Satara – Survival Training

Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness. – Seneca

As we have been early birds during the past whole week already, starting work between 6 to 7 am every day, the decision to book a train at 4.50 am on a Saturday morning didn’t appear very tempting anymore when we were sitting together with friends Friday night, enjoying some drinks and talks. However, we managed to get up at 3 am, knowing that we could continue sleeping in the sleeper train we booked – the train supposed to bring us to Satara, a city in Maharashtra 22km away from the so called Kaas Plateau. Also known as the “Kaas Pathar”, the plateau is situated in the western Ghat Sahyadri range and is known for the various types of wild flowers which bloom during August to beginning of October every year.

Being a bit late already, we decided to take my scooter in order to drive the 13km to the train station. On the nearly empty streets, I tried to go as fast as possible, overlooked a speed breaker, jumped over it and – realised that my back wheel felt weird. I had troubles driving, couldn’t keep the scooter on a straight line and finally had to stop. We had a flat tyre. In the middle of nowhere. At 4.15 am. Apart from some guys selling omelette rolls, no one was around, petrol stations were closed, our train supposed to leave in a short while and my scooter was not take us there. Jackpot! I drove further, hoping to find a place where they could fix it. Dustin was walking behind, as it was not possible to go on scooter for the two of us. Actually it was barely possible to go alone on it already.

On my way to the anyways closed petrol pump, I encountered some police men on the street. As my driving anyways must have looked strange, best defence was offence. I decided to directly approach them, asking for help or advice. And again India surprised me! One of the police officers told me to follow him to a shop where they could fix my tyre, and tried to wake up the owner by knocking determinedly at his door. As no one opened, he showed us a place where we could leave the scooter until the next day, organised us a rickshaw to the train station and even gave me his phone number in case something would go wrong… Solely this encounter made my day already.

We arrived at the station two minutes before our train was scheduled to leave. As it turned out, the train had a delay of 20 minutes anyways which meant we were perfectly on time. We found our assigned beds immediately and lied down in order to sleep, and my first Indian train ride began…

Early in the morning, Dustin woke me up so that I could witness the sunrise. Meaning, we were standing in the open doors of the train, leaning outside, feeling the airstream in the face… It was incredible! Seeing this huge train making his way through the beautiful landscape Maharashtra is blessed with… We stayed there until the end of the ride, when we had to pick up our remaining luggage from our place. I never thought it would feel so amazing. Actually, I’m a bit scared of trains. Standing in an open train door should not be one of my favourite pastimes. But it most definitely became one.

We got to the plateau with all its flowers by a local bus that was supposed to drive the route on a regular basis in both ways. We walked around, took pictures and some breaks, got sunburned, gave a short interview to the Indian times (still working on our celebrity status 😉 ), were asked to write some nice words in the visitor’s book there and had some nice talks with the rangers. Main season was already over, and due to the weak monsoon this year, the flowers were not all in full blossom. Still it gave a very nice picture with all the differently coloured flowers spreading all over the place. Pink, white, yellow, violet, … The area was shining in all different colours. Only thing missing was any opportunity to buy some food… Which is why we felt super hungry when waiting for the bus that should take us back down the hill.

Half an hour later, there was still no bus. Instead there was a traffic jam blocking the narrow street. Asking for the departure time of the bus, we were told to wait another hour. One (Indian) hour! Desperate we started walking, hoping that we would at least find some food on the way. Watching some cars driving down the hill, we realised there could be a chance that someone would give us a lift. Indeed, the first guy I asked immediately agreed, so we jumped in his car before the traffic jam (in which he was trapped for a minute) started moving again. Yay! Party! Until he told us… that he would park his car 500m down the road.

So we made 500m out of the 22km to Satara. Still a long way ahead… At least there were two men selling ice cream, so we decided to have “lunch”. One ice cream, two… At least it kept us alive for the next one or two hours and gave us the strength to find another car. 😉 Waiting on the left side of the street with the hand stretched out in perfect hitchhiking manner, another car stopped for us. The loveliest family ever offered us to come with them – meaning two men (both in the front of the car), four women (middle row) and three children (in the back). We squeezed in the back of the car, chatting with everyone and although the space was very limited, it was the best experience we could have had. After we made a stop to take some pictures (also together), they drove us directly to the main bus stand, where we intended to go. They left us with the words “Welcome to India!” and a big smile on their faces, waving goodbye while driving away.

Our subsequent search for food proofed quite difficult, as all food places were perfectly hidden. With some coke and banana on the way, we passed an incredibly smelly street, wandered around and finally, finally found a place. As it started raining, we decided not to head to the waterfalls that were supposed to be some other 15km away and instead spent our remaining time in the local cinema. We purchased tickets for the Hindi movie “Singh is Bliing”, which unfortunately we couldn’t finish in total. However, we had fun while watching it, even if we only understood half of the dialogues (namely those conducted in English, which were a few). 😀

After another rickshaw, train and again a rickshaw we ended up in our apartment at 0.20am after a long and exciting day. Even though trip turned out different than expected, we accomplished everything we wanted – main goal was anyways to prepare me for my trip to the North in two weeks. We met amazing people, shared a good time and gained another a nice story to tell… Plus India proofed again what an incredible country it is!

Mission accomplished. Feeling prepared.

Bisous,

Jana

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