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Posts Tagged ‘Horses’

I’ve been here long enough that I take a lot of India’s quirkiness for granted at this point. I hate that I’ve become a bit used to some of the things that used to wow me. But it was nothing that a horse-drawn amphibious carriage couldn’t fix.

Daniel’s week had consisted of bouncing from one city across India to the next for work without getting much sleep. Mine had continued to go downhill: Bank of America forgot I lived in India and shut off my card; my internet stopped working again; my driver and housekeeper decided they hated each other for a little while and wanted to yell about it (long story…). So on Friday Daniel announced that we both needed some time to ourselves to just relax. I couldn’t have agreed more.

We decided to go to Alibaug, which is a beach town about two and a half hours outside of Mumbai. I loved driving out – its calming to watch as the crazy dirty chaos of Mumbai turns into quiet high-rises and then morphs into craggy hills, as though one of the world’s major cities wasn’t just a stones throw away. We got to the hotel and spent the first day just zoning out- reading, eating and sitting were the main criteria.

But for the second day in Alibaug we wanted to experience the beach and the Kolaba fort, an 18th century fort on an island about a kilometer from the beach. It was a gray and misty day but, as always, it was still plenty hot. And as we walked up towards the pier, I noticed there was something a little different about this particular beach.

Alibaug Beach with Kolaba Fort in the distance

The tide was out so far that half of the beach was just wet sand. The fort stood in the distance with water surrounding it, but we watched as people waded their way up to it. The water was so low that all you needed to do was hike your pants up and start walking for about half an hour from the beach and you’d reach it – no swimming required

But there was an even more curious spectacle to take in as we got to the beach’s edge. Strangely rigged horse-drawn carriages were at the ready to take tourists across the shallow shores. Instead of regular wheels they had the kinds you would normally see on a dune buggy. They were equipped for sand, water and the weight of whatever number of people wanted to cram into their chariot.

We came up to one and asked the driver how much. “Teen-saw”, he responded. 300 rupees, or a little less than $7. This was not going to be like the $50 carriages in Central Park. I still had to haggle, just to save myself a little respect.

The view from our horse

“Doe-saw?” I replied (200). The man nodded and waved us in. I realized that while our carriage ride was going to be less than $5, based on his easy acceptance of my offer, I probably was overpaying by at least half.

With that, we trotted off. It seemed like we were in some weird dream sequence. We looked out onto gray skies and black sand on our way to an eroding imposing structure in the distance – I felt like a character in a fairy tale. The horse hit the water and kept going. The carriage – all wood and metal, with paint flaking off every plank – teetered and tottered but we got there eventually. Our transport waited and we went for a stroll around the abandoned fort.

Kolaba Fort

Daniel commented that it was easy to imagine this place as it must have been. It was true – there weren’t a lot of people around and perhaps it was the clouds that darkened everything but it seemed like we were in some sort of abandoned piece of history.

Daniel and our chariot

We made our way back and I watched as ‘land’ started coming closer and closer. Our horses decided to make a sprint for it at the end. The whole thing was fun and weird all at the same time. And it had cost us around $4.50. Only in India. I’m glad we got away to be reminded that there’s so much more we can continue to be amazed by.

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