Evil Monkeys at Elephanta Caves
A short story about how we visited a beautiful cave guarded by evil monkeys in Mumbai, India.
Mumbai is loud and chaotic and car fumes and excessive honking can be overwhelming. We needed an escape and decided to go somewhere quieter: Elephanta Caves. The caves are a UNESCO World Heritage site and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva with many rock cut sculptures and columns. They're located about 10 kilometers east of Mumbai on Gharapuri or Elephant Island in Mumbai Harbor. We're always up for a relaxing boat ride...
Photographers at Gateway of India
We left our hotel in the morning, hailed a black & yellow taxi and off we went. The trip to Elephanta Caves starts at one of the most famous monuments in Mumbai: The Gateway of India. Arriving there, we knew immediately that there were way too many tourists for it to be enjoyable for us. Hordes of photographers roam around asking if they could take our picture in front of the monument. Of course, not free of charge...
And even if they saw us declining the offer of a fellow photographer, they still would come up to us and ask again... and again... and again. After a while we found a neat little trick to mess with them: as soon as we saw one coming up to us, we would suddenly split up and I would walk by them on one side and Joanna on the other side. Funny to see how confused they were and by the time they regained brain functions, we would be long gone...
So many fees in India
Ok, enough about these shenanigans... The Elephanta Caves, that's what that day was all about. The boats leave behind the Gateway of India and touts are trying to sell tickets everywhere. We ignored them all, walked up to the boats and paid 200 Rs for a ticket. About a dozen more people joined us on the boat.
The boat ride was relaxing and interesting because of the many ships spread around but it was sad to see trash dumped in Mumbai Harbor. Most Indian people don't understand the harm they're causing but hopefully future generations will grow to be more conscious and try to clean up the country... Joanna: “I thought we could breath a bit of fresh air during the boat ride but I was wrong, pollution is everywhere in Mumbai.”
After a little over an hour we arrived at the island. A little train took us to the stairs we had to climb to reach the caves. Beware; we didn't know at the time and no one asked us but they charge you for this train ride. After getting off, there's another fee of 5Rs and then the climb begins... The stairs are lined with souvenir stalls on each side and going up is exhausting in the heat, even though a blue tarp is covering you from the sun.
When we arrived at the top, to our disappointment, we saw a stall with yet another fee: 30 Rs for Indians and 500 Rs for foreigners... We thought the boat ticket would include everything but no, we had to pay the entry fee to get in.
Once in, we were free to roam around in the caves. There are five of them but only the first one is truly impressive. The main cave is hewn from solid rock with impressive columns. It made me wonder how they could've done this more than 2000 years ago.
Evil monkeys at Elephanta Caves
After that we went on to the other 4 caves but they were not nearly as impressive as the first one. More fun were the monkeys roaming around in the trees. Fun, yeah, until we went back to the boat. On the way down, we bought a bottle of Mountain Dew and while we had our drink, we noticed a monkey drinking out of a water bottle.
Pretty cute until he spotted our bright yellow bottle of soda. He came our way and what started as innocent begging ended up in violently wanting to steal the bottle. A few others joined him and one tried to grab and bite my ankle; Joanna almost kicked him into the stratosphere. Loudly screeching, they followed us so we had to make a run for it... Nevertheless, it was worth the visit.