Day 3 - Pune
Pune Travel Blog› entry 3 of 17 › view all entries
Hardly slept a wink last night, got woken up by a man in the next room having a loud conversation on his phone, when he eventually stopped and I was dropping off, he began to snore very loudly instead, I wonder if he does anything quietly? .. hopefully I will be up and away before I find out! So after I had fallen asleep finally, my phone (with it's last bar of power) starts bleeping with a message from home asking me what the time is in India as it was midnight in the UK ..... F****** 5.30AM thanks and goodnight!! My alarm was set for 6am so that I could get the train at 8am. Got up, showered and had breakfast and asked reception to hail me a taxi, I must say, the staff here were wonderful, couldn't do enough for you. Got to the train statyion without incident or being ripped off - I think! - and walked up the concourse to this magnificent station with trepidation and my booking form, in that order! What was I worried about?! Looked up at the board, found my train listed with the platform number so off I went. Ok, having pre-booked my seat meant that I had to find the right section of carriage, the right class of carriage (2AC = 2nd class Air Con), find my name on the printed sheet attached to the door of the carriage (just to make sure I was booked on) then find my allocated seat, upper, lower or side berth - easy really....! I had found all of this out on a very informative India related website with huge sections just on trains and how to negotiate them - thank you India Mike! So, not sure how the classes went on the trains I asked the locals every 20 paces or so which or where was my carriage as printed on the booking form, "right at the front" came the reply - trouble was I couldn't see the front of the train as it was about a quarter of a mile long and swamped with hundreds of people! So on I went, fearful all the time that it might leave without me. Found the right carriage and entered the compartment to find my seat/bench/bed thing. Ok, a small description of the layout in 2AC - On one side of the carriage are compartments consisting of4 padded beanches, 2 at the bottom and 2 "stowaway" at the top. Each person is allocated either an upper or lower bench and assuming the person allocated the upper bench wants to lie down or even sleep, they can fold down the bench and climb up. If they just wish to sit throughout the journey then they share the seating space on one of the lower bunks. On the other side of the carriage are the "side" berths, a similar style of bench although narrower than the compartments, which run the length of the carriage adjacent to the windows. Both compartments and side berths have individual lights and privacy curtains. So, found by berth, stashed my bag on the top bunk and sprawled out to prepare for the 4 hour journey, just a short trip for the first one! After the first stop I was joined in the compartment by an Indian gentleman who it turned out was also going to Pune - stroke of luck, he could tell me when to get off as it seems that there are no announcements at each station, you have to be on the lookout for the signs on the platform ... not the time to fall asleep! Tried to look at the scenery but it was made difficult by the fact that the sun was shining directly on to the window which hadn't been cleaned in a long while ( I remember watching a travel show once where two men travelled on Indian trains armed with a small step ladder and a wet cloth and every time the train stopped they would jump off and clean their window, can't remember what it was called, but they had the right idea!) Read the aquired hotel newspaper, and my book and dozed for a bit, though not too much as it was bloody freezing with the A/C on full! Whilst I was dozing, my travel companion borrowed my paper, dismantled it and read every page, thought he might even do the crossword! In between the destruction of my first Indian newspaper, he produced from his bag a book entitled "Trains at a glance" which looked to me like a train timetable, must have been about an inch thick! As he was flipping through it he started marking down numbers and times on various bits of paper, strange that I didn't notice his anorack when he came in!! Either he worked for the railway or had a very strange hobby, hmm... Anyway, after all that excitement, we arrived at Pune at 11.41am, platform 2 heading east, sorry, it must have rubbed off on me! This was preceeded by trundling past hundreds and hundreds of slum dwellings, back to back one story tin shacks in great long lines built on the hard ground. I didn't know whether to feel sad or pity or even admiration for the people that have to live here, there were so many beautiful, colourful sari's worn by equally beautiful women walking to and fro with pots and pans balanced on their head's. They were surrounded by small children skipping and running alongside the train all smiling and waving at the train. Strange to say that I saw very few men around. All in all very humbling. So, time for Pune. Grabbed my backpack (am sure it's got heavier already and I havent bought anything yet!), refused the very kind offer from and old gentleman on the platform to help me carry