Thursday, 8 March 2012
Wednesday 7th - We go native.
Today is our 32nd wedding anniversary and we have both remembered to bring cards. Enough of the soppy stuff. At first light we head out to see if we can spot some of our feathered friends. There are plenty around making lots of noise but the canopy is quite a long way above us and it is difficult to spot any birds. One unusual cry is pinned down to a palm squirrel. Eventually we see a couple of red whiskered bulbuls which seem to be very common around here.
The monkeys are having a field day on the tin roof as bed tea is served but by now we are prepared and they don't get a sniff. After brekker we take a walk into the village as the stalls and the small market are just opening up. We keep going all the way along the main street and out at the far end where the scene is more like the Wild West than an Indian hill station. There are horses everywhere, being ridden and used as beasts of burden, because Matheran is entirely closed to mechanical transport apart from the railway. There are not even any bicycles - just horses and hand pulled rickshaws. This makes the place much more pleasant to walk around in although the horses do raise a lot of red dust - just like in the westerns.
After walking for hour or so we meet the railway below the town and, taking our cue from everybody else, we walk back into town along the track. This is a regular route for porters carrying luggage and goods in from the car park about 2 miles outside the village. The surface is much better and there is less dust than the other track so it is no wonder everybody uses it. We soon find ourselves outside the Divadkar with a bit of a thirst. The same waiter recognises us and clearly has R's number. She orders a Sprite which arrives accompanied by a large vodka. Fortunately he is persuaded that this is not required at 11 a.m.
We head back to the hotel for a pre-lunch swim followed by another massive lunch and a siesta. The pool man at the hotel has a great job. In the morning he tops up the water with a hose and fishes out a few leaves etc. For the rest of the day he sits in the shade, catapult at the ready, chasing away monkeys that come too close. D resolves to buy a catapult and practice in case the position becomes vacant. Everybody working here seems to sing as they work - it really does seem to be a happy place.
In honour of our anniversary we plan to get dressed up in our new Indian clothes. When R opens up here salwar kamise she discovers that our little man in Kolkata has let her down. The sleeves have not been sewn in as requested. We had seen a tailor's shop in the market so we headed there to see if he could help. One hour and Rs 30/- was the answer - that's about 45p. In order to kill an hour we had to go for a beer at the Divadkar. Our pal the waiter suggested that R might like to try the strong beer tonight.
When we pick up the SK R hands over a Rs50/- note and the tailor has difficulty in understanding that she doesn't want any change. We change our make our grand entrance to an audience of one rather bemused Dutch lady. She sportingly agrees to take our photo but does admit that without her glasses she cannot really see. It turned out not too bad. As we are leaving two Indian ladies arrive and compliment us on our attire. We are exhausted. Matheran really takes it out of you.