So, from the farm and back to reality.
Following a week at the Mango farm we need to get back to Pune to catch our train to Aurangabad which leaves early in the morning of 28th May. Umesh collects us midday and invites us to stay at his for the night. He is such a great host, we a balled over with his generosity. With the promise of chicken and beer, great company plus an A/C room it all seems too good to be true!
For dinner, Al and Umesh go ‘shopping’ for the chicken at a chicken farm nearby. They select the plump bird of their fancy and from what I heard killed and feathered it in a pretty inhumane way which consisted of chucking it into a machine that shook it around. I would just like to say at this point that I said before I leave that I would be veggie whilst in India. After a week of eating 2 meals a day (both consisted of Roti, rice and predominantly okra) made by the local villager; so I was gagging for some protein. No more ocra…please! I think in any other situation I would have thought twice about aborting my vegetarianism. The other point on this is that everyone tends to be vegetarian and only eats meat at home, or where they are absolutely certain on the methods of how the meat is being cooked and where it came from. Also, if the host eats meat, so do I.
Al, being interested in collecting recipes, was in heaven as Umesh teaches him how to cook the dish. Also we discover that ‘masala’ actually just means spices. There was I thinking it was a particular type of dish…King prawn Masala for example.
Once the food was prepared, we tucked into several different appetizers and a few bottles London Pilsners. Umesh also got some chicken tandoori take-away to have as a snack with the beer. It was so delicious- best tandoori I think I have had, although I was starving so I think most things tasted particularly good!
After many hours of chatting, Umesh suggests eat. I was ready for bed! I had forgotten that we hadn’t even had the main course yet. The chicken stock he had made was heavenly and the chicken killed for the occasion was certainly cooked to perfection. With time having been so warped, I glanced at my watch and noticed the date was wrong on it. When I commented on this, it transpired that Al and I were both a day out of keel and actually our train was not due to depart the following morning, it was due the day after that! Oops. Umesh was more than happy to put up with us for another day though (thank goodness), so this meant we had an unexpected day in Pune to do some touristy stuff. Fantastic!
As highly recommended for our unexpected extra day in Pune, we headed towards the Patalshvara Cave Temple with the intention of having an explore around this side of town. Possibly venturing into the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum.. We hopped into an autorikshaw who took us at speed down the highway to J.M Road.
The Patalshvara Cave Temple is cut into the rock, it’s small and unfinished but dates back to the 8th century. Such an amazingly calm, tranquil and shady place. It was so nice to sit there and chill. A guy near us was reading the paper in the temple, which made me wonder why we don’t use our churches as a place to be calm in our lunch breaks back in the Uk?! I don’t think you have to be religious to realise the potential of such places. As long as respect is made to those who are around you.
Next door to the Patalshvara Cave Temple, was the more recent Jangali Maharaj Temple. This seems much busier with people dropping in for a quick payer as well as ladies sitting for hours chatting quietly. We hung out in the temples for a good hour and be time I left, back onto the very busy J.M road I felt peaceful and full of energy for the rest of our day.
One thing I have noticed about Pune is that it is a lot cleaner than Mumbai. The people seem more cosmopolitan too. J.M Road definitely reflected these thoughts. The street, although with the usual hectic vibe and zillions of rickshaws was broad with many up market shops and cafes. Al noticed a KFC joint that he could not resist trying out. For those who don’t know: Al loves fried chicken and has tried KFC in Poland, Bangkok, Vietnam and other places around the world and has noticed their menu varies depending on where he is. Indian KFC has a ‘masala’ topping on it – very nice- tasted like spicey tomato flavour.
For the rest of the afternoon we wondered around and soaked up the people, place, shops, traffic, smells, sounds, tastes, etc. I tried my first fresh coconuts which I have always wanted to do. Very tasty milk, but I much prefer the flesh to be hard. With the coconut being so fresh is was a bit of a slimy texture of which I wasn’t too keen.
We had intended on walking towards the museum, but discovered that Lonely Planet was out of date and it had moved a few months back. Nevertheless, we enjoyed walking all the way down J.M Road (very long). Near the end we came across what seemed to be the wedding district. Every shop was either silk, clothing or gold shops. It was pretty cool to see all the dowry gold on show.
That evening we hang out with Yash (Umesh’s daughter). We go and eat street food with her. Her favourite is pane puri, so of course that is on the menu. Along with a few other pulse dishes that are bloomin spicey (but tasty).
Finally, the 28th arrives and we jump into a rickshaw to get to Pune rail Station. My gut is not happy and I think that may 3 different pulse dishes from the street vendors was a little optimistic. Hey ho, it is bearable, just a bit grumbly.
Our train departs at 8:45 sharp and isn’t overly busy which is great. We opted for AC this time, as the journey will take 9 hours through the heat of the day. It is comfortable, if not a little cold. A very sick man (we think diabetic) was in one of our bunks, so we willingly use the top bunks instead. Also, there is a bunk on the other side of the aisle which has a window next to it. So we were more than happy. I spent the whole journey reading about Indian history and looking out the window. The view for much of the time was of the Deccan Plateau…VERY arid. I could see where water would normally gush was completely dried up. Bring on the monsoon- the villages need it badly.
Arriving at Aurangabad we are confronted with the most rickshaws I have seen so far! How on earth do the ALL make a living??- Al had pondered. We selected one who hadn’t bugged us and drove to our pre-booked hostel. Rs70 for a dorm room…can’t go wrong. Although, I don’t think I have ever stayed in such a scummy place before. I don’t think the floor has ever been cleaned in its whole existence! The toilets don’t flush and when I chucked a bucked of water down instead, I learn that the pipes have holes in them! Ergh. It is all good though, the girls dorm was completely empty- so just me in a big room to myself. Al’s dorm has one Chinese guy staying- and that is it! I guess most sensible travelers don’t come to Aurangabad when it is 42c. Or if they do, they get an AC room. The Chinese guy told Al that there are loads of mozzies, so we promptly get out mosquito nets up. Although my effort was a bit of a blond moment…I didn’t turn the fan off first and as I stood on the bed to hang it up the fan took a chunk of skin out of my finger, OUCH. Really clever Laura. It’s ok though- not much blood- just an achey bruised knuckle minus a bit of skin. Lucky really!
Sleeping in the hostel wasn’t too bad so we are going to base ourselves here for another night at least. Tonight we are meeting up with a business contact of Als, who is keen to tell us the best places to go. Of course in the next few days we will be visiting the Ajanta Caves- very excited about that. They are apparently very well preserved considering how old they are.
Today we are having our 1st Month travelling day. A day to recoup, take stock, do laundry and have an explore around Aurangabad. First impressions though; Aurangabad is hot and dusty and the men seem a bit more sleezy here..
That’s all for now folks. Namaste.
Post written by Laura