Two New Yorkers spend six months 18 months!?! in Bangalore and other places in India.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Hampi Road Trip!

So we made it to Hampi after all, but only some travel mix-ups. Ho Ho ho!

To back up, we had made our train reservations late, so that meant neither of us had a seat, just two versions of "wait and see." My status was RAC (reservation against cancellation), while Don's was just a waitlist. When we asked the conductor if we could board, he implied that we could, but it didn't seem likely that we'd both actually get a seat. Since it's a 10-hour trip starting around 10pm, a seat to sleep on is important.

Earlier that day, I'd bought us a bus ticket on a semi-nice bus as a backup. We decided to ditch the train station and go for the bus. We were running late, so we took a rickshaw to the bus station. The bus station is across the street from the train station, but they're both enormous, and we were panicky. Anyway, the jerky rickshaw driver let us off in a completely stupid part of the station, but only after trying to get us to go to Mysore instead. By running we got to the right platform with plenty of time.

Except we were never able to find the right bus. We went to the platform on the ticket, we asked people around us, we asked bus drivers, we asked and asked, but that bus either never showed up or took off from a platform different from the one we thought. (The destinations are only written in Kannada, so it's not simply a matter of reading what it says on the front of the bus.)

There was a Japanese guy who had missed the same bus we did, and he found out that there was another bus leaving at 2:30 am. We nearly went home, but when a bus headed in the right direction showed up at 1:00 am, we thought we were very lucky. A bus official nearby took our ticket, scribbled some stuff on it to make our slightly fancier ticket good for this one, and then we got on, ready to blast off for Hampi.

But the "1:00 bus" was the 2:30 bus. It stayed in place for 90 minutes while everyone sat on board, holding their unreserved seats with their body mass.

(It was around this point that Don and I started saying things like, "When we didn't board that train and we paid that rickshaw driver 50 rupees to abuse us and treat us like fools, that was when I discovered the TRUE meaning of Christmas!" or "When we ran to the bus platform and waited hours for the bus that was 'late' but which had evidently left from another platform anyway, that was when I REALLY discovered the true meaning of Christmas." It's funnier if you say it with crazy-eyes, which is what we both had at this point.)

Providing additional distraction was the somewhat wizened lady who sat down next to us with her five-year old child. First, the lady got up, leaving her child on the seat. Then the girl got up and walked away. I thought they'd got up to leave, so I let a man take the seat. There were lots of worries when the mom and child came back and wanted their seat. Lots of "sorries" from me.

Finally the bus took off.

This was a terrible bus. It had no shocks, and there was lots of bumping even though the road was by and large very good. There was legroom, but that's about the best I can say.

After a couple hours into the drive, I noticed that that child was sleeping on the floor of the bus, under her mother's seat. I guess it was kind of practical, but I did make a point of telling Don so that he wouldn't get up and accidentally step on the kid. (By the way, there was really nowhere for Don to go -- there are no bathrooms on Indian buses.)

A little later, the lady disappeared. Where had she gone? Had she found a new seat? No, she was SLEEPING IN THE AISLE. This was kind of cool, I thought, but it caused a problem. There was now an empty seat, albeit one with a sleeping girl where your feet would go. And a full bus hates an empty seat. When the lights turned on for a moment, a small man or teenager carefully stepped around the mom and slipped into the aisle seat. Soon he was fast asleep, with his head on my shoulder. It was a heavy head, but I didn't have the heart to push him away. What else did I have to do with my shoulder?

But what was the proper etiquette? Should I have let this guy take the seat? He seemed to be taking care to not step on the kid. Luckily, this problem solved itself, since after about 45 minutes (or half an hour? Or 75 minutes? or 3 million minutes?), my bag fell from the storage rack above onto my chest, and from there hitting the guy and then onto Aisle Lady. Everyone woke up, the guy said "bye" and went back to his seat, and the lady got back into her seat.

Only four or five or so more hours to go! I wish I could say it flew by, but I can't remember. It was just too long to remember. I do remember we stopped for a bathroom break at some point, and Don bought early-morning potato chips. They were crunchy.

I wonder if that lady is thinking of me while I'm thinking of her. I suppose I did enough to make her remember me.

After all, I 1) allowed a man to take her seat and 2) allowed another man to take her seat, this time with her daughter on the floor, and then 3) allowed my bag to crash into her while she was sleeping. Perhaps she ALSO discovered the true meaning of Christmas . . .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great story. I'm tempted to say something shortsighted and ignorant about how disorganized that system is, but anyone who's tried to take the Ever-Wandering 351 Bus from Port Authority can attest that things are no different here. Sure, the Meadowlands are no exotic Hampi-like destination, but you have to take pothole-ridden Route 3 so it's kind of the same. Happy Christmas, weary travelers!