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Adventures of Kiwi in India – Part 3 – Travelling by Bus – Part 1

Best seat on the top of the bus!

Travelling by Bus in India and Nepal – 2004-2005


Best seat on the top of the bus!
Best seat for a Kiwi in India is on the top of the bus!

So if you’ve read my posts about India by train, then you may have seen a mention of also travelling by bus. I much prefer to travel by train, just for the convenience, speed and comfort of the ride, but sometimes it’s either impossible or impractical to take the train, so the bus or coach is the only way.

One of the big things I like about taking the train is that personal space is more or less guaranteed, not so on a bus…

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

For previous parts of the Adventures of Kiwi in India series, check them out here and here.

I found that often either myself or my travelling companion was given the task of propping up an old lady in a sari, who would just sit down beside us and lean in like it was our job to keep her up. We as the white folk in the bus are also there to be examined and stared at. Really there is nothing you can do about this but grin and bear it. Of course, personal hygiene also isn’t guaranteed. My travel companion at least once had an old Indian lady belch in her face. Charming!

Other times people have been friendly, sometimes too friendly. Sometimes the ride has been memorable, other times hair-raising…

My most memorable bus experience was in Northern India, in the state of Rajasthan, a beautiful desertland, one of the poorest in the country, but the top choice for Indian honeymooners, for the obvious reason of the beauty of the desert landscape.

While visiting the distant desert beyond the last of the desert forts, our bus arrived but was more or less full. Gina, my travel companion was ushered into the bus, but I was waved up to the top of the bus… I wasn’t really sure about this, but there were 25 or 30 other men up there, looking quite happy. Giving no indication of whether there were more at the start of the journey or not.

As the special guest of honour, I was given the best seat on the roof! I got to sit on the spare tyre toward the front of the bus. ‘Hmmm…’ I thought ‘I hope I survive this’ (spoiler, I did, or you wouldn’t be reading this now).

My baseball cap kept blowing off my head and the guys behind me motioned that I should turn it backwards, which I did, and it stayed on for the rest of the ride. Talk about local knowledge!

Since I had my daypack near at hand I reached in to grab my camera and grabbed a few shots from the top of the bus, as well as a selfie with the guy behind me leaning in and flipping a few V signs for good measure!

Riding up top with the boys!
Riding up top with the boys! Yes, that man has a drum… Why not?

By 2004 I had graduated from film camera to digital, but that still left the issue of storage and retrieval. At least one of my India trip CDs is missing and another is cracked. Hunting through a stack of CD’s with multiple folders from 15+ years ago is an exercise in nostalgia and hope. Luckily, despite my concerns, I was able to find that shot on a CD in the stack labelled ‘India’.

As far as the least comfortable Indian bus journeys, there are a few contenders…

The most shocking was certainly taking an overnight sleeper bus from Kerala in South India across the mountains to Tamil Nadu. We took the pair of seats at the back of the bus that were still vacant and got ourselves comfortable. At certain points in the journey, the bus stopped and people got off or on. Some people a few seats ahead of us left the bus and the people directly in front of us motioned for us to take the seats, but we were comfortable, so no need.

The ride was smooth and nice for a time and we expected to get a good amount of sleep in the 8-hour mountain crossing.

However, the bus and India had other plans for us!

As we reached the mountains the road got decidedly bumpier, and as we soon realised our seats were behind the back axel, and this meant we were essentially human buckshot and our seats were erratic yet effective catapults!

We were thrown into the air from our seats, only to be slammed back up again as we were coming down… this was the definition of hell!

I really mean we were human buckshot. It’s not a pleasant experience at all and certainly not recommended.

We quickly came to realise why those on the seats in front of us had been so kind as to offer us the seats forward of the rear axle… This wasn’t their first Rodeo! And a Rodeo it was… I was looking forward to the first opportunity to get off this bucking bull to a more comfortable seat!

Happily, in a short time, a pair of seats ahead of us became free, now we were not so polite and charged ahead to grab them before anyone else did…

Finally, the sweet relief of not being pummelled by a surprisingly hard seat with a vendetta against soft tissue and vertebral alignment!

A bus that thinks it is a catapult is no way to travel in India
A bus that thinks it is a catapult is no way to travel in India

As for the other contenders for least comfortable bus journeys, tune in next time!

The next part of the Adventures of Kiwi in India – Traveling by Bus is here!


Part 4 of Kiwi’s Adventures in India – Travelling by Bus in India and Nepal – Part 2 – is coming soon!

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