confused 2pm with 2am and therefore weren't there to pick us up, we had to go through the hassle of getting a taxi which was probably a ripoff...
Once we got to the hotel I rested for a while on the bed feeling horrible, I had been getting some of that lovely diarrhoea and now it turned out I had a fever which reached about 39.1 degrees C, nice! The Lonely Planet Health Guide was no help at all because diarrhoea and fever are symptoms of just about everything including malaria, and it also said you should see a doctor if you had a temperature of above 38 degrees, but given the hassle of that I decided just to take some Nurofen and see what happens... fortunately after about two or three hours (during which time Mark left to go to the airport and head back to New Zealand) my temperature had dropped back to normal, so I took it as a sign I didn't have any life-threatening illness, just a case of eating/drinking something dodgy probably.
At that stage I didn't feel like eating much (and the LP said to stay away from spicy food while experiencing digestion problems - that's easy in India!) so I ordered some 'Chicken Cream Soup' from the hotel restaurant. What arrived was more like bits of very shredded chicken in a corn-starch thickened, clear, salty liquid which could by no means pass for 'cream soup' given the lack of dairy in it, but that's !ncredible India for you, you never get what you expect.
Next day when we went to check out the hotel tried to bill us for a breakfast which was actually supposed to be included in our room price, after much arguing with one guy and then demanding to speak to someone else, we finally got it cleared up... Then our taxi broke down halfway to the airport (seems the water tank was leaking and the engine was over-heating) so we had to swap to a auto-rickshaw.
Checking in was actually a relatively smooth process, we'd made an internet booking with Air Deccan, all we needed to do was give them the confirmation number, show them our passport countless times, and then we were all sorted. In fact it went so smoothly that I even said to James 'I wonder what will go wrong...?' Famous last words...
When we got to Mumbai airport (New! Clean! Modern!) our bags actually came out first on the conveyor (which I don't think has ever happened to me before) and we headed out to the counter inside the terminal that said 'prepaid taxis'. Conveniently they said that the service 'hadn't started' or some nonsense like that, so we just asked them approximately how much it should cost to get into the city. The lady said 'about 500 to 600 rupees'. We went outside, some guy said 750 rupees, so we thought we'd try the main official taxi queue, an official looking guy pointed us to a taxi and we tried to ask how much it would be approximately, but the taxi driver didn't understand English, just kept saying 'no fixed'... I thought even on a meter it should be about what that lady at the counter said, so we got on...
Finally got near our hotel (the guy didn't really know where it was) and the driver revealed that the meter said 1630Rs! We were like '!!!' but couldn't really argue I guess because he never even approximated a price for us... Feeling totally ripped, we paid and started walking towards our hotel (the driver had missed it by a block), when we were immediately accosted by a bunch of guys wanting to show us the way, and of course try and get commission from the hotel for taking us there. We already had a booking though so no such luck to them.
When we had finally settled down in our room, that's when I realised that I didn't have my camera with me.
I totally couldn't believe that I had lost my camera, after all the times of hassling Mark and James to be careful with their stuff, and especially after Mark lost his camera in Europe last year and I told him off for being careless...
Of course, the first thing I did was think about where I last had it. I distinctly remember getting it out to take a video of the plane taking off, and then having no recollection of putting it back in my bag or on my person, so I figured I must've left it on the plane. I called up Air Deccan, and after many many attempts (mostly just hearing it ring and nobody answering, or 'the number you are calling is currently busy'), I finally found out that the camera had reached Goa, nobody claimed it there, so they had sent it back to Mumbai. Of course we didn't really fancy another 1630Rs x2 fare to the airport, but figured it was still worth less than the camera, so we started asking taxis how much to go to the airport and back. The first guy we asked said 700Rs, so we went with him (and started to realise just how ripped off we were on the first trip). When we finally got there it was around 9pm, and after much waiting around it turns out my camera was in the baggage department in Mumbai, unfortunately it was locked and I would have to wait until 10am the following day for the person who could unlock it to come back......... Great! Well, I couldn't really complain because at least I knew where it was.
We were originally planning to go to Elephanta Island the next day and then taking a night bus to Goa at 8pm, but since it takes an hour just to get there, there was no way we were going to fit in retrieving my camera and going to the island. Ah well. We got yet a different taxi to the airport and back, the price seemed to get cheaper every time because it was only 500Rs there and back! At the airport, after asking me a series of questions such as what brand camera it was (Sony), what colour it was (black), and how many megapixels (8.1), they finally seemed convinced I was the real owner. I added a bunch of other details as well, but yeah, I guess it's good that they were making sure! I also had to write and sign a letter saying I was the real owner and I had received the camera back safely before they gave it back to me.
So, as James said, the moral of the story is... I shouldn't get annoyed with other people for being careless and losing their things! Because if it had been James who had lost his Alpha or something like that, I would've been sooo annoyed at him, whereas James didn't get annoyed at me at all. Also sincere apologies to Mark for telling him off in Europe when he lost his camera (though he also got it back that time).
I also seem to have completely recovered my appetite now, so I'm hoping that that was the end of our bad luck for this trip... After all that drama (I think I can memorise the route to and from the Mumbai domestic airport by now!) we finally had a chance to look around the city.
My main impressions of Mumbai (or Bombay, as most locals still seem to refer to it as) is that it's more like a proper city, no cows wandering the streets, more modern buildings, no auto-rickshaws everywhere... But the pollution is just absolutely mind-boggling. Even if you're standing 5 metres away from something you can see the haze, and the sky, as with most other places in India, goes in a gradient from grey to grey-blue from the horizon. The smells are also especially bad, probably because everyone dumps their rubbish into the sea, and it comes back with every incoming tide. There are tons of other foreigners, probably the most we've seen in one area for a while, but it also means a constant gauntlet of people trying to sell to/beg from/harass you. One kid followed us down the road for at least 100m trying to beg from us, of course we ignored him (as we do all beggars), what annoyed me the most is he kept calling me 'sir'!
There are a lot of nice gothic looking buildings around, but they're mostly falling into disrepair, and you can't really see them clearly from closeby anyway... Having been to places like Prague and Vienna, the European architecture here kind of pales in comparison. It could be nicer if they made an effort, but with all their other problems it's probably not their first priority.
It's also very disturbing to see all the children and families living on the pavement, naked toddlers running into the traffic, etc. But it's not like you can do anything to help, so you kind of just have to ignore it and accept that's how things are at the moment, it's really up to the government and the whole country to solve this problem...
Well, this has been pretty long and rambly so I should probably end this entry now... James and I are looking forward to relaxing on the beaches in Goa, hopefully nothing worse happens to us there!
P.S. I really really miss beef and bacon. Since cows are sacred to Hindus and pork is off-limit to Muslims, you can't get any of either here, so I haven't had any for about a month now. The first thing I'm going to eat when I get back to New Zealand is a nice, juicy, medium-rare scotch fillet steak... Cows are meant to be eaten, not revered! Mmm, cow.

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