Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Clouds, Bikes and Lonavala

This is a bit of a disconnected entry to catch up with what I've been up to in June. We're almost halfway into the month, and the monsoon approaches. The sky clouds up in the afternoons now, and we have had some showers. No proper downpours yet; we have that to look forward to. The temperature has already dropped. It has been in the mid to low thirties for the last few weeks. Once the rain starts in earnest it should drop further. In the evenings the light and cloud look quite atmospheric. I suppose they couldn't be anything else really.

I've been driving the roads in Pune and further afield in Maharastra for a while now. I am obviously getting jaded by the mayhem as I have bought myself a motorbike to increase the thrill factor. It's a Honda Unicorn, a bike specifically for the cost conscious Indian market. It's mighty 150cc engine is plenty for me to be getting on with for now. Especially considering that I'd never ridden one before. I've been using it to go to and from work for the last few weeks, and am finding it a lot of fun. I'm not sure how much fun it will be when the heavens open though!

Last weekend we had a work day out to Lonavala, a resort town between Pune and Bombay famous for its Chikki. We met up at Pune station and caught a local train to our destination. My previous experience with an Indian local train was in Bombay. I'm pleased to say that the ones around Pune are not quite so manic, and as we were boarding at the first stop it was easy enough to get seats. The seats were as hard and narrow as the train was slow. It was a bit uncomfortable. Fortunately Lonavala isn't too far, and we arrived in under two hours.

We had a snack at a nearby restaurant. Lonavala is on the old Pune to Mumbai highway. Traffic is much reduced since the opening of the new expressway. I as told that in its heyday it would have been an achievement to find a seat. After eating we headed off on a walk, ostensibly in search of lunch. Once out of the town the road followed a long dam. There was a no entry sign and a closed gate, but we scrambled up the wall to walk along regardless. At this time the cold drinks came out. What looked like a harmless bottle of Thums Up, the local idiosyncratically spelt cola substitute, turned out to have a mighty whisky enhanced kick. Full of vigour, we headed off along the wall only to be turned back by a security guard on a cycle. Once we had retraced our steps no-one was in the mood to re-retrace the route along the road in the hot and humid conditions. Therefore the cold drinks were finished off and we headed back into town in search of a late lunch.

A restaurant was located, lunch was eaten and it was time to head to the station and return to Pune. We stopped off at a chikki shop to buy our souvenirs, and from there we went to the station. Once again we were at the initial stop, but entraining was more challenging. This was because the train arrived full of passengers from Pune who wanted to leave whilst everyone on the platform wanted to board as quickly as possible to make sure they could grab a seat. We all managed to get ourselves seated and had an uneventful journey back to Pune.