my bag (I was sure he would not be the last) and tried to find the exit to the station. As I neared the exit I was stopped in my tracks by a taxi / Rickshaw driver offering me a ride to a hotel or anything else that came into his mind! Once again I politely refused but he followed me out of the station where I was trying to look like I was waiting for someone, I pulled my phone out and started "dialling" numbers, was sure he'd seen it all before! Then his friend came over and they started arguing about who was going to take me, seeing my chance, I pulled on my backpack after the third attempt, just couldn't seem to get the knack of getting the second arm in somehow then marched off to god knows where! I managed to get to the end of the road when the first taxi man pulled up alongside me (was that blood I saw on his knuckles?!), I feigned right so he would follow me then turned sharply left to try and lose him (I was determing not to lose my rag and tell him to F*** off!) Anyway, this seemed to have worked so I started to walk and walk and walk some more. I had no idea where I was going, which way the centre of town was or where I intended to stay, I had not pre-planned anything, imagining that I would walk out of the station and it would all be there for me - never, never again!! The direction that I was heading didn't look too promising so I decided to cross over the road - with a back pack this time, brave or stupid...? - and walk back the way I had come. Every 10-20 paces a rickshaw driver would pull up alongside me and call "Yes, yes"? "No, no" was my now completely out of breath answer, no idea that I should have gone traing before this trip! Eventually , I was joined on my hike by a very cool looking young man, unfortunately I cannot remember his name. He fell in alongside me (not to difficult a pace) and was all smiles and questions - no begging or selling, all in all a very nice polite young man who turned out to be a student walking to the railway station to get a train home to his family for the weekend. Within half a mile he had extracted from me my full life story without ever appearing to be rude. I had read about this happening on a forum so was prepared for the onslaught. Name? How old? Married? Children? Ages? Education? University? Grades? Job? Salary? etc etc. I think I got his name and the fact that he was 23, would be married with 3 children by the time he was 29 and would be earning lots of money as successful business man - you know what?, I believed him :-) A very confident young man also. Anyway, soon after that he said a quick goodbye, shook me by the hand and scooted off overe the road, I think the little sod knew of a short cut but didn't tell me, obviously thought that I needed the excercise! Got back to the entrance to the train station after about an hour and a half, time for the hottest part of the day. Time for a break. I spotted a coffee shop way across the other side of the street which was about 15 vehicles deep, cars, trucks, buses, pushbikes and the occasional hand cart all fighting for bragging rights for the two lanes, and I was going to cross it! I found what I thought was a zebra crossing but that counts for nothing apparently, pedestrians are somewhere below the bottom of the pecking order. I was steeling myself for a run at it when I felt someone tapping my arm. I turned to see a woman holding a small baby in one hand and holding her other hand out whilst saying "money, money" and pointing to the baby's mouth. Well, as much as I adore other people's children, I wasn't about to be ambushed by 50 other "desperate housewives" - sorry - so I quickly negotiated my way to the central reservation - this was getting easier, all you do is anticipate that the vehicle is not going to stop for you so focus three cars behind it and wait for the smallest gap before dashing forward. I made it .. and so did the mother so I did it all again to the other side of the road .. and so did she! "Ok" I thought, time to seek refuge in the friendly welcoming coffee shop - except that they do not allow you in with bags of any kind let alone one that seems to contain the kitchen sink! So, dilema, give up my bag - not gonna happen, or turn back and give up my money - also not gonna happen, so I stood at the top of the steps using the old phone trick again, looking everywhere except directly at her. It took 5 minutes before she gave up waiting for me and I still hadn't lost my cool, this break must be working already! Then I spotted it - McDonalds_ Oh shit, Mcdonalds in India?! My hunger and the fact that I really needed a cold drink had me marching up the steps (sorry sorry sorry, I am so weak!) Already thinking "one coke or two" I came across security who pointed out that the only way in was via a shopping arcade. So I wandered over to the doors to be met by a man with a security "wand" and a woman without. The man told me to open my bag which I tried to do without the eagle eyed woman clocking the combination on the padlocks! Aftera good rummage about and finding nothing of interest I finally made it through the door and into Mcd's. Gave my order whilst in the queue to a young girl who just looked at me when I ordered a double cheeseburger - oops - I