Well, the sending-off party held at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel had an added dimension after we had watched England beat Australia in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals. Much celebrating was done and we went to bed without knowing the result of the New Zealand v France match. So, when we rose at 5am for the 6.30am start, we were astonished to learn that France had won.
Returning to the little matter of the start of The Great Tour of India. The cars lined up in front of the Gateway to India as the dawn was breaking.
A shot of the car with our Tour of India car number (No.6)in the windscreen and the map of the route above the map of our Central American tour of last year.
Two Indian horn players gave shrill blasts as each car was waved away by John Brown.
We were sixth away at 6.36am. Our destination today was the town of Aurangabad, about 400 kms north-east of Mumbai.
Driving out of Mumbai you see some of the really terrible living conditions of the poor. Tarpaulins are the principle form of roofing and many seem to live in the open. It is all very depressing when you think how well we live in the West. This was our first real experience of driving on Indian roads and within half an hour we saw our first major accident. On the other side of the dual carriageway were the remains of a truck that had been hit head-on. There was virtually nothing left of the cab. We wondered how the accident had happened as there was no sign of any other vehicle involved in the collision. You learn very quickly that Indian driving is all about being aware of vehicles that come at you from every direction and the best way of keeping out of trouble is to continually blow your horn. Indians accept that a blow of the horn is a sign that you are coming through and they must give way. Ninety per cent of the time this works but you still get drivers who fail to heed the warning and drive at you as though you are not there! Time and again today I thought of our driving in China in 2004. It is very similar indeed.
As we headed east we drove through lush agricultural land. Most of the farming seemed to be done by farmers working their own land rather than big corporate farming. Only once or twice did I see large scale operations. About 30 kms before Aurangabad we stopped at one of the main attractions in the area, the Ellora Caves. These are Buddhist and Hindu temples carved out of solid rock.
They were constructed between the 5th and 11th century AD. Thirty four caves were constructed with some being four stories high. It was staggering to think that this was all done without machinery and just hammers and chisels. All the walls, ceilings and entrances are adorned with religious sculptures hewn out of the rock. As with most Indian tourist attractions you are pestered from the moment you get out of your car by people trying to sell you things. At first you just put up with it but you have to be very forceful to stop them from spoiling your enjoyment. Up to now we have never felt threatened by the crowds who come up to us, in fact everyone is very friendly and courteous. Two of the Macaque monkeys outside the caves.
We left the caves at about 3.30pm and drove the remaining 30 kms to our hotel. When we met up with the others on the tour everyone agreed it had been a very successful day.