Bombay

Mumbai (India), 23.08.2013

On monday morning I got up early, packed my bags and after a delicious breakfast at the Imperial hotel I drove to Land Rover to pick up the Evoque with its new engine. The car was ok, a little dusty perhaps, I was happy to be able to drive again. It felt strange to get into the car alone, but as soon as I hit the road the rain and morning traffic took all my attention. At 11:18 I left, with almost 28.500 km on the counter.

I tried to find a supermarket to buy food and drinks but couldn’t find one – in a 16m+ inhabitants city, capital of one of the biggest and most populated countries on earth. I must have gotten something wrong. So I drove out of town, and after approx 100km stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant. On this motorway, unlike the others I had seen, there were plenty of them. I was the only guest at the beginning. While the food was medium (Chicken Biryani, tea and water: INR 355), the waiter was very attentive. He saw me fighting with chicken bones and brought a plate for them, later I struggled with the milk skin on my tea and he came with a spoon and plate to take it off. The staff’s shirts were are amazingly filthy. I got on the road again quickly. The weeks in Indochina had given me peace, and I noticed how I freaked out much less in the crazy traffic on Indian motorways. I also felt that driving, compared to traveling by train, bus or plane, got me closer to the countryside, to the land I was crossing. Admittedly, from the cocoon that the Evoque is, with aircon, calm, music, comfortable seats etc, it was very easy and pleasant to glide through India. I passed camel carts and saw a man lying in the mud, drinking water from a puddle with his hand. These images passed by like in a movie.

DSC_0007DSC_0008In the late afternoon I entered Rajasthan, and almost immediately after the border, the flat land converted into hills and forest. The sky was filled with a tremendous red colour. I drove into the Pink City of Jaipur, seeing the Amer Fort and its endless huge walls and the Jal Mahal on the Man Sagar Lake passing by before I drove into the new city’s evening traffic. It was too early to stop, I had done just 300 km out of 1500, so I decided to drive on, although the next bigger city, Udaipur, was too far away to reach it before nightfall. I kept driving for hours, making slow progress. As it got dark, I entered a stretch of mountains, with thick jungle forest all around, and no hotels. After a while, I spotted some, but didn’t dare to stop, they looked too shabby and there were only trucks parked in front. So I kept driving and driving, and it became later and later, until at 01:00 I found a decent looking place and stopped. I went to the door, knocked. Two guys were sleeping of the floor of the lobby, but didn’t move to my knocking and shouting. I tried some more times, without success, and had to leave again.

DSC_0002 DSC_0004An hour later I was too tired for driving, so I pulled over for a half hour nap. I continued driving until around 04:00 and stopped again for a longer nap. At 06:40 I woke up again, the day was starting, and made a coffee with the moka from home. What a delight, the mood went up instantly as I hit the road again. The day before I had made 780 km, little more then half the distance. Today I wanted to arrive in Bombay early. The day went by driving, thinking about a thousand things, listening to music and admiring the beautiful landscape around me, hills covered in lush jungle. At around 16:00 I reached the Bombay metro area, and an hour later South Bombay. Until here on the motorway from New Delhi to Bombay I had paid INR 1001 at 20 toll stations, plus I got 3 or 4 stations for free from friendly staff!

DSC_0013I hadn’t reserved the hotel I wanted to stay in, the Oberoi, since my exact time and date of arrival in the city weren’t sure earlier. So I just drove there and asked for a room. Since the rate at the reception was much higher then then on booking.com, I left again to find a WiFi hotspot (in the hotel the WiFi was for guests only!). It took me an hour to find an open network in the crazy Bombay traffic, and obviously I found it while I was standing at a red light in the middle of the road. Once I moved the signal got lost, so I had to drive to that precise spot three times, until I had catched enough signal to complete the cheaper booking at the Oberoi. That hour of driving took me along the waterfront of Southern Bombay, with its high rises on the ocean, and gave me a first glimpse at the town. Once in my room finally, the exhaustion hit me hard. I almost fell asleep before I could eat and have a shower. But 32h on the road were not easy to digest.

DSC_0016The next day I toured Southern Bombay and went to see my shipping agent, that would get the Evoque on the boat to Russia for me. It was very hot as I walked through the streets. Bombay seemed more urban, more metropolitan to me then New Delhi, the traffic being equally hectic though.Thinking about what I have seen of the city that day, I find it hard to describe. Contrary to my expectations, there was not a specific place or building standing out. The bay with its skyscraper skyline was nice, at night even more with the lights shining. There were many British colonial buildings around, but most of them in bad shape. That evening I checked the contemporary Indian restaurant at the Oberoi and had a fantastic dinner of contemporary Indian cuisine. To finish the day I went for a drink at the Eau Bar. A brief look at the cocktail menu revealed this to be a really serious bar. Gimlet, Negroni, Old Fashioned and Martini were the first drinks on the list. The right spot to call it a day!

On Thursday I met Vineet, who had worked at a former company of mine in Madrid many years ago while he was studying there. It was great to see him again after such a long time, and to chat about Internet start ups in India. We went to fix the windows of my car, that had gotten stripped of their darkening foil under strange circumstances by the New Delhi police while the car was being test driven by Land Rover. For lunch we went to Delhi Darbar, a great restaurant with even greater food. I ate too much, and we went for a coffee at popular Leopold Cafe next door, one of the sites affected during the terrorist attacks of 2008. Next stop was the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, another one of the attacked sites. In both cases I saw almost no scars of the attacks, and even with the security controls around the hotel the places seemed so completely normal. I couldn’t imagine some terrorists running around there shooting people. Thinking about the images on TV and being in this place, this seemed completely unreal. But it had happened, and just 5 years ago, right here. Anyway, it was a great day outside, seeing the city like I would never have seen it alone. Thanks a lot, Vineet!

DSC_0010 DSC_0016 DSC_0020 DSC_0025 DSC_0030Then finally, on Friday came the day to drive to the port and ship the Evoque to Russia. In the morning traffic driving to the meeting point with the agent took over an hour. Then on the way to Nhava Sheva, the port, I had to get some liters of diesel, as I was running out, but not too many, since I couldn’t put the car on the ship with more then 5l of fuel. We reached the customs office at noon, and I spent pretty much the whole day waiting. Hours went by until we got the signatures on the customs documents and the carnet de passage. Then the container finally arrived and I drove the car into it. Some guys fixed the car so it won’t move in the container. I disconnected the battery and took my last things out. We needed seals for the container, which took yet more time to get. Finally at 19:00 the container got closed and sealed and last formalities were finished. That was it. The first half of Eurasia2013 was over, and it has been quite an adventure so far, with so many unexpected events, good and less good. I still hadn’t realised the milestone I reached here in Bombay as I drove to the airport.

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Trip data (for August 19 and 20 together)

– Km driven: 1.470

– Hrs on the road: 32h

– Diesel l/100km: 8,8 (approx 133l Diesel for INR 7500, avg INR 56/l, or €0,65/l)

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