Saturday, 10 March 2012

Thursday 8th - Holi

Today is one of the big Hindu festivals. We get up before the sun has risen to walk a mile or so to Charlotte Lake where we hope to see some birds. After half an hour we have seen nothing and turn back when we meet two Indian guys who are clearly serious ornitholigists. They explain that we are a bit early - the birds prefer a bit of warmth and that the best place to see them is the far end of the lake. While we talk a small bird is seen on a nearby earth bank and identified as a Sulphur Bellied Warbler. So that made it worth getting up in the dark. On the way back we got lost but did see some quite imposing mansions in various states of decay.

After breakfast we packed and deposited our bags at reception. Lord's has been a great place for a relaxing break - even R appears to approve of their standards. Today there are actually clouds in the sky and it is definitely cooler. Bank holiday weather strikes again.We take a final wander along the main street which is noticeably much busier than it has been. D takes the chance to explore the reverse loop at Matheran station - this line has everything that a railway modeller could possibly want.

We weren't sure what to expect of Holi. Some reports say that it is not safe to go on the streets for fear of being powder bombed or sprayed with dye. In Mumbai we had seen lots of street stalls selling water pistols and cones of coloured powder. We put on our most expendable clothes just in case but it looks like Matheran has a low key approach to Holi. We see one chap who has clearly been powder bombed and seems quite cross about it but apart from that we see nothing. the town is certainly busier than it has been and the crowds seem to be in party mood.

All too soon it is time to return to Lord's for our bags. They have a tame rickshaw man who sets a cracking pace and does a lot more work for his Rs150 than any of the idle scroungers at the railway stations. He gets a decent tip. The train is waiting so we get our luggage on board and then have to fend off a goat that believes it is entitled to first class travel. By departure time the coach is almost full and our luggage has to block a door but nobody seems to mind. A chap swaps seats so R can look at the birds out of the window. We see one eagle and another unidentified large raptor that flies alongside the train for a few seconds.

At Neral the promised minivan awaits and we set off. As we get closer to the airport the driver's style gets more aggressive. We see some evidence of Holi. A white coach has splashes of colour all over and four youths on motorbikes are covered in purple dye or paint. The Mirage is OK with a nice enough room and wifi at a reasonable price. Even more amazingly they offer a choice of beer brands. This photo is specially selected for Mike Burrows of WOSG who claimed that our last India blog must have been sponsored by Kingfisher.

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