14th – 18th December – ‘Do you like dags?’

So, our final days in Pune. We checked into the AirBnB place and got a bit of a shock … the room was completely different to what we booked! Being the typical Brit we didn’t complain, the room was fine anyway. When viewing hotels, B&Bs, homestays etc on the internet we now know to take the photos with a pinch of salt. By Indian standards the rooms are usually great, but to Westerners you can’t help but notice the slap dash interior, lack of paint in patches, it’s almost like a job is never fully completed. On the other hand, you can see that our expectation for perfection is just a bit pointless, if it works then what’s the problem? Our host Mr Goel was a bit of legend anyway, he helped us with sending a package back to the UK, which proved a lot more difficult than we originally hoped, plus he had a stash of rupees so we got some notes out of him! No idea where he got his horde of dosh from, best not to ask!

Last few days have been overcast, with the shock of a slight drizzle at one occasion. Pune is at a higher altitude to Mumbai and the difference in temperature is notable. Still above 25C though!

The title of this post is a reference to the number of stray dogs on the streets. A couple of times it’s become a little bit nervy walking through them (rabies jab was required after all!), and can keep you up all night if they’re fighting. The other day near Pravati Hill I noticed a puppy smack bang in the middle of a busy roundabout, I was ready to stop the traffic and move it aside, what an idiot. Steve told me to stop looking, and remember the strongest survive etc.. (exactly what he tells me when watching Planet Earth 2 as well!) Luckily it moved not long after it was a whisper away from being mowed down by a tuk tuk. Can’t say I’m happy with myself feeling more sympathy with the wild dogs and cats rather than the poor people we come across on the streets, a bad trait amongst a lot of people I should imagine.

Unlike Mumbai we’ve been ‘hounded’ a few times by beggars, a few of them touching and prodding, especially the women to me. One woman followed us for so blooming long I thought she was never going to give up. Some people may disagree with ignoring them and not ‘giving in’, but if we did stop and offer money to one person before you know it we’d be surrounded and that’s when things can get out of hand, we’ve heard some horror stories. Anyway, we have no cash so unless they accept card donations or have a PayTM account they won’t be getting anything from us…

Yep, still no cash in Pune, unless you want to endure a 2-hour queue at an ATM! We have both commented that if we didn’t have an Indian bank account (Steve has one as an OCI) and had to use our British debit cards (were every transaction results in a 3% charge) we would have left India by now. 50 days earlier than expected, so, again, thank Gawd for the local account.

We took part in a pottery class whilst we were staying in Pune (as you do). Nice and therapeutic, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The lady who was teaching us, Veena, was surprised to see two travellers doing it, and asked why we would take a pottery course on our travels. ‘Why not?!’ was our answer. I’ve always wanted to do it, and at half the price of what it would cost in the UK it made perfect sense. It beats seeing another tourist attraction. Veena was an interesting character, an artist, ‘free spirit’ and didn’t hold back on her views of Modi and the current political landscape of the country. All in all a fun experience.

As mentioned in my last post, we stayed in the Koregoan Park area of the city. We saw the highest amount of Westerners here, in the cafes, on the streets… the area is renowned for the Osho International Meditation Centre. I was actually looking to going for a day or two but glad I didn’t now. To me it’s a con, and has a hint of ‘cult’ about it. Read up about the man Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, aka Osho, and you’ll understand my thinking. An interesting man and strong ideals, but I don’t believe the centre would help you find a spiritual path. And he certainly didn’t preach about peace. None of the income from the centre goes back to the community which I find incredibly unjust considering how much this ‘business’ must earn annually. One of the other guests staying at our AirBnB was an American man called Mel. A true hippy in every sense, and a very interesting guy, he had previously stayed at Osho but wasn’t too keen on it anymore. Similarly to Steve and I, he decided to sell the majority of his material goods several years back, and tried to detach himself from ‘stuff’. I could have spoken to him for hours, but time soon moved on.

Places

Café 1730 – lets go Curry! ‘Rock’ themed place with pictures of Robert Plant, Stevie Vaughan and Brian May on the walls. A hit with the locals and by the time we left there wasn’t a table free. Interestingly got approached, whilst outside having a cigarette, by a marketing team for an Indian Tobacco company. They handed me a tropical flavoured cig, then asked for my photo whilst smoking it! All very weird, but they handed me a free packed of cigs afterwards, so early Christmas present.

French Patisserie – cappuccino with a croissant, charmant!

French Crepes – Could not walk past a place selling crepes with Nutella!

Dravidas Bistro – DosaDosaDosa, cheap and my-god spicy. I went for the dosa and Thali combo with a Paneer Veg Mix as a filling, the spiciest thing I have ever had. A must if you are around the Dhole Patil Road complex though.

Bombay Barcode – colourful outside bar also down the Dhole Patil Road, they love their Daft Punk and Bruno Mars.

Aga Khan Palace – We took ourselves here on the Saturday, a beautiful building and grounds, plus a small museum dedicated to Gandhi. He was imprisoned there during the Independent movement. Lots of Indians paying the entry fee to just pose and take pictures of themselves outside, they love a selfie here!

Dario’s – pricey for what you get, but this place was rather special. Situated outside and a stones throw away from Osho Meditation Centre, it was tranquil and a place to just unwind and have some fine Italian cuisine. Yep you got it right, pizza again.

Ixon – cinema! Couldn’t wait till May/June to see Rouge One so tracked down a cinema showing it. Surreal to have to stand whilst the Indian National Anthem played before the picture was shown (!), not an uncommon thing in most countries I hear. Also, they had an interval smack bang in the middle of the film! For two tickets to see Rouge One in 3D it cost us 500 Rs, which is around £5, bargain.

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