We arrived in Kolhapur about an hour behind schedule. It's a big place but more authentic India than Mumbai. A chap on the train had said our hotel was a five minute walk from the station. Indians are confusing me. Some are clearly out to scam you. Some are very curious about us. Some are extremely polite, some stare quite hard and others are very helpful. Trouble is when someone tells you something you don't know which Indian you are dealing with. Couple that with their curious side to side head wobble which makes me laugh and it's all very difficult.
We walked out of the station and asked a rickshaw driver to take us to the hotel. 'No need' he said 'It's five minutes up that road' which it was. An honest Indian. .
No problems booking in this time. The room was huge and had a private terrace. It was dark and late when we ventured out. There were no obvious restaurants but we did find an off licence so settled for a cold beer on the terrace. Outside of the big places the restaurants open from 6pm to 10pm. Lots are 'family restaurants' and don't serve alcohol.
Breakfast was included in this place but it was an odd set up. You ordered and they ran to a local cafe and brought it to your room. We didn't fancy curry for brekkie so just asked for black tea and black coffee. Lots of people speak some English and lots don't. I'd got the doesn't chap this morning so I got black coffee and Jill got yucky milky tea. Both had enough sugar to rot a set of dentures
We went outside and found a local cafe. The owner spoke good English so we soon had a cuppa for Jill. I asked him if he could write 'No milk and no sugar' on a piece of paper in Hindi. Sounds stupid but it works. Point at tea and coffee then show them the paper.
We had one day to explore Kolhapur. First stop was the old temple area. This was different to anywhere else we had been. A really old part of the city with busy dusty streets and a weird temple in the middle. It was an interesting walk around. It was part temple and part shopping arcade. We were the only white faces and the source of much curiosity. There were a few beggars. Some are obvious and approach you and ask directly for money. Some have missing limbs and sit with bowls. It is not uncommon in India for child beggars to have limbs forcibly removed to earn more sympathy and therefore more money. Others will be school children in uniform who smile and engage you then ask for money. It's immensely difficult to judge and therefore avoid being abrupt with genuine people.
Wrestling is the big sport here in Kolhapur. The guide book said it was possible to go and see the wrestlers training during the day. We asked for directions and were directed down a dark alley alongside a building. Here we found an open sided block with a mud floor. Two burly young chaps, one with two huge cauliflower ears came over. They knew why we were there but said the training didn't start until late afternoon when it was cooler. Jill will just have to wait to see fit guys in budgie smugglers until we get to Goa.
Jill managed to buy a trouser suit and a sari but couldn't find a sari blouse to wear under it. That is now a mission.
We went to the bus station to see about our trip out. The buses were not the best. We reckoned it would be about a six or seven hour journey. As we left I saw some taxis opposite. We went across and asked if they would drive us to Bijapur. Now it's about 200kms so I wasn't sure what the response would be. One who spoke some English said 'I'll do it for 3000 rupees (£30). Deal. A hand shake and agreement to collect us from the hotel the next morning. It was clearly a big deal as several drivers had gathered round to listen in. Our driver turned to his friends and said in a silly voice 'I'm going to Bijapur 'cos I can speak English'. For him it was trip in the countryside and more money than he would earn in Kolhapur.
In the afternoon we went to the 'New Palace'. It's basically a large country house which used to belong to a Maharaja and is now a retreat for Indian royalty. It was a strange place. A once grand house slowly decaying. Pictures on the wall were faded and lopsided. It was no Hampton Court but still interesting.
Back at the hotel we went for a shower. It was cold. We enquired at reception and were told the water was only hot in the morning. Ok, you didn't think to mention that then? We had a cold shower. Ten minutes after we had finished there was a knock on the door. Outside was the porter with a big plastic dustbin full of hot water. A helpful Indian. Too late but full marks for trying.
Next morning our taxi arrived,an hour early. I don't think he wanted us reneging on the deal. It suited us and we were soon on our way. The trip to Bijapur was great. We were leaving Maharashtra state and going to Karnataka across one of the big plateaus of India. It was green country side. The road was bordered by sugar cane fields and vineyards. Along the way we were treated to the rural poverty of India as we went through small towns.
We arrived in Bijapur in the early afternoon. Our driver didn't know the hotel. Why would he? He kept stopping and asking rickshaw drivers the way. In Karnataka they basically speak another language. It was amusing to hear our driver say 'Hindi or English please I can't understand you'. He explained that different states speak different languages. Once at the hotel our driver turned around to drive straight back. He seemed happy enough.