Wednesday 25th September You feel the impact of Mumbai even before the plane lands. The ground around the airport is rough, hilly and overgrown but as the plane approaches the runway you can see thousands of shacks and makeshift dwellings just clinging to every piece of available land. For us the impression of teeming humanity was emphasised on the long drive into the city in a very old and rickety cab. We came past the Dharavi slum and the railway tracks where many families seemed to be living along the sides of the street just under pieces of polythene tied to the walls and railings. Loads of scabby dogs and cats and Paul also spotted a fat rat! A pretty big culture shock compared to Wokingham! Lucky for us our hotel is really comfortable with many helpful staff who really do everything possible to help their guests. Last night we managed to walk out to The Gateway of India and the famous Taj Palace Hotel on the waterfront. After that we were super tired but got directions to a great restaurant where the prawn and chicken curries were fabulous – much better than at home! However we spent nearly 30 GBP and will have to find cheaper in future.
Thursday 26th September This morning was all about walking and walking around Mumbai. The city feels like a mad onslaught of extremes. It’s massively noisy as there’s building work everywhere and the cars, motorbikes, buses and taxis all sound their horns at every opportunity. You take your life in your hand every time you try to cross the road! We visited Leopold’s Café made famous by Gregory David Robert’s book Shantaram (don’t particularly recommend it having got to the end!), then went on to Colaba market. That was great but we then proceeded to get ourselves lost in the dark, maze like back alleys behind the market. Don’t think they often see many westerners in that area. We didn’t feel too threatened until we set the dogs off. Lots of barking and growling so we beat a hasty retreat with Paul bent double under the strung plastic roofs, awnings and drying laundry!
We had some idea that we might need to move out a few days before leaving the country. As we are far too mean to want to pay for a hotel or Airbnb for 4 weeks, we decided we might try house sitting and stay for free! Dear reader, we can heartily recommend it as a brilliant win-win for everyone concerned! We got to stay in some lovely houses and looked after some cute animals, and the homeowners had the confidence of knowing mature and responsible individuals (natch!) were keeping everything safe, clean and tidy.
There was some additional method in our house sitting madness as we’ve heard that accommodation in Australia and New Zealand is very expensive, but they also seem to love their pets and travel. There are lots of house sitting opportunities being offered down under, so we thought if we already had some experience and some 5 star reviews we could care for some lovely Oz and Kiwi pets and stay for free. Will let you know if that works out!
Where do we start here? The idea was that we would rent our house out around the beginning of October and head straight off just after my birthday on October 6th. What happened in practice was that we enquired with the rental agency in July and almost immediately got into a sort of bidding war with two families, both of whom wanted to move in during August, ahead of the new school year. The great thing was that they were prepared to pay our asking price. As the opportunity seemed too good to pass up, I handed in my notice from work early and we basically found ourselves homeless from 21st August with a month to fill before flying out on 24th September.
The plans for Australia are a little less developed at present. Just how long we spend will depend on how the budget is stretching. 5 weeks is the thought, but there is so much to do. Getting the timing right to move on to New Zealand is also important – too long in Australia gets us to New Zealand in the winter. The idea is to start in Perth, and maybe do some Housesitting, for a week or two – by this time we will need a break! From Perth we will head to the centre of the country to see Uluru (Ayres Rock). There is some interesting trekking in the nearby in the McKenzies which may mean we need to buy / hire a tent and spend a few nights in the great outdoors. From the centre of the Red Centre it looks like a train to Adelaide, and then on through Melbourne (picking up a few trips to local vineyards) and on to Sydney. From there the Gold Coast and Great Barrier Reef beckons, finally ending up in Cairns.
After returning to Brisbane it is time to fly to New Zealand. A couple of weeks on North Island and the same for South Island. Just how we will get around is to be worked out. A camper van gives freedom and flexibility.