When my Uber finally pulled up in front of the hostel in Mumbai, I was exhausted. It had been nearly thirty hours since I had checked out of the hotel in Munnar, and I was looking forward to enjoying air conditioning and hot showers for the next five days. Fortunately, the online hostel listing had been correct, and I did indeed get to enjoy both of those luxuries simultaneously for the first time in recent memory. But, it had been a long journey to get here…
What I had thought was my last day in Munnar ended badly. It was bound to happen sooner or later, and I’m actually surprised that I made it this far already. I was sick for most of the night, most likely with food poisoning, and by the time the sun came up, I was not at all looking forward to the rough, stomach-churning road down from the mountains. The hotel room was much more appealing in my languid condition, and my room was not booked for the following night.* So, apart from sleeping, the major events of the day consisted of walking down to reception to extend my stay, throwing away the bus ticket to Mysuru I had previously bought, and crossing the street to the station to purchase a new bus ticket for the following day. My planned stop in Mysuru to see the famous palace there would have to wait until my next trip to India.
The next day came around and I was still tired but felt like I could handle the bus ride, so I checked out of the hotel and sat around at a few cafés to pass the morning. A little after 3:00 PM, I walked over to the bus station and boarded the Munnar/Bangalore bus, and quickly realized I had set my hopes a little too high. The bus had no air conditioning and no fancy sleeper seats (but it at least had glass windowpanes – that’s something, right?!). It was going to be a long sixteen hours…
A motion sickness pill and several playlists got me through the first four hours until we finally left the mountains behind and reached what could be considered a decent road. By that time, though, the sun had set and people were starting to get comfortable for the night, including the bus conductor in the seat in front of me, who reclined his Indian-sized seat down onto my definitely-not-Indian-length legs, forcing me to recline my seat as well so as not to suffer knee damage. Needless to say, it was a long night, and I disembarked in Bangalore with a stiff neck and a mild amount of claustrophobia, but I had been able to get a few hours of sleep nonetheless.
Once I reached Bangalore and left the bus behind, I had about six hours to kill. I spent the first few hours in the most deserted place I could find – a Starbucks-like cafe on the ground floor of a Holiday Inn. It had air conditioning, cappuccinos, mediocre paneer sandwiches, and most importantly, no other customers. It was a place to sit, stretch out, and spend more rupees on a coffee than I would normally spend on an entire meal in India!
After about two hours of R&R, I began to feel the daylight slipping away, so I strapped on my bags and took a hike through the streets of central Bangalore (or Bengaluru as it is now officially called). I saw a few of the large government buildings (Bangalore is the capital of the state of Karnataka; the main language of Karnataka is called Kannada, which is also related to Tamil and Malayalam). I also briefly dropped by the Bengaluru Palace, a beautiful European style castle covered with green vines. The grounds of the palace were busy with people setting up for what looked to be an event or wedding. Back at the bus station, I caught a bus to the airport. As the bus passed through the suburbs, I noticed many modern office buildings, reflective of the city’s leading role in India’s IT industry.
The hour-and-a-half flight when smoothly, and we were soon descending over the patchwork of skyscrapers and slums that is Mumbai, India’s “city of dreams”. I ordered an Uber to take me the five miles to my hostel; though it was a Saturday evening, the traffic was as slow as any rush hour I have ever sat through, and I finally reached the hostel after 45 minutes of the typical Indian stop-go-swerve-repeat. Then, it was time to get a good night of sleep – I was exhausted from my journey up from the south, and Mumbai is the largest city I have ever been in, so I would need plenty of energy to explore over the coming days!
* This would have been a much more unpleasant experience in the shared dorm room of a hostel, so I suppose it’s just good fortune that Munnar doesn’t have any hostels and I had to take a private room in a hotel instead!