No, I’m not getting on that bus!

Going from Lumbini, Nepal, to Vârânasî, India: a trip that promises to be long

 

My wonderful journey takes me across the border from Nepal to India to arrive in the sweetest way, in Varanasi, a sacred city

 
For that I need a bus, so bus I find. I’m the first one to introduce myself to the driver who won’t leave for three hours, so we have time to chat a little, he tells me in a secret tone that I have to take the seat to the driver’s left. Next to the big bump in the engine there is like a little bench on which, if you’re not cut out like Teddy Riner, you can lie down halfway and go to sleep. The other passengers will dance on their wooden seats to the rhythm of the potholes but not me. I think it’s a great idea. 
 

I love being in front, close to the windshield, I feel like I’m at the cinema

 
Mr Driver doesn’t know how to answer me about the duration of the journey, that’s how it is here. There are no liquid-crystal boards indicating to the minute where and when. I don’t even know exactly where I’m going to land.
From experience, I know that it will be long, even very long. I guess between 12 and 15 hours.
When I get on that bus, it’s hot as hell, the air is dense as pitch. I am, as sometimes happens, mired in a fatigue that sticks to my skin and brain. This apathy slows down my movements and makes my bag even heavier. Neither coffee, fresh orange juice nor idleness can overcome this state. I’m just washed away by the Himalayas, but that’s another story.
 

In an Indian bus, we go to sleep, to the sound of the horn!

 
The bus leaves at around 3pm. Until about 8pm I curse myself for having accepted the providential seat because if I dance less than the others, the horn sings its incessant high-pitched complaint in my ears.
At last comes dusk, then night, and our boat sails more serenely on the road that unfolds endlessly under our headlights. Less traffic, less horn, I relax, half sitting, half lying down, my head on my backpack pillow and sink into a slimy sleep.
 

A sudden silence pulls me out of my torpor

 

Silence like that is not normal, we are in India! I stand up like a cobra whose tail has been stepped on. The driver is outside, surrounded by a few men. I get out and ask why we are stopping at 1am in the middle of nowhere.
“Engine broken, engine not fixed!
I warn the outside temperature, cool, the stars, glittering, the moon, absent, the thickets, inhospitable and the road… deserted. Rather favourable environment for a mess.
What do we do then?
Another bus coming”  
But it’s wonderful! I bite my tongue for having slanded so much about Indian transport!  They’re sending a bus! Are Krishna ! I thank Vishnu, Kali and all the others for their wisdom and wait kindly under the celestial vault.
The other travellers get off, take out their innumerable bags, stretch, smoke, drink or eat. Everything is fine, we are in India and these situations are quite normal.
A certain fraternity is created, we chat a little with the other travellers. When a roaring bus filled with people in the night appears without warning, the pretty little community of travellers that we are instantly shattered.

The bus arrives, everyone goes into pirate mode: let’s board!

 
Everybody rushes on their luggage and sets off to attack the saving bus. Through the doors, the windows, the roof, the poor vehicle is assaulted from all sides.
Indeed, other bus coming means other bus coming, not new bus coming, so empty, just another bus will come with these other passengers inside and we have to squeeze, to pack, to agglomerate.
 

Grabbing a seat in the fair

 

I’m not surprised about this outcome, that’s the way it is here. But I am amazed at the violence of this wild rush on the Tata’s carcass. People are screaming, shouting, jostling each other mercilessly. Children are crying, men are fighting over who will or will not get on, it’s total panic. Some even try to get through the windows. The nice driver is overwhelmed. I stand upright, backwards, harnessed with my bags, on the side of the road. I watch the melee with a mixture of stoicism, anger and contempt.
Frankly, this rush on the vehicle has an incredible effect on me. Where is the thoughtfulness, the intelligence?

They all behave like hungry animals on a corpse that has no cohesion. The children are crying, the men are screaming. No thanks, nothing for me!

 

At the height of the storm, the driver calls me as if my life depended on it: “Come, come now!“.
I cross my arms firmly, “No, I’m staying here, I won’t get on that bus! I’ll wait for daylight, I’ll sleep on the side of the road and I’ll hail another bus. I don’t give a damn.
But no, no and no, I won’t get on that bus! »

My diatribe, my anger leaves him speechless

 

I take off my loads with ostentation and light a cigarette. Niet, No, no and no, I will not get on that bus.
Long minutes go by and the situation calms down. The bus honks its horn furiously on the other side of the road. I hear my name shouted by the passengers “Krsitinnn, Kristinnn! Come! ».
It’s my turn to be speechless: Mister nice driver has kept my seat at the front!
“Kristiiiin, we are waiting for you!”
He hastens to help me load my belongings, instructs the new driver to take good care of me. The driver opens his arms in a wide gesture “next to me you are safe”.

So, isn’t this story wonderful?
If I were a religious lover I would say that an angel or a god is watching over me.
But I believe in men, complex bipeds full of contradictions that we are, and I’m right.

Also to be read if you think travelling alone is dangerous

Deserted station, pitch black, no phone or internet and no place to sleep tonight … Should we leave it to our 5 teenagers who are the top names on their mopeds?

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