To get from Mumbai to Pune, I made a last-minute decision to ride a bus. I’d already booked a train ticket. Trains are the iconic mode of travel in India (think The Darjeeling Limited) and I figured that the three-and-a-half-hour journey would be a good initiation.
But my host friend’s housekeeper strongly recommended the Shivneri Volvo bus service as faster, safer, and definitely better. Also, my train would depart from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (better known as Victoria Terminus or simply VT), which would mean driving south from Mahalaxmi and backtracking north, away from Mumbai. The train ticket cost 333 rupees; the bus ticket, 415 rupees.
To tell the truth, I was somewhat wary of the train ride. With my 26-inch suitcase (which I somewhat regretted bringing), it’s impossible to be nimble.
My friend was out of the country when I left, so I was accompanied to Dadar station, the first bus stop, by his driver and housekeeper (how lucky was I!). They ensured that I found the right bus. The driver, not fluent in English, handed me a piece of paper, on which he’d written the name of my stop–in case I needed to ask for help! The housekeeper, fluent in English, gave me advice:
- At the rest stop in Lonavla, if I get off, note the bus number.
- Don’t eat any street food there. Packaged snacks are OK.
- Get off at the University stop, which is closest to RIMYI and my apartment.
- In Pune, be careful; it’s more dangerous for women there than in Bombay. Also there are more mosquitos.
The bus ride ended up being an excellent choice, especially during monsoon season. Once past the grim high-rise housing of Navi Mumbai (New Bombay), we got glimpses of the Western Ghats, vibrantly green, with mini waterfalls here and there. We indeed stopped for a 10-minute break at Lonavla; I headed to the women’s restroom with both my computer backpack and my messenger bag (my suitcase was safely stowed in the compartment below).
I was relieved to find it impressively clean–freshly hosed down and odor free–with a couple of women custodians on duty. Note: If you cannot do Malasana and find yourself in small-town India, you’re in trouble. Start practicing immediately. Also try it carrying a bulky backpack and bag.
On long-haul train rides, theft is always a risk. This shortish bus ride felt very safe, my fellow passengers mostly student types staring at their cell phones, along with commuters and a few older couples. So far I haven’t needed a money belt, but a neck wallet can be a handy mini purse.
In Pune, my landlord met me at the University stop, northwest of Model Colony. Thank goodness. It was pouring and I had that massive suitcase.
Note: If you plan to buy an Indian train ticket using a non-Indian credit card, follow the steps at the terrific Man in Seat 61 site. His India section explains how to register for an account with ClearTrip and with IRCTC; the process takes a few days.
Image: Malasana, Yoga Journal