We have had a driver since arriving to Pune. We're paying him by the week for now since there are still some details to work out. He parks his vehicle, which he owns, at our place and uses his motorbike to go to and from our home. He's a nice guy, a safe driver, and is very professional...we really hope it works out in the long run and that he'll stay on to drive for us once we buy our own car next month.
Though he told me his workweek is 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, we don't really have that much going on until we move so I've asked him to hang out at home until I text/call him. It's worked out well so far.
Yesterday we started at 9:30am with appointments for tooth cleaning and a vaccination. We use a multi-specialty integrated hospital system which was recommended by my partner's employer. I've had a positive experience there, so far.
Within the hospital setting there are both acute and preventative care facilities, which means that almost everything can be done under one roof. As far as the actual care is concerned, the staff I've interacted with are well-spoken, skilled, and patient focused. My dental cleaning was identical to that which I would received in the US (right down to the a water laser and fluoride rinse), and the vaccination, second in a series of two for Hepatitis A (GSK Havrix, 1.0 mL), was the exact same brand and strength as the one I got back home.
Where the difference is notable however, is in the payment scheme. The hospital's services are all under one roof, but payment is required at each point of service. So yesterday I paid to: register myself and get a patient identification number (Rs. 100), get my teeth cleaned (Rs. 2350), see the physician for my vaccine (Rs. 650), and purchase the vaccine at the pharmacy (Rs. 1790). It's pretty efficient to have it broken down this way, though it does involve lots of queueing, even if the wait is momentary. I paid $77.00 USD for services/products that would have totaled at least $400 USD in the states, and was on my way in an hour and fifteen minutes.
Since my partner had off from work for Maha Shivaratri (read about it here) we decided to take our first trip outside of the city. We didn't really have a place in mind, so I did a quick web search for "day trips nearby Pune" and got Fort Jadhavgadh. "Sounds as good as any", we thought, and headed off. Google Maps estimated half an hour, but it ended up being about an hour once we got through all the traffic. It didn't really matter anyway, we were just happy to finally make it out of the city into some clean air. As the buildings became smaller and spaced further apart, we realized that we were going to get to see the plateaus we had been admiring during our plane ride from Mumbai.
The drive was almost as nice as the fort itself, even though most of the landscape is kind of dead and brown right now. On the way to the top of the plateaus there are some overlooks where the city can be seen in the distance and the valley below is a patchwork of green fields. Further still once the ascent levels off there are farms with small fields of corn, tomatoes, figs, nut trees of some sort, wheat, and fruit trees. Every mile or mile and a half there is a small family-owned hotel with a restaurant. They're immaculately landscaped mini-oases speckled between stretches of brown, though we were told that during monsoon season everything about this area is green and full of life.
We arrived at the fort, which doubles as a hotel, event venue, and museum, by driving up a rocky dirt road past some fig trees and a small grouping of homes. We wanted to see the museum first, so paid the small fee and in we went. Inside is a nice selection of artifacts, some of which date back 300-400 years. Most of them are everyday items, like hair combs, lime boxes, scrolls, cooking implements, etc. though there were a few big items like hand carried carriages. After the museum, we decided to check out the hotel. We had a light lunch there at a hotel cafe with lovely outdoor tables, and lingered over sweet lime sodas and watermelon juice while enjoying the cool breezes from the hills. Afterward we wandered around a bit to scope out the hotel grounds in case we want to return sometime. There's a gorgeous pool and it looks like there are some fun activities that guests can take advantage of in the area...I think that would be a nice weekend to keep in mind. (You can read more about that fort and the museum here. )
It looks like we're going to have a lot of fun taking little day trips like this one, and sometimes its nice to just scoot out of the city for a bit for some fresh air and a change of scenery.