I was sitting with a few friends near Gateway of India that Sunday evening. We were waiting for one of the friends to complete his important phone call, while we others were simply chit chatting. As usual, after some time my attention drifted from the conversations to the people around. While I started guessing the caste/ religion of the families based on their behaviour, I saw that board reading tickets for Elephanta caves, one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. This instance is dated long back, I guess somewhere in August, but whenever I thought of going somewhere over the weekends, Elephanta caves would crop up in my mind, indeed post Daman. Last Sunday, while I was walking back to Churchgate station post cheering the people who ran the Mumbai Marathon, I made up my mind to explore the place. I called Megha (my travel buddy), who was one her way to meet me so that we can chill at Colaba, and told her my plans. Somehow, I convinced her to join me and then after a hour and a half, we were waiting in the queue to buy the ferry tickets. While waiting for Megha at the station, I had researched online how to reach the caves. To my surprise, all the information available was outdated. Thus, I thought to pen down my experience –
How to reach
Taking a ferry to Elephanta Islands – Usually ferries from gateway (gate no. 4) ply to elephant caves every 10 mins starting from 9 am in the morning. The last ferry for Sunday is at 3 pm while other days are at 2 pm. While coming back – The last ferry back to Gateway (excluding Sunday) is at 5.30 pm. On Sunday, the timing is extended till 6.30 pm. Duration – It takes approximately an hour to reach the island. Cost – To and fro the ticket cost Rs. 160 per adult. (They did not allow us to take the seat at the upper deck despite of the fact that we were willing to pay extra).
Exploring Elephanta caves
From the port, the caves are some 20-30 mins walking distance. A toy train facility is available till the steps, the cost of which is Rs. 10 per person. There are roughly some 100 steps leading to the caves. The entry fee for the caves is Rs. 10 for Indians and Rs. 250 for foreigners. From the ticket counter, the route leads directly to the main Elephanta cave, which hordes a Shivling. Apart from these there are 4 more caves. Overall, it takes some an hour and a half to explore the place. The island also has a lake which closes at 4.30 pm even on a Sunday.
When we reached the island after our hour long ferry ride, the place was full of people. Thanks to my Hampi trip, that now I felt conformable exploring any place with people around, rather tourists around. When we reached the main cave, we took a halt at the board which displayed information about the history of the caves and then we headed into the main cave.
The cave was depleted, but there was pleasantness around. The aura and the darkness seemed in sync with me. I took out my camera and drifted to my zone. Nothing mattered, but the place and what it had to say. I call this zone as “life in frames”. People posing, clicking each other, walking as if clueless, some shouting but all this added to the experience. I sat down framing my shot; people walked, stood in middle and then noticed me while I looked for a perspective in them. Another half hour I wandered in the cave in search of those perfect frames, observing every nook and corner, the carvings, the rocks, that source of light illuminating the corners. This place was probably a ruin, but it had stories, it had a history.
It was then when I noticed Megha in that main area where the shivling was placed. We smiled at each other and I came back to reality. Another hour we spent exploring the island and other caves. We walked down towards the lake, which attracted us both reminding us of solitude, but unfortunately it closes at 4.30 pm. We sat at one of the elevations at the bank of the dusty road and conversed about various things. After a while, we headed for tea and snacks, later walking down towards the port to take the ferry back. I had wished to capture the sunset at the island, but had doubts if we would wait till then. But when we reached the port, there was a big queue of people waiting to go back. I was amused and waited, capturing the sunset.
I took us some half an hour to get into the ferry and then we headed back. In middle of that crepuscular sea, while we headed back, the wind was strong and cold. It was then when a flock of seagulls started flying around us. They were many and then they left except those 3-4 which continued to fly as we gradually approached the shore. I felt that deep urge of flying arousing within me again making me restless. I was silent, the birds had gone now, and I could sense people getting restless too. But their restlessness was different than me. They wanted to reach back while I wished that this journey should never end. Another 15 minutes of ride, and we saw The Taj, lit in bright yellow lights. I sighed and consoled myself. We finally got down and walked towards Colaba. In that confused frame of mind, I spotted a yogurt shop and rushed in to have a yummy chocolate yogurt, an impulsive decision, I guess it was emotional eating.