meant to say chickenburger - no chees please! Grabbed a seat (joy) and ate (not much joy but well needed) After demolishing it all it was back outside to continue the treck for accommodation (by the way, thanks for talking me out of the sensible idea for pre-booking Dad!) After another half hour or so of wandering the streets without seeing a single western face I'd had enough. I had a blister on my left foot and the strap was working it's way to the ankle bone on the right - i'm so glad that I wore these damned sandals in ....! So I decided there and then to trust a kindly rickshaw man to take me to a reasonably priced hotel nearby where I would get my bearings and sort out the next few days. With a knowing smile and a glint in his eye we headied off - to the railway staion - i coould've strangled the sod! "I left here 3 sodding hours ago" I told him and got that smile again. I'm sure they are all networked somehow, cousin of a cousin or something! After a few mintutes we pull up outside what appears to be a decent looking hotel - I clock the meter at Rs33 and get out to pay him. "No, no" he says, "go and check for a room and check in and then pay me", sounded like a good plan, until I tried to check in. The rates were higher than I wanted but faced with another marathon finding somewhwere else I decided to stay for one night. So I handed over my credit card, which did not swipe, then another one which also did not swipe nor did any of the other cards .. "Oh well, I'll be off" says I - "pay cash" says he - "I don't have enough, never mind" says I - "What have you got" says he - "just this" says I pulling out some notes - "That'll do" says he "just pay the rest when you leave". Luckily I had just enough time to count the notes before he snatched tem from me - cheeky sod. Went back to pay taxi man and the price he told me was Rs70! Whilst I was away he had zeroed the meter! I gave him Rs50 and said that it included the tip and walked off. Anyway, to cut a long story short, room is crap, noisy, not very clean, no mini bar, no tea or coffee and as I found out later, no towells which they told me did not come with the room, even though it had a bathroom!. Then I nearly lost it...! Apparently when I asked for a towell, they must have thought I'd said "three way massage" or similar because suden ly there was a towell (singular) that came with the room. So, back to the room for a welcoming shower, except that there was no hot water until after 5.50pm ... "welcome to India" I thought and dozed off until 7.30. Had a shower and headed off to a place to eat that i'd read about in the LP Guide, knew it would come in handy! Another rickshaw ride and finally food and beer! Yuk!! The soup was good, the beer was cold (only my second beer!) but after the poppadoms came a plate of lumpy brown stuff. I'd stupidly (it seemed to me at the time) ordered the Mutton Rogan Josh, the first bite was bone and the second as was the third so before I was sick I mopped up the sauce (with little pieces of bone)with the ultra thin naan bread and ordered a litre of water. The waiter seemed surprised that I had left a pile of gristle and bone on the side of the plate - how do you eat bone??!. So, to finish off the evening I decided to take a leisurly stroll back to the hotel, I knew the way, well, as far as the first crossroads anyway! Almost had it right then realised I had it all wrong when I ended up passing piles of rubbish in a landfill site being shared by both a dog and a cow and was surrounded by tin shacks. I walked on a bit thinking that I would come out of the other side or something until the road got narrower, dirtier and smellier. I decided the best bet was to turn back and was immediately surrounded by a large group of children all laughing, smiling and pointing at me all the while holiding out theier hands and saying "money, money". "No money, no money" I said with a smile, trying to act like I did this every night of the week! They were holdong my hands and slapping my back, one of the little sods even slapped my arse! (good job the wallet was in the front pocket - oh shit, now they know that!) I quicked my pace (blisters allowing) and made it back to the road in a cold sweat. I'm not sure that I should have felt threatened the way I did, maybe they don't get to see that many white people, I don't know ... I like to think looking back on it that they were being friendly and that I had the wrong impression of them - anyway, it seemed to give them some amusement and something to shout to their friends about! :-) Got back to the hotel, which fortunately has a computer in the lobby where I researched and found what would hopefully be a better place to stay tomorrow night. I really felt like admitting defeat and catching the first train to Goa but as they were all booked up I started to steel myself for a long hard trip. Lesson learnt from today - In India, DO NOT turn up at places expecting to find a neat little row of guest houses - book in advance!! Oh well, that was an eventful day, earplugs in and a good night's sleep ready to do it all again tomorrow!!
**Had hoped to put up some photos taken using my phone from the train journey, but had my phone stolen later in the trip - sorry **