Today is Diwali and I am more than aware that it is today due to the constant noise of bangers and fireworks.
I am currently in Mumbai, which is hot, muggy, busy but I like it for some reason. I think what has swayed me is that there is a nightlife (a rarity so far in my Indian travels), good beer, lots of travellers, beef (which I have missed a lot) and western music (which I have really really missed).
But back to my journey here which was a mission.
I had my final safari at Banhavgarh and did not see a tiger unfortunately. It was still really good though as we went high up into the hills whilst the early morning mist was still around which added to the mystery of it all. Of the wildlife that I did see I saw jackals, vultures, eagles, lots of deer and spiders as big as my hand.
So I had to settle for a sighting of just one tiger which in a way was nice. It highlights how rare they actually are (yes I am an eco-warrior) and I would prefer that they stay hidden and away than be out there in the open to be hunted.
It appears that I was quite fortunate anyway, I spoke to one group who had been on 5 safaris and not seen 1 tiger and another group who had been on 3 with no sightings. Guess I was really lucky to see 1 tiger in my first 10mins!
After hanging out for the rest of day on Bandhavgarh I got up bright and early to catch a bus to the nearest town to begin my long journey to Mumbai.
I got the once a day train from Umaria to Katni and was there by 1pm, my train to Mumbai did not leave until 19:15pm. At 11:30pm I was still waiting for my train to Mumbai!
I usually do not mind the constant attention from Indian people but after 10 hours at the station I was losing my patience with the constant staring, photos and attempts to talk to me.
The only interesting things to happen during that 10 hour stretch was to see a man in chains brought onto the platform by 2 policemen with big rifles. The criminal said hello to me and before I realised what I had done I smiled and said hello in Hindi. The policemen must've thought 'why is he speaking to this man'. He could've been a murderer or a rapist and there I am greeting him like a friend!
I also saw an Indian albino which was cool.
Another thing that struck me at Katni train station is the low level of productivity of Indian workers. For example, a post needed painting at the station and it took 4 men to complete the job - 1 to paint, 1 to hold the step ladder (not sure why), 1 to hold a cloth and 1 to watch. In England, 1 person would have complete that job.
I have noticed all around India that vast numbers of people are employed to do jobs that would need only a fraction of the work force to complete in Europe. Still, at least they are working and not sitting around doing nothing, watching Jeremy Kyle, like a lot of people in the UK. (Yes, I know I am unemployed!!!)
I finally got to Mumbai at 6pm yesterday evening, a full 33 hours after leaving Bandhavgarh.
I am staying at the Salvation Army hostel, my first dorm experience and it isn't too bad. Do not get me wrong, there is no luxury but it is very cheap and easy to meet people ad my breaky is included in the price.
I had been there only 10 minutes before I went out for dinner and drinks with 3 Brit girls who took me to a really good pub with quality music. It was so nice to hear some Radiohead, The Verve and Oasis as well as some old classics from a source other than my i-pod.
This morning I got up early and headed to the railway station to sort out some of my travel plans. I have decided to alter my original itinerary and spend more time in the south (Goa and Kerala) and sack off my trips to Chennai and Calcutta. I am fed up of cities and am now craving beaches and the ocean before I hit the mountains.
After sorting out my travel I went to lunch at a restaurant that was hit during the Mumbai attacks in 2008. There is still a massive bullet hole in the wall which is a little eerie.
My original plan was to go over to Elephanta Island today and explore the caves there but Barrack Obama arrives in town tomorrow - staying at the hotel opposite the Salvation Army - so everything has been disrupted. It is quite annoying that a stupid American is spoiling my trip.
However, I have just met 2 Oz lads (sitting next to me now) and 2 German lads in my dorm and after I finish this post we are heading down to the bay to watch the Diwali fireworks show at sunset and get drunk. I can't wait! I haven't been properly p*ssed yet so it is all good.
Finally I have to say that I am having an amazing time but I cannot tell you all how gutted I was to have missed probably Spurs' finest performance in many years. I am really missing footy and I really wish I was the The Lane for that game, but I guess I cannot have it all - which for those of you that know me well, really annoys me.
Still, if we make it to the Champions League final (unlikely but you never know) then you will all see me a lot sooner than you thought because I will come home for it - one condition of me selling my season ticket to Mr Comrey.
Speak to you all from Goa.