Owhata Indians take away in Swindon

Claire's Indian Adventure

I don't seem to have a good relationship with India’s roads.

Previously in Odisha I traveled by road and hated almost all of the experience (See this post). When my fellow VSO volunteers suggested a relaxing and cool long weekend in the hills, I jumped at the chance. I understood we were traveling by coach for 12 hours overnight, but it's out of Delhi, and the roads are better, right? Erm ... sort of.

The journey didn't start well. We went to where we thought the bus stop was, but it wasn't. We called the bus company, they told us we were in the wrong place, we flagged down and auto, they spoke to him and explained where we should be, and he merrily took us, for a price.

That was ok though, the bus was waiting and we duly got on it. Then we were told we’d have to change buses because the bus we were on wasn’t going to the place we wanted to ... that's ok. We were dropped at a petrol station on the outskirts of Delhi. And it was raining. We assumed it would be a short wait, there was a large group of us. There was no information ... and we're sitting and standing around petrol pumps, with cars and motorbikes all about us.

After an hour or so, someone tells someone that the bus we are waiting for is broken and they are sending a different bus. That's ok. It's still another 30 minutes before it turned up though. So we've been traveling for two hours and still aren't out of Delhi. Not so ok.

When we all finally get on the right bus, sort out seats, switch seats with various other passengers who want to sit close to or far away from other people, we settle in.

We didn't get far though until we stopped again. This time at the side of a dual carriageway. There's something wrong with this bus too. The driver and bus manager get off, and open up the engine bay at the back. Always a good sign.

After another hour, someone turns up with what look to me like fan belts. The engine is tested again, and we're off.

A few miles down the road, we stop again. They fix something. We drive on. I think (I can't quite remember) that this happened about 8 times. Eventually we pull over near a Dhaba (roadside cafe / transport cafe) and they call for a mechanic. This of course takes more time. We get off the bus and seek out chai. It's very very late by this point, and there's a rumor that if the mechanic can't fix the bus, we'll head back to Delhi… although that's not far, we're probably only at the end of the Metro line at this point.

However, the mechanic arrives, fixes the bus, and this time we're really on our way. We pull our blankets over us (it's air conditioned, and cold) and settle back in the reclining seats for a nap.

We were supposed to leave Delhi at 6pm and arrive in Mcleodganj at 6am. At 6am I awake to find (not surprisingly) that we're still on the plains. It's still raining, and now I'm awake I realize quite how mad coach drivers can be, driving Indian style. Oh well ... we're going in the right direction.

I try to channel some inner-peace and find positives. I am delighted to see a working elephant in a field, and watch the landscape as it changes from dusty muddy plains to grassy wooded hills. Most of the towns look very like each other, but the names entertain me - Baddi being one favorite. I'm also with friends, and we've got a few days off in a cooler climate. Bliss.

By the time we start climbing the mountain roads the rest of the world has woken up and decided to join us. Some of the roads are narrow, some of the bends are very tight, and then there are roadworks at the most awkward places. You know the scene in the original "Italian Job" where the coach zooms around the mountains? It was like that, for about 4 hours, but tighter, with madder traffic, and roadworks. We didn't end up balanced over the edge ... but I felt we came a little too close once or twice.

So, eventually, 22 hours after setting out from Delhi, we arrive at our destination. We’re tired, hungry, need a toilet (we had stopped for tea and wees, but only once in 22 hours), and it was raining very very very hard. Luckily we had pre-booked a hotel, and we're here for 3 nights before we have to face the return leg.

Other travelers told us this experience was incredibly unusual. I am hoping my relationship with Indian roads only gets better.


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