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Adventures of Kiwi in India – Part 4 – Travelling by Bus – Part 2

Travelling by Bus in India and Nepal – Part 2 – 2004-2005

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.

Some bus journeys haven’t been so uncomfortable, but ended abruptly, while others seemed too go on forever!

One overnight sleeper coach ride into Delhi was going very well, I had found a way to curl myself up in the seat so I was more or less comfortable and able to sleep, until suddenly I was on the floor squeezed in between seats and my companion had a bleeding mouth from hitting the seat in front of her…

We sat for a while wondering what happened. Some of the other passengers went to the front of the bus to find out what happened…

Eventually, we also went to the front to see what was up…

Our coach had essentially rear-ended the bus in front, and both were pretty badly damaged, so it seemed like there was a big speed difference between them…

The front of our bus was smashed in on one corner and the windshield was completely gone…

A Little bus crash outside Delhi
A Little bus crash outside Delhi

My travel Companion pointed out after some time that there was no sign of our driver… We speculated on whether he had been taken to hospital or dragged into a field by the occupants of the other bus…

We never found out…

After some time it became clear that we were on our own, so we grabbed our backpacks and started the journey into the city by foot, quickly being picked up by a rickshaw and taken to our guesthouse.

Most of these bus journeys were overnight, and it was expected that while they weren’t running to schedule like a Swiss train, that they would turn up more or less on time.

I had spent some time in Nepal renewing my visa and doing a Vipassana meditation retreat, while the country was going through a democratic revolution.

While I was in Kathmandu the population of Nepal were protesting against their King, and he actually stepped down not long afterwards, but there were protests and curfews on a daily basis.

So when I decided to get out by bus, to Darjeeling in India, I knew that it was going to be a long journey. As I border the bus in the morning I asked what time the bus would arrive and they said matter of factly 12 o’clock. Ok, I thought, another overnighter. Fine.

Madmax Bus in India or Nepal - Probably Rajasthan
Madmax Bus in India or Nepal – Probably Rajasthan

We left the city and travelled East to Darjeeling. As is usual in India and Nepal the bus stops at road-side restaurants and markets so that people could eat and have a bathroom break. This happened a few times, but after some hours, as it got dark, the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere and didn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon… I asked what time the bus would arrive and they said ’12 o’clock’.

Ok, I thought, so this is a planned stop, no problem, at 12 o’clock tomorrow I’ll be there and can find a nice, comfortable place to sleep.

I got as comfortable as I could and managed to sleep through most of the night. In the morning the bus started off again, stopping for food at various roadside places and then continuing again. 12 o’clock came and went. Hmmm…

I made some friends on the bus. One guy who didn’t speak English at all, but really liked me, had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen… So big that I felt like he was smiling inside my eyes!

This bus was maybe not in Nepal but perhaps south India
This bus was maybe not in Nepal but perhaps south India

Still, the bus travelled on. And yet again, as it got dark the bus pulled over at the side of the road and didn’t appear to be moving again. I asked again what time the bus would arrive… And again they insisted that the bus would arrive at 12 o’clock… Maybe I was missing something here…

It occurred to me that I hadn’t asked which day it would arrive…

This time we had stopped at a lower altitude and it was much warmer, so we lay on the grass beside the road and slept until the morning.

I decided not to ask when the bus would arrive again. I was in this for the duration. The bus would arrive when the bus arrived. Strap in for the ride and take it easy.

Finally, after three days and two nights in an uncomfortable bus, we finally arrived in Darjeeling. My back was aching and my head was spinning. Darjeeling is at an altitude of 2000 meters. I felt drunk for several days, with everything spinning unless I was focused on one specific thing. I was experiencing a different strange effect of altitude this time!

It took me a few days until I felt ok again. But I found a nice room and a nearby restaurant with lots of tea and food that was easy to eat. I had a good book and I read it until the spinning subsided… Then it was time to explore Darjeeling!

 

Part 5 of Kiwi’s Adventures in India – How to become a Bollywood Star – is coming soon!

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

Travelling by Bus in India and Nepal – 2004-2005

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.

 

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…

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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