Bus ride

Night Terror and a Welcome Midnight Snack - Part II

Night Terror and a Welcome Midnight Snack - Part II

It is a terrible, terrible, night.  We screech down roads, and hurtle round bends in the pitch black for hours on end.   Moanings and groanings are audible throughout the vehicle.  I hear someone screaming, hysterically, “For god’s sake, be careful, that’s a hairpin bend we’re going round.”  The Tibetan monk, next to me, has opened the window and is vomiting, copiously, out of it.  As for me, I know without looking in a mirror that I’m deathly pale and I thank god I ate nothing before climbing on board.  I put my head between my legs, because I feel so faint, and tell myself that this will pass.  But the truth is I am bloody terrified because this driver is a mad man, and 52 people are entirely at his mercy...

Night Terror and a Welcome Midnight Snack - Part I

Night Terror and a Welcome Midnight Snack - Part I

I weigh up my options.  Whilst visiting Amritsar is truly tempting, the logistics are a nightmare.  There’s only one bus a day, which leaves at 5 am, and takes 8 hours.  Even worse, it’s local (translate, wooden benches, no assigned seating, and livestock/wailing children in abundance).  The clincher, though, is that it’s currently a cool 44 degrees in the Punjab, which means that any power cut in the Golden Temple, will leave me roasting like a chicken in a tandoori oven…

It’s been a long few weeks.  I don’t need any more aggravation.   Option B it is!

Dicing with Death on the Road to Dharamasala

Dicing with Death on the Road to Dharamasala

Within minutes of leaving town, our driver’s putting his foot down, despite the heavy rain, poor visibility and windscreen wipers working intermittently.  He’s taking the bends like there’s no tomorrow.  Rain is dripping steadily through the roof onto my head and soaking fleece.  Out of the window, the road is unlit and all I can gather is that yellow headlights of other vehicles hurtling towards us.  Fast.  My fellow passengers, naturally, are munching on chapattis, not a care in the world.  I don’t know what’s worse – over the Himalayas by day in blazing heat, or round hairpin bends at night in the rain. 

The Long Road North Part III

The Long Road North Part III

The windows are cracked.  The doors look like they could fall off at any moment.  And it’s packed.  And when I say packed, I don’t mean every seat is taken.  I mean, it’s two or three to a regular seat, people jammed in, squeezed up against each other like sardines, screaming babies, cute kids, shy women and old people that I can’t even give up my seat for.  Oh yes, and don’t forget the woman with the livestock in her lap (luckily, she’s at the front).  Nir throws our backpacks on the roof and we bundle in...

The Long Road North Part II

The Long Road North Part II

The Punjab is a “safer” option (we can always find a place to spend the night) but if there really is no direct bus, we could find ourselves sitting at this bus terminal all day, which won’t be pleasant.  I spy two young, pretty women with small holdalls and run up to them.  Yes, they tell me, the “short cut” is fine.  In fact, they’re going that way, because they’re studying at Solan University, about two hours south of Shimla.  That’s it.  Never one for procrastination, I make my decision.  “Short cut” it is...

The Long Road North Part I

The Long Road North Part I

We leave late (always a bad idea) but it can’t be helped I guess.     Trudging over the suspension bridge (I’m weighing in at an impressive 8 kilos, but Nir and Yael are carrying packs so heavy one could be forgiven for thinking they’re schlepping corpses) I take a last look over my shoulder at the Ganga.  Well, not quite.  The guys are starving and want a quick bite.  We stop at the German Bakery.  It’s almost 6pm, and I’m conscious that the sun’s going down.  The river at dusk is at its most beautiful...

Get me to the Ganges...

Get me to the Ganges...

Off we go…and it’s not long before we’re picking up more passengers.  Schoolgirls in their blazers, pigtails tied up with ribbon, women on their way to work, and a huge “babushka” type who shoots me a toothless smile.  And it’s not long before we’re pulling into the next town.  One schlepp across the road to the next shared auto rickshaw and I know I’m on the home run...