Monday, 6 August 2012

Visiting the kids!!

Today the Round Table peeps met us at the hotel to direct us to the school they sponsor. At 8:30am a convoy of unique rickshaws made their way through the morning traffic of Pune. We certainly turned heads in our bee/ladybird costumes and the hundreds of bubbles exiting our tuk tuk. About 14km later we arrived at the school, just before Pia nearly hit a cyclist in the middle of an intersection. Close call!

At the school the children were patiently waiting in the courtyard and as soon as we drove in the drummers began to beat their drums signaling the group of children to start marching. Thirteen girls, dressed in beautiful saris greeted us in the traditional way with incense and flowers. Before we knew it we were whisked into different rooms in the school. I ended up with Team 4 in a classroom of parents - dejavu! While Pia and Ruth checked out the little cuties in KG. The classrooms were so sparse compared to ours at home and packed with twice as many kids.

Downstairs they put on an assembly, where a group of the cutest 3 year olds in bare, muddy feet sang a song. Speeches were made, food was eaten and tea was drank. Then before we knew it we were back on the road making our way south to Mahabaleshwar.

As we left the school we followed Team 3 whilst behind us was Team 6. As we battled it out on the road against vans, trucks and cars we realized we were heading the wrong way on the national highway. As we merged onto the highway all of the teams were in a panic since everyone was really low on fuel and typically all the petrol stations we saw were on the otherside of the highway... The way we should be going. As we drove further in the opposite direction, team 3 headed down a muddy gravel road whilst we took the advice of a local fellow and headed further north, until we found a huge blue
building which meant turn of the highway and below there was a lake sized puddle blocking the one car wide underpass. With some momentum behind us from coming down the hill, we accelerated through the underpass hoping no major large vehicle were around the bend coming straight for us. Hooray!! All clear, which meant we were now on the right side of the highway and only about 2km away from a petrol station. As we descended down the hill on the other side of the highway we could see Team 6 parked on the side. Our attempts to inform Keith of the U turn up ahead was drowned out by the numerous vehicles passing by. In arrival at the petrol station we miraculously saw Team 3 had made it and so had half of Team 6 (Once again they were out of petrol)

With petrol tanks full Team 3 and I ventured onto the national highway, bound for Mahabaleshwar. On the road we came across Team 4 who were struggling uphill. As we overtook them we gave them an encouraging smile and wave. Just before the toll booth the boys pulled aside to have their photo taken, as we waited for them we also we included in then photo. Typically we made our way through the toll booth, hoping to take the side road since rickshaws don't have to pay, but they made us wait with the cars. Once we made it to the booth a group of lads were having a joke about how much we needed to pay, but laughingly they released the toll bar allowing team 3 ahead and signaled for me to go... But little did I know the toll bar would come down in front of me as the front window smashed the bar out of its place... Oops! I quickly braked the car as Ruth and Pia screamed behind me. Thankfully all the lads were laughing and smiling at me. As I shrugged my shoulders and gave a look of apology, they head bobbled me and directed me to keep going... No complaints from me, I was out of there!!

As we headed further south the highway began snaking its way through the mountains. The higher we climbed the cooler the weather became. Before we knew it we were surrounded by clouds and torrential rain. As waterfalls cascaded down the cliffs our little rickshaw pushed on through the steep inclines at a rapid speed of 25km per hour!

Approximately 10km from base camp Ruth didn't know her own strength as she broke the handle of our manual windscreen wiper. As we drove on, soaked to the bone, Pia kindly would stick half her body out of the rickshaw to wipe the window for Ruth. Team effort!

Once we arrived at the hotel we could barely see 2 metres in front of us due to the fog and rain. Unfortunately the hotel wasn't as 5 star as we hoped and the damp ridden bedroom would have to do! The night was spent battling it out over the ping pong table and teaching the guys and gals some new card games.

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