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Elephanta Island

leaving from the Gateway of India

Heading out on a glorious Mumbai morning, we got a panorama of two of the city's most iconic sights.
We decided to make arrangements to visit Elephanta Island, a chunk of land off the 'coast' of Mumbai that contains some Hindu caves. Arranging for the school van to take us and a number of other teachers early on a Sunday morning, we zipped through the nonexistent weekend traffic down to the harbor.
With a statue of Shivaji, the legendary founder of the Maratha empire (from which we get the modern day state of Maharashtra) looming in from of the towers of the Taj hotel, countless ferryboats are tied up waiting for the tourists (Indian and foreign alike) who are looking to take a ride out to the island.

The Gateway itself is undergoing a thorough cleaning, and so is currently draped in scaffolding and protective cloth.
We were all excited about going and boarded our boat (paying an extra 10 rupees - about 25 cents - to ride on the top level). As we started motoring out, we saw deckhands from some of the other boats getting ready for the day and washing up, no doubt in water scooped out of the harbor (and filled with all sorts of stuff that does not bear thinking about!!)

The view looking back at the port was grand as we started out into the bay. The big white building is the Taj, a landmark in the city and symbol of disgust at the British Raj. It was built after a rich Indian was not let into a fancy hotel (this was back in the "no dogs or Indians allowed" days) got so mad he decided to build his own. It has outlived the original he got kicked out of, and is now one of the premier pieces of property in the city (the big ugly skyscraper next to it is a 70's addition, and the entire complex is now officially called the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower).

The Gateway of India was built for a visit by the British king in 1911; unfortunately construction didn't start until a few months before he came (pretty typical on the planning end of things here) and so wasn't ready for him - in fact it wasn't completed until 13 years later! About the only "famous" thing that the British ever did was march out under it when they left India in 1948. In any case, the whole complex is a pretty important center of Indian pride (and it does look pretty cool from the water.)

We were surprised to be taken right past a naval dockyards where we saw the fin of a submarine, some sort of warship, and an aircraft carrier being worked on right out in the open. So much for national security!

But once we were out in the water, Breck took control of the camera. He was fascinated by the boats we passed, and took lots of pictures of them, in all shapes, sizes, and colors:

There was even an enormous India oil tanker that had just emptied its load into an offshore facility

And soon enough, we came within sight of Elephanta Island, and we began to get ready to explore... (next)

Elephanta Island - Leaving from the Gateway of India - Exploring the caves

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