Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Day 1

As we got on the bus we met our guide, She was a small woman named Uma and she was dressed in a white and red Sari. She had a wonderful smile and seemed genuinely thrilled to be our guide. We drove through Mumbai looking at the sights. We didn't stop much as there was a general strike going on. As we drove she pointed out many buildings that were replicas of buildings in London. She kept asking us what building they looked like and none of us knew. She would ask over and over again. She also made sure to tell us over and over again that we had nothing to worry about, there were lots of police around and we would be fine. I think most of us thought that she was saying it so much to make it true. We saw tons of television vans, police, and people. Most of the shops were closed due to the strike. She did take us to a beautiful park that we walked around a bit at. The grounds were perfectly manicured, the trees were gorgeous and so were the flowers. We went to the rest room across the street and I got my first vision of and Indian restroom. They did have a Western toilet, which is what most of us are used to, but they also had the squatty potty. Okay, let me explain. The squatty potty is basically a toilet bowl in the ground, with ceramic foot rests. and you just squat. Okay, I am a bit of a spoiled American girl and used the Western one. Not ready for the squatty YET !!!
We went to a place where they do washing. It was huge vats of water that the people get into with the clothes and wash them, they beat them with a tool and then hang them. There are clothes and sheets hanging everywhere. It was amazing. I have pictures which I will post later of this. While we got off the bus to take pictures we were inundated by people trying to sell us things. Jewlery, maps, bags, I don't think any of us bought anything. Oh yeah when we were at the garden we had a guy that kept trying to sell us Peacock feather fans. It was amazing, they would actually start talking to one of us and walk with us asking over and over again. Even when we were back on the bus, they were still asking. Uma did a wonderful job of telling us things about Mumbai. She said it was the cleanest city in India (there was still trash everywhere) and that it was one of the richest cities in India. She spoke about religion a bit, told us about the different looks of people in the different regions of India. I think we were all a little shocked when she told us about the chinky eyed people. I swear I heard a gasp from most of us at the way she kept saying that. We continued on for a bit and then Uma said she had to leave and thanked us for our attention and our time. The bus pulled over and she got out. We were now on our way to Pune.
We now had a 5 hour drive to Pune from Mumbai and we were all tired, I think quite a few of us napped along this part of the trip. We stopped for lunch at a road side cafe. There were tons of options but most of us didn't have a clue as to what things on the menu were. I ended up having vegatable Fried Rice, which was really delicious. I also tried some Malaysian Noodles, and some spinach dish with chunks of a cheese in it. Both of them were yummy as well. It got very busy in the Cafe just after we got there. They cooked everything fresh in front of you. Oh I also had Nan bread with garlic. It wasn't like the Nan bread that you get at the indian takeaway, which is kind of thick. This was thin but VERY good. We got back on the bus after another rest room break (yes another Western toilet thank goodness) BUT most of the bathrooms do not have toilet paper, I think we had all brought something for that though). Back on the bus and off we went. Oh I forgot to mention the traffic here, it is NUTS, they don't stay in their lane, there are motor bikes EVERYWHERE and Ricshaws. But the motor bikes seem to be the most popular type of transportation. They honk their horns all the time. It is really crazy.
We arrived at Sangam around 430 in the afternoon. My first thought was how nice it was. There is a gorgeous WAGGS symbol at the front. Sangam itself is behind huge iron gates with a guard. when you enter the building, you can see a gorgeous stone floor, it is a very open plan. We were greeted with smiling faces and given some juice and snacks. We had good fresh water at Sangam in water coolers (not Culligan though hehehehe). We were assigned our Dorm rooms. There are six people in my dorm. We have ceiling fans, 2 showers, a western toilet and a squatty potty, plus 2 sinks. We also have mosquito nets that we can put over our beds. Some people opted to use them and some did not. We had supper soup, chickan biryani, salad and little balls that were made out of sugar and milk. The soup was okay, the biryani was really tasty, a bit spicy for me, but still very good. The dessert balls were a bit odd. We all chatted for a bit and then I think we were in bed by around 830. We were all so tired.

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