Monday, November 7, 2011

The wheels on the bus go round and round....all through the night!

The overnight bus was an experience - but surprisingly a good one. I had thought it was going to be a "grin and bear it" type of experience but it was actually quite fun!

Bus depot or even bus stop is an exageration for the non marked "pick-up" area for all the overnight buses. We had booked tickets on the top of the range model : the volvo a/c sleeper bus. All the buses use the same road side stop areas and believe you me, there must be a lot of buses rolling along the roads of India through the night. You seriously need to have your wits about you - buses pull up, folks climb on and bus disappears into the night. No checking names off lists or making announcements. But true to Indian style everyone seems to end up on the right bus with their bags! So many people waiting - the young turks headed to party city (some did return mummied up, victims of motorbiking induced road rash), families of multiple generations carrying new borns and propping up the extremely the aged, a few white travelers - backpackers headed for cheap beds and booze, intellectual middle-aged pseudo bohemians choosing to see India the "real" way and us!, a couple of nuns, business men....... a people watching heaven!! So many people, so many buses, so much potential for bus rage - but no, that Indian calm, "it'll be alright on the night", "c'est la vie", attitude prevailed even when some folks were seen tearing down the street yelling for their bus which was gathering sped and spitting out vast quantities of black diesel, to stop and open it's doors, which it always did!
My plan was to catch the bus at it's last pick-up point on it's way out of Bangalore, so we spent the least time possible onboard. With hindsight, not a good idea as we just spent more time in the car and we tumbled onto the bus in the dark. The berths are on either side of the bus, up and down. I had elected lower berths. Each double cot is the size of a normal double coach seat. I had wondered why when choosing your beds you had to check "male" or "female" - that is which you are not who you want to sleep next to! Now I know!

Once we had found our berths, not so easy in the dark as the bus was already on the move, the kids fell straight to sleep. Wills and I had an all night war over my shawl as it was cold and we hadn't asked for blankets which you can rent for the journey. In his sleep he seemed to have more perseverance, determination and strength than me and end up swaddled while I shivered. Once I had worked out how to subdue the a/c it was surprisingly comfortable - after lurching and bumping around the streets of Bangalore by car, I was expecting lying horizontal at the back of a bus with limited suspension, to be akin to being inside a spin dryer on maximum rpm -but not at all - this was OK - not comparable to my own bed, but not bad in fact very civilized!

It was quite amazing - sleeping on this bus hearing people snoring, fidgeting, coughing etc, but having no idea who they were (curtains for each double berth) until toilet stops or the morning. Aghhh the toilet stops - pretty basic ranging from a field (definately the most hygienic!) to the test your thigh muscles ceramic hole. The kids, who woke for the first time at the 6.00am cup of tea stop, are so used to Indian toilets, they don't blink an eye and are proficient at the don't touch anything routine. That cup of chai at the buzzing, bustling bus rest stop tasted so good. Once again tho' you can't get distracted - bus driver does not count people off and on - when he is ready the bus hits the road. And hit the road, or something thereon, we did on the return journey. At 3.00am, in the pitch black at the side of the road the bus crew were trying the bashed up bumper back onto the bus!

We arrived at our Goan home efficiently and by mid- morning were unpacked and ready to head for the beach - instead of still being at the airport waiting to hear the latest delay for that elusive Kingfisher flight. Would we do it again.... the kids a resounding "yes", for them it was efficient - they slept so well, had more room than they would have done in the car and are fed up of airports! For me, the cost is a big incentive - the cheaper the travel the more we can travel and the more we can see of this wonderful country, for Simon?????

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