Hello and greetings from Sangam World Centre! We have finally arrived here safely after a very long couple of days.
The 35 of us from all parts of the UK met early yesterday morning to catch our flight to Mumbai. For those of us who set our watches forward early on, we seemed to lose the rest of the afternoon, and were unsure whether our first meal on board was a late lunch or an early evening meal! After a smooth flight, we landed early this morning and caught our coach to the luxurious surroundings of the Hotel Fairyas for at least a few hours of sleep. The journey was made slightly more bearable when the guide gave us all a red rose to say welcome to India. The next morning (or should that be later the same morning?), we said goodbye to the hotel and joined our tour guide, Varisha, for a morning of exploring the sites of Mumbai. The city itself is home to around 20 million people, and was full of bustle. To add to our excitement, we found out that today is the start of a 9 day festival called Navrati, in celebration of the goddess Durga. Driving past one temple, there was a queue of women which went on for over a kilometer, with a wait for up to four hours to get in – and they say that the British are good at queuing! We’re hoping to see some more celebrations in the next few days. Next stop was lunch – a buffet which was a mixture of Indian and Western cuisine. For many, this was their first taste of real Indian curries, which are a lot hotter than we’re used to in the UK, but luckily there were cooling desserts on hand. We then said goodbye to Mumbai and headed off to Pune. The journey was relaxed, with many of us getting the chance to catch up on some sleep. The landscape changed dramatically from sprawling city to lush green countryside. We also spotted a lot of wildlife – not as many cows as expected, but monkeys, horses and even two goats being taken for a ride in the boot of a car. So, now we are settled into Sangam, catching up on rest and relaxing prior to our exciting programme which starts tomorrow morning. Watch this space and follow Twitter for more updates!