This project has necessarily developed into something of a joy ride as a result of the extensive feasibility study. Well that’s what it looks like on paper to anyone not actually committed to doing it. We’ll have to see how the post match reporting pans out. If you’ve just bumped into this and are thinking “I could do that”, then you probably could. So don’t delay, ring up Shankar at IndiaRail and book today. I’ve just diverted the final few miles of the trip to the pleasant, and considerably more affordable, surrounds of the Maharatsran hill station of Matheran. I’m just poking about the usual Internet haunts to work out what’s the best place in Matheran for us to aim for.
What this trip certainly isn’t is a 2 month hike across the Gobi desert, something which our 2 intrepid GlobeTroopers have planned straight after this project. You can read all about this genuinely hardcore expedition here in The Gobi Crossing. It’s certainly the kind of thing you are more likely to be able to scrounge some cash for kids with. They are hoping to get schools involved, I guess it’s a great one for the geography class.
That said, as we’ll be covering the entire Indian coastline (bar southern Assam), we’ll be crossing at some stage just about every major river on the Subccontinent, amongst a list of other geographical achievements. My post about the bridges we will cross is my greatest SEO success to date, so I’ll be making extensive use of bridge names in the trip reports.
The debriefing point has been provisionally shifted from central Mumbai, to the hill station of Matheran just outside the city. It’s still an easily taxi-able distance from the airport, but if you’ve got a Sunday morning flight booked out then if I were you I’d go straight for the airport and kip near there once we get off the train at Panvel. I’m considering Woodlands. The only issue I have with that is that it’s owned by Bentley’s in Colaba, which is precisely the kind of establishment which has sent me scurrying up to Matheran as it’s another of those Lonely Planet promoted rip offs.
Stop Press: I’ve been advised to go for Lord’s Central Hotel in Matheran, more on that as I get it.
The Shangri-La Regency has been independently sourced by several of us as the best option in Darjeeling. Its a “boutique” hotel, i.e it’s small but trendy. As a result we will probably fill it, certainly if everyone goes for there, and at the last count 7 people have booked it. So if you don’t know what you are doing for Darjeeling, mail Ranjan Lama at shangrilaregency@gmail,.com and book a room for the 27th Feb.
Our men in the field in Assam have told me to use Little Palace in Dibrugarh. I rang them with predictably uncertain results. They gave me their mail address but have failed to respond. And I keep ringing this Singphow eco lodge place, with no success. I’ll keep trying.
I am about to book a quad room at the curiously titled Chateau Windsor for the Thursday before launch. To be honest, if I’d realised Mumbai was such a sting we’d have gone Delhi-to-Delhi, but it’s done now, And everyone has to go to Mumbai at least once. If we had started in Delhi the chances are we’d have got a Rajdhani straight up the coast and you wouldn’t even have seen Mumbai, and the dabba wallahs!.
If you are spending some time in Mumbai and want to really have a look at the dabbawallas, then apparently you can hang out with them for the day. They used to have a website here but the domain has expired http://www.mydabbawala.org/general/daywithdabbawala.htm. Meena Kadri, aka “Meanest Indian”, has made a gorgeous study of them, click on the photo above, it’s worth the effort. I’m sure you could arrange for this yourself, just find the dabba wallahs in the morning, they are unlikely to speak any English so you’ll need a helper. DO NOT take the piss out of these people. Give them a proper wedge (I’d say at least £10 each, much more if you are flashpacking) and ask them to take you on a round. You will have to get up nice and early to commute out to the suburban stations so you can watch them assemble it all. The cool thing to do would be to go out into the sticks with them in the afternoon and spend the night in their “manor” and go round helping collect the tiffins and do the whole run with them. If you are photographer, as Meena shows above, you’ll get some excellent shots so it’s worth stumping up for.
Stop Press: Lord’s have got back to me and we’ll almost cetrainly end the trip there now. I dont think there’s any hurry, you’ll be getting a mail about it before long. Little Palace and Singpho have got back to me also, so they are both on, and dont seem to be asking for cash upfront. And I’ve spotted a pad near Howrah station called The Howrah Hotel. More on that later but I think this might be the sensible option after our early morning tram ride.