Friday, December 24, 2010

Catching the Bus to Rishikesh

We were told we would have a comfortable ride on a first class coach bus overnight to Rishikesh. We were to meet at 8pm at the travel agent office where they were going to take us and put us on the bus. Fears arose early when we showed up to find our shuttle driver was quite drunk. He kept saying, " we wait 20 minutes - bus not yet". Just before nine, when our bus was supposed to depart from somewhere we found him in a heated argument with another group of guys. Not only had we prepaid for the bus and had no ticket, but we had also arranged train tickets to Varanasi and Mumbai. We hoped it was legitimate and had our fate int the hands of India.

He was not about to leave his argument and he explained to the twelve year old boy who was sweeping the office floor where to lead us to catch our bus. If this didn't make me start sweating the confused look on the kids face did. We followed the boy through the bizarre to a corner that looked nothing like where a bus could fit. We watched helplessly while he talked to some men in Hindi while they were shaking their heads. The kid made a gesture for us to stay while he ran back for clarification. This does not look good.

After a minute of waiting thinking, "we'll never see him again", we started heading back to the tourist office. I was pretty sure I could find it. On the way back we found the boy with the drunk guy coming to get us. This was a bit of a relief. A few more blocks and we were at the intended spot, but it was not a bus depot. It was a money change station that also booked transportation. We were left there. Seems like our bus should have left by now.

The old man in the "other" office hardly acknowledged we were there. He was working with a young boy from Spain who was counting every last Rupee he had to get a flight home. He had been trying to get this ticket for five days now. You could just tell he was very done with Delhi.

I finally interrupted asking if this was where we were supposed to catchup our bus knowing perfectly well it was not possible. Not on that street. Without hardly looking us old man said, "yes - boy coming to take you". Yeah - another confused kid.

This time a teenager showed up on his motorcycle and motioned he would take us each individually on the back to the bus. "Sure, take my girlfriend away on the back of a motorcycle through the streets of Delhi in the dark. I'll just wait here. That seems comfortable". After letting him know that was out of the question he hailed a rickshaws driven by the scrawniest man in all of India. Luckily it was only a few blocks away because it was torture witnessing him struggle to make that thing move with both of us and our heavy packs. "Shit - we could have walked here an hour ago!". Except here was just some unmarked street corner with a couple of very boozed up older men wanting to share their tray of vodka and mud with them. At least it looked like a place whee a bus could actually fit.

We waited on the corner for 20 minutes while the teenager just sat on his motorcycle. He knew no English and didn't see the need to help defend us from the drunks. As, we prayed for a bus to turn the corner and save us from what look to be a very ugly night, the power in the area went out killing all the street lights and leaving us in the dark. That's where you just start laughing. "Well, at least we have our health... for now."

Then a miracle happened. A bus turned the corner heading our way. I cannot believe this is really going to happen - we're saved. And the bus drove on by and out of sight.

The teen got on his phone speaking excitedly in Hindi (Hindi always seems to sound executed) and then told us to run with him across the busy street. It's like playing fast paced Frogger with heavy backpacks on - a scary video game indeed.

While still catching our breath form playing the ultimate game of chicken our bus pulled up. It hardly stopped moving. Just enough to allow a crowd off and let us in. We asked, "Rishikesh?". "Ya ya Rishikesh ya ya!". Good enough for us - Rishikesh or not - let's get out of here.

Location:Rishikesh India

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