Mumbai was a great discovery! We stayed in a very popular neighborhood with no tourists, lots of crowds, and superb food options. The Indian dream!
In the streets of our neighborhood, there was an incessant flow of people, workers carrying huge packages on their heads or pulling big carriages of goods. When walking around, we could feel part of this flow. We were like a drop of water in a river: the flow is crazy and powerful, you cannot fight against it and it’s sometimes super scary, but paradoxically it is also a great feeling of freedom to be part of the huge flow of Indian workers and women in colorful sarees leading us in the streets of Mumbai.
Staying there for quite a long time, as we needed to define further plans to carry on the trip (I’ll tell you how in a few minutes), we had time to build a routine, meet always the same people, and make few contacts.
We also had the chance to take part in Holi the festival of colors. Actually we “played” Holi as Indian people say. In the morning we bought some powder pigments. Then we started walking in the streets of our neighborhood, searching for people to play with us. Each time we met people, we would greet each other and say “Happy Holi!” while putting colors on each other’s cheek. At the corner of a street we saw a small crowd gathered and they called us to come. There were families happily dancing and playing. We joined them and it was the greatest moment of our day. We shared colors and danced together to end up our meet up with a giant selfie!
Our stay in Mumbai was also an important moment of our trip to find a solution to get on the other side of the Arabian sea! We had three options:
- Find a boat to take us from Mumbai to Oman or Dubai
- Get back by land to Pakistan, cross it through Balochistan and enter Iran by land
- Take a plane (no way!)
Well, do we need to say that third option was out of question? The second option would involve us making a u-turn and getting all the way back to Pakistan. And to go to Iran we would have to cross Balochistan, a region which is still somehow concerned by frequent terrorist attacks against Pakistan military forces by Talibans. Crossing Balochistan lasts 3 days and every foreign traveller is escorted by Pakistani soldiers in a pick up. A few backpackers and travellers by car do it every week though, and I guess if it was our last chance not to take any plane we might have done it as well. But it also meant that we skipped Oman and Dubai to arrive directly in Iran.
But the ship option was the one we definitely wanted to try! However, it was the most difficult one as well. Before starting our trip, we had planned to take a cargo ship to leave India. There were some cargo routes that were perfect for us. However as we got closer to India and contacted the companies, they told us it was impossible to leave India by boat. We tried to get a confirmation of this but we could not get any official Indian one. When we arrived in Mumbai, we went to hunt for official information: we went to Indian shipping companies that told us we needed a special document for the Ministry of transport. We went to the Ministry of transport that told us we needed a special document from the Immigration office. We went to the Immigration office that told us it was impossible to get out of India with a cargo ship. Actually it is possible in most countries to travel by cargo ship. Some companies reserve a specific cabin to welcome 1-2 people on board. So we knew it was possible. We asked the officers why we couldn’t do this in India. Their answer was “That’s India!”. We were a bit down after that announcement. That’s where our lucky star helped us. When searching for another way to leave India by boat we came up with cruise itineraries. And one cruise by Costa was leaving Mumbai two weeks after to go back to Venice in Europe going through Oman. It was the only time of the year that the boat was doing this itinerary. Indeed we were right at the time ships finish their winter tour in India-Maldives-Sri Lanka to focus on North European countries for the summer. We had a long hesitation before booking this cruise. It was not the way we used to travel and it was pricey.
Carpe Diem. We decided to take this Costa cruise. After booking it we felt a relief… which was only temporary because after a few days we realized that the cruise makes two stops in India after Mumbai and we did not have a multiple entry visa but a single one! We called Costa and the next day they sent us an email telling that we could not take the cruise because of our visa. They wanted to give us a voucher to take another cruise in the next 6 months… WTF! We called them again and again. Finally they contacted the ship and they told us there was no issue to board in Mumbai. But with no details and so many contradictory information, we wondered until the last minute if we would ever board on this ship!
But finally we were there, getting on board in Mumbai, discovering our stateroom and visiting any other part of the boat! When we put a foot on the boat, even if we were still in Mumbai, we felt so far from it. All was shiny, food was everywhere, European people were sunbathing on the deck. Surely the reality here was different than what we had experienced during the last 8 months…