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Published: February 19th 2011
Talk about a culture shock! 24 hours ago we were the only white people in the town of Kolhapur (population 500,000) and today we are in the tourist mecca of north Goan beach town, Calagunte.
After two jam packed days in Aurangabad, we took a day off and just kicked back before venturing forth on an overnight bus trip. Many hotels are 24 check out which means you check out 24 hrs after you check in – regardless of the time. As we arrived at 9pm our first night, this worked in our favour. We had to be at the corner by “chalal petrol pump” by 9pm, so we had all day to keep the room. Getting out of the rickshaw, we were informed that the bus didn’t leave til 10:30pm – but luckily we showed our ticket to someone – wrong bus company and wrong side of the road. Long distance buses are generally sleepers or sitting – we were in the latter and it was the most comfortable journey. The seats reclined waaay back and the only thing that marred the trip was the loud bollywood movie that played on the overhead screen for the first couple of
We arrived in Kolhapur at 7am and were instantly “hustled” to a hotel by a rickshaw guy. We had come to this town to break up the long trip to Goa and also because it was supposed to have unique “spicy” food. Turned out that getting there was way easier than leaving. Three hours after starting enquiries about how to leave, we had tickets on a bus for that same night.
Conversations at various private bus companies went something like:
"There is a bus at 11:30 this afternoonh: followed by dead silence
"can we get a seat"
"is there abother bus"
"1:30am" and dead silence
"are there any seats"
This went on for quite a while!!! We had also visited the train station to no avail. On the plus side we had an excellent breakfast of spicy missal (I think) and shev baji. It is a bit of a challenge when there is no menu and no one speaks English – we just pointed to what someone else was eating.
Walking through the old town we got kind of lost and were directed to a Hindu temple where the large altar
piece was solid silver. (150 kilos) A couple of university students befriended us and explained a lot of the artwork and then directed us on to our main destination - the Mahalaxmi temple which is dedicated to Amba Bal or mother goddess. The guide book describes it as “attracting an unceasing tide of humanity” and that is not an understatement. Non Hindus are allowed in the temple and we were encouraged to follow the pilgrims through a maze to the altar where they were giving gifts to the priests. One there, we were kind of trapped by the pressure of people and it was only by moving one body part at a time that we were able to squeeze out. A security guard then directed us to a more congenial observation spot.
From here, we went to the outskirts to visit the Shree Chhatrapati Shahu Museum which is housed in the new palace (buit in 1884 by the Kolhapur kings) and includes exhibits from hunting exhibitions – from mounted and stuffed animals to ashtrays with rhino feet.
Back to our hotel for a few hours nap before heading out to dinner to sample Mutton Kolhapuri – their spicy
Our bus left about 30 minutes late (midnight) and then shortly out of town, was caught up in some road works – the whole road was being dug up. In true Indian style, all the vehicles jammed abreast in both lanes so when it was possible to get through the area, there was barely room for one vehicle at a time. We hadn’t realized how high up we were until the driver started making up for lost time by hurtling down a very narrow windy mountain road. Passengers were puking out the windows and overall it was not t pleasant journey. The bus operators didn’t speak English and if it wasn’t for a fellow behind us telling we had reached our destination of Mapusa at 6am, we would have keep going. The rickshaws and taxis were waiting for the bus and it wasn’t long before our rickshaw driver had found us a room in Calagunte, our base for the next week
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