Thursday, 21 June 2012

Pune and the road to Mumbai

After Aurangabad I headed down to Pune. Not much eventful on the way, usual traffic nonsense but on a slightly larger road then the days before.

Pune itself has over three million people, but seemed a lot less congested than other towns. There were big wide roads on the way in which were very easy to get around on. Of course, when you have two lanes painted, and space for ten lanes everyone just spreads out.

The accommodation started to get expensive again in Pune, I checked out a couple of places mentioned in the Lonely planet and all were charging way more than what was listed before. One was in the book for 1200Rs and was now 2500Rs. It did look quite nice. But with the off season discount of 30% that came down to 1800Rs, but then you add tax and it's back up to 2100Rs. Far too much for me. They directed me to another hotel they owned which was a lot more basic, they said it would be 1000Rs per room but when I got there they rooms were crap and the price was actually 1200Rs. I kept looking around and eventually found Hotel Suyra Villa which was listed in the Lonely Planet with nice rooms but had actually kept their prices close to what was listed in the book. I opted for the air-conditioned room for 1337Rs/night.

I didn't do much else in Pune except for eat at the restaurant below the hotel. I went looking for the German Bakery which was in the guidebook and looked very close on the map, unfortunately I didn't realise the guide book was a bit out of date.

The only other thing near by was the big meditation center, but I wasn't too interested in that. There were a lot of strange types wandering the streets near it. Seemed like a lovely place to meditate with all the horn noise too.

I attempted to go to a McDonalds one morning but was searched by security and told I couldn't go in with a camera. It was part of a cinema and they didn't let me know it was all closed  before searching me. I also attempted to go to some shops, but again I was stopped outside by security because I had my camera bag. I gave up trying to go anywhere else in Pune. Not worth it.

Then it was time to leave Pune and head down to Mumbai. There was an expressway that went the entire way but two and three wheelers are banned from it, unfortunately my GPS kept trying to direct me onto it because it was the shortest way there. I stuck on National Highway 4 where it's apparently safer for motorbikes dodging all the buses, pedestrians, cars, and animals.

A waterfall along the way.
Just after the waterfall in the above picture the highway starts winding down the hills. Along this bit was a diversion off Highway 4 onto the expressway, so I get on it and see other motorbikes and then expect to see a diversion back off the expressway onto highway 4 again. But it never turns up. It's about 20km until another exit and because I'm making good time I just keep going past it. after about another 10km there's a toll booth but no bike lane bypass like others, but someone there just waves me through the other lanes, so I keep going. 

Eventually, some police are on the road and they start waving there arms at me and get me to stop. I pull over and the first thing they say is "Motorbikes not allowed! 600Rs fine!". I try to explain about the diversion, and conveniently leave off the part about where I could have taken an exit. I showed them the part on the GPS where the diversion was and they knew about it. After about five minutes or so they seem to understand that I didn't know where I was going and that I wouldn't have to pay a fine. So I ask which way to go from there, back down the wrong way along the expressway to get off it, or keep going until I can get on an exit to national highway 4. They did the usual Indian head wobble (WHAT DOES IT MEANNNNN) and then they packed up and left, driving the wrong way up the expressway. I was confused for a bit and then decided oh well I'll keep going, how many police can there be!

And then not 300meters later I get pulled over by a policeman on a motorbike who was booking someone else.

I take off my helmet and walk back to him having a conversation with the other people. I explained to him that I just left 3 other policeman and they told me that I could keep going up the expressway to get off on to highway 4. He replies with "Two wheelers banned on expressway! 1000Rs fine!". Right, so now I know he's just going to try get money out of me. I kept the fact that the other policemen said 600Rs to myself for a while. He keeps ignoring me and talking to these other guys. I'm standing there awkwardly for a while and then he asks for my licence, so I get the Australian drivers licence out and hand it to him (I have a spare) and then the conversation with the others just keeps going on. Eventually two others turn up out of the bushes and join in and I still have no idea what's going on. He finally gets sick of discussing with these people and tells me to follow him up to my bike. He tells me that it's a 1000Rs fine again, so I go off an explain exactly what happened before with the other police, again. But he keeps saying that two wheelers are banned. The other people come over and interrupt him again so I'm again standing there doing nothing. They talk for a while and then hand him a 100Rs note and a few more words and then that's it, they're gone. This was to make the fine go away. 

He gets back to telling me that two wheelers are banned, again, and again, I explain that I was just pulled over before I got to him and I know this and I'm going up the expressway to get off onto highway four. Again, "two wheelers are banned! there is a sign!". And I explain that there was no sign at the diversion onto the expressway, or at the toll booths, and I have seen them, just not when I entered the freeway this time. He tells me to only speak English. Then, he says it will be a 1200Rs fine, so OK, that's when I got annoyed. I went on a big rant about him telling me 1000Rs when I first got there, and now it's 1200Rs, and then finally told him that the police before said 600Rs. I think this is where he realised that was the proper amount for the fine (and me too, due to his reaction). He held onto my licence and then told me to follow him to the sign that says two wheelers are banned. Yes yes yes, I KNOW they are banned. I walk up to my bike and start putting all my gear on and he rides up to it, still holding my licence. I asked him what if he rides off with my licence, what do I do then? There was some confusion then he gives me the licence back and then rides off the wrong way down the expressway. 

I get on the bike, check the mirrors and he's still going and not waiting for me. I think I got out of paying fines+bribe twice today. I get off the freeway at the nearest exit to avoid this nonsense again.

How long until I leave India?

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai.

The very anti British monument across the road from the terminus...

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