“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert
Wednesday 30 November
The first leg of the trip starts with the side-effects from the Hep A and typhoid shots, as per the nurse’s warnings earlier in the day. (Never, ever get your vaccinations done on the day you fly.) By the time we arrive at Bole I feel like death. The congestion of Addis Ababa airport only makes the experience worse. Smoke hangs in the air, mixed with the sickly sweet scent of cheap perfume and incense. After almost fainting, we board our connecting flight to Mumbai and pass out immediately on the plane. The plane itself is much more rudimentary than the first flight to Addis, but the time seems to pass in an instant and before we know it, we’re in Mumbai.
Thursday 01 December
Touchdown in Mumbai at around 6am, which is five hours ahead of SA. The airport itself is a huge, but tastefully decorated space and a welcome sight after the nightmare of Bole. We head to the immigration counters, which takes a while, and then to baggage collection. It seems like most of our baggage from the flight has been unceremoniously dumped between carousels. We get through customs without any issues and proceed to search for an ATM and sim card.
Once outside the airport, the 30 degree, 80% humidity Mumbai heat hits us. We ask around and find ourselves having to quickly familiarize ourselves with the airport. Without a clue of where to turn, I finally manage to draw Rs2000 from an ATM within the arrivals hall – after about an hour of searching. We then search for cabs and find that most of the taxis are only out to fleece customers, opting instead for a prepaid cab in the form of a Hyundai i10, which takes us to Colaba for Rs700.
Mumbai as a city is fascinating. It’s a madding crush of people all eking out an existence. Colaba is overrun with traders and tourists, the streets are filthy, the metallic scent of aircon fluid permeates shops and banks, and all these overwhelming elements seem to suck the energy out of you.
But for all its flaws, Mumbai has a cosmopolitan feel about it. There are pockets of calm, like the Social Restaurant which we visited twice, or the Leopold Cafe – one of the sites of the 2008 Mumbai attacks – serving up the most amazing local and continental dishes.
And let’s not forget the architecture. Even though most of the buildings are horribly run-down, the original structures are awe-inspiring and hark back to a more regal era.
The Mumbai stay lasts two more nights.
Sunday 04 December
Having decided to leave Mumbai by plane late on Sunday night, we make our way to Mumbai Airport in the afternoon. The domestic terminals are completely separate from the international side, and are a lot smaller. Fortunately this departure point is not lacking in food outlets, or resting areas. At this stage, we’re just happy to be getting out of Mumbai.