I had been invited to meet my friend Atul Gaikwad that lives close to Mumbai (at least when you look at the map) and this Saturday I decided to go on a short excursion. I bought a "Volvo" class ticket for 250 Rs on Friday.
Then on Saturday 4 pm I went to the rendezvous point. There I was crammed into a local black and yellow Premier taxi and off we drove. The escort was a nervous young guy chewing paan or gutka and talking into to two mobile phones simultaneously. It did not take long and we arrived to the bus. It was a big Volvo. I was escorted to my seat and soon the bus left, surprisingly on time too.
It seemed to me that we trawled every street from point of departure to New Mumbai in search for passengers and cargo. Sometimes we would stop and load parcels, sometimes people. The driver apparently had only 2 positions of the aircon, it was either "off" or "on". The bus was frigid, I was tightly wrapped in my fleece blanket that was provided with every seat. At one stage the bus got quite full and I lost my privacy when an Indian sat beside me. I did not mind that at all but unfortunately my seat fellow was in a dire need of a shower or his Rexona had given up on him - badly. I was sniffing on my Thai "yaa dom" (made of camphor, eucalyptus etc) to cover the smell. I got lucky as he changed seats after awhile or a seat was vacated.
When we entered New Mumbai and started to get to the outskirts of the city we encountered huge zhopad patti's (slum dwellings). People were living like ants, the hovels extended far away into the smog that is lingering everywhere this time of year. Soon enough we crossed the river and entered the Expressway which was in excellent condition. We soon made good speed and the bus rolled past lumbering trucks. After some time we started climbing hills, it was already dark but I could see the view was nice with all lights from the city below the mountain. After the mountains we gradually came to Pune.
I was dropped off at the railway station at 9.30PM, an hour after schedule. soon enough Atul picked me up in his car. We had a local specialty as I was famished that looked like a Greek chicken kebab but was definitely better. After this we picked up a few Kingfishers and headed for Atul's pad. There we ordered some home delivery and we had a very nice veggie dinner and chatted for awhile before it was time to call it a night.
Next morning I woke up to the sunshine and Atul prepared a Maharastrian breakfast "Pooha", made of rice flakes and whatnot. It was very filling and delicious. I had thought of going to visit the Rajneesh Osho resort but it turned out it was a bit more difficult than anticipated. More info here
Osho was a controversial person who founded his own cult and did away with gurus and taught his own dogma. He was thrown out from the US for various reasons and finally ended back in Pune where he had started his mission. He has been compared to Buddha and still today his legacy lives on. More info here
Considering all options we finally headed for the Rajiv Gandhi Zoo that housed an extensive snake collection.
I entered after paying 25 Rs for entry (10 Rs for locals) and walked for the tour. There was quite a few other animals as well. Snakes are generally a boring subject to watch as they do nothing, them normally being nocturnal in their activities. In the video you can see one snake that was definitely giving value for money and was snaking around his pit.
We also saw various species of crocs, porcupines, sloth bear, various deer, iguanas, turtles, terrapins, tigers and incredibly fat leopards. As it was Sunday and it was India, people kept pouring into the Zoo and we soon found our way out of it. After that we picked up Atul's wife Snehal and went out for lunch. We drove through Pune and circled close to Osho and I could see foreigners traipsing around in red robes that they have to wear inside the resort.
Finally, we decide to have lunch in a Punjabi restaurant and we had a vegetarian fare. Dhal, rice, roti and Paneer in gravy. I have hard time remembering what dishes are called in India. All was very delicious and filling and we headed for the bus station where I got a ticket for 235 Rs to Mumbai. I thanked Atul and his wife for their hospitality and boarded the bus.
This bus filled up 100% and I got a huge fellow sitting beside me, he was big as a barndoor and round as a hippopotamus, me myself not being a small guy either felt very small beside him. I was crammed between him and the window most of the trip as he disembarked at the outskirts of Mumbai. The beginning of the trip was interesting as I had not seen the countryside in daylight.
We passed many places where they made bricks and of course farmhouses. Bricks were piled in big piles, then covered with what I presume was straw and mud. After that a fire was built inside these piles to get the bricks burned. I can only imagine how long this operation is taking, weeks I guess. I've seen similar brick ovens in Vietnam and there they had a slow fire burning from rice husks. The land looked very brown and dry as the rains had stopped some months ago.
Eventually I arrived Dadar after 3hrs journey and from there I took a taxi to Yellow Gate and came onboard, too tired to eat dinner and just collapsed into bed. Short trip and not so eventful, but at least I have an excuse to go back.