It is Saturday morning. I heard no rain. When it does, Rain makes a hissing noise when hits some of the tin roofs below me. I picked through the curtains to check that it is not raining. It is not. It is partly cloudy. The sun has started to wake up…
A new CFHI participant had arrived last night. His name is Nick. I met the local coordinator, Claver and Nick at the cafeteria downstairs. Nick was getting debriefed about the rules of the program and his future schedule. We decided to go to Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Bolivari; about 35 minute drive in a rickshaw to the north from where we live. The National Park encompasses an area of 104 km2 (40 sq mi) and is surrounded on three sides by India’s most populous city. It is notable as one of the major national parks existing within a metropolis limit in Asia and is one of the most visited parks in the world. The rich flora and fauna of Sanjay Gandhi National Park attracts more than 2 million visitors every year. Tourists also enjoy visiting the 2400 years old Kanheri caves sculpted out of the rocky cliffs, which lie within the park. Kanheri Caves are signs of Buddhist influence on art and culture in India. Kanheri comes from the Sanskrit word Krishnagiri meaning Black Mountain. They were chiseled out of a massive basaltic rock outcropping. These caves date from 1st century BCE to 10th century CE. In total in the basalt there have been carved 109 caves. They served as a center of Buddhism in Western India during these ancient times.
As you enter the park, you feel that you are in another part of the world, the real India. The noise, chaotic traffic jams, honks, and overcrowded streets are way long gone. It was sunny and extremely humid. We took a ride up to the caves site because they were about 6 km away from the main entrance. The park is home to a number of endangered species of flora and fauna. The forest area of the park houses over 1000 plant species, 251 species of migratory, land and water birds, 50,000 species of insects, and 40 species of mammals. In addition, the park also provides shelter to 38 species of reptiles, 9 species of amphibians and also 150 species of butterflies and a large variety of fish. We had the chance to interact with monkeys; there were many of them, especially near the caves that were the farthest up the hills. Most of them were Rhesus macaques also called the rhesus monkey.
On Sunday, we decided to take the Mumbai City Tour. We left Kalina early in the morning to meet up the tour bus by the railway station. Tour buses or buses that take you to different cities away from Mumbai don’t have a definite bus station, they just pick up their passengers along the way in specific corners of busy streets. “Specific corners” might be a little too exact to describe since streets are not labeled and there are no signs on the intersections. Thanks to the local coordinator, we found the bus or better said, the bus found us!
To our surprise, the city tour was in Hindi! Yes, in Hindi, so we managed to ask other people if they could translate for us what the tour guide was describing as the bus stopped at different locations. We avidly tried to follow the list of attractions on the pamphlet alluring ourselves that we would visit the places in the same order as they were on the list. I recognized most of them from pictures on websites. I knew about the history behind some of the historical buildings. Some of the places that we visited were: Mahalaxmi Temple, Hanging Gardens, Kamla Nehru Park, Taraporewala Aquarium, Marine Drive/Queen Necklace (because the street forms a curve as the curve from a necklace), Narimar Point (The Business District of India), Gateway of India, The Old Taj Mahal Hotel and the New Taj, Mumbai High Court House, and Juhu Beach.