Monday, December 27, 2010

Elephanta Island

One of Mumbai's most popular tourist attractions is the caves at Elephanta Island.  The caves were carved  by monks between 450 and 750 A.D, and are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

To get there you take a tour boat from the Gateway of India.  Fortunately, Deb's driver, Sateesh, who has lived in Mumbai his entire life - but never been to Elephanta Island, came wth us, and to act as translator.   The Island is10 km (approximately a 45 minute ride on a very slow boat) south of Mumbai.

The boat ride itself is worth the trip. The view from the water of the Gateway of India with the Taj Hotel in the background is great.

Like many things here it's a bit of a thrill ride.  The boat is wooden and probably 75 years old.  Ours stalled for about 20 minutes on the way back as they fixed the bilge pump.

The boat docks about 1 km off of the island as the water is very shallow.  You then get on a little train that takes you 1 km to the base of the hill that houses the caves.  Along the way you can purchase corn on the cob, and the discarded cobs get recycled right in front of you.

You then hike up a couple hundred steps that are flanked on both sides by market stalls and monkeys.  If you're not up to climbing that many steps, for ~ $11 you can be carried up the hill like this guy on the left.

The caves are amazing.  I think we took more photos here than any other place we've been.The interior of the caves is approximately 60,000 sq. ft.   Keep in mind these were carved from solid rock with hand tools.

Unfortunately, when discovered by the Portugese they found them sacriligious and decided to use them for target practice. - Jeff

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