the bus had only been driving for less than half an hour, when the engine sputtered and died….errrr, wait, that was the bus journey from a few days ago. the bus journey we took today was a bit different. here’s how it went:
the bus had only been driving for less than half an hour when one of the tires blew out. damn. the bus full of at least 100 people pulled over to the side of the road. in a way, this may have actually been a blessing in disguise, cause the bus journey was to be about 5 hours long, and caryn and i both had ended up standing in the aisle… and wearing our super heavy backpacks. it would have been one hell of a 5 hours. the bus we were in, like the other buses we would be riding for the rest of the day, was a huge government bus. the guidebook describes them as “huge spine-jarring rustbuckets” and i can’t say that i disagree. the buses are old, and look like the kind of buses you would see in an old prison movie… the whole thing is made of metal w/ no panneling, and the driver is separated from the passengers by wire mesh.
when the flat happened, everyone started piling off the bus, and as i stepped downward from the steps, my shirt sleeve caught on a piece of metal and i heard a loud ripping sound. great. my sleeve was now in tatters and i would have to throw away one of only 5 shirts that i currently own.
so, all 100 or so of us stood around on the road in the middle of nowhere. apparently, we would just have to wait until the next bus came by in about 2 hours. i wondered how this would all work, if the next bus also came loaded down w/ 100 passengers. how would we all fit? luckily for us, we had been talking to these two guys, Ramesh and Nisha, who lived in amhedabad and proceeded to save the day for us at least a dozen times. minutes later, when some small little taxi van drove by, one of the guys flagged it down and soon we were zipping along the road. this van wasn’t going to our final destination, but was heading in the right direction, so we may as well have gotten a move on instead of just sitting there. we drove on and on for what seemed to be (and really was) hours, and then we reached some random little town. all of a sudden, there were a lot of words exchanged between our friends and the driver, tones started raising, and soon, i got the feeling that we would not be welcome in this van.
i was right. a minute later, the 4 of us piled out. it turned out that the driver had lied and said that he would take us to one place, but in the end refused to go all the way, since we were only 4 people and he just couldnt be bothered. the guys then led us to another huge government bus. after going for a while, we got off the bus and switched to yet another bus. this had all become quite a journey. the buses as i said before, were quite uncomfortable, especially since we were driving on roads that i would never recommend a bus to travel on. hell, i wouldnt even recommend a car to drive down most of them. we were constantly bumping up and down due to potholes, rocks, and debris. what a mess.
luckily, through all these transitions and bus switches, Ramesh and Nisha guided us and showed us the way. without them, we would have been utterly screwed. we were *deep* into rural gujarat, and no one here spoke english. in fact, not everyone even spoke hindi, india’s main language. these guys were *so* nice to help us out…. especially when we realized, that they could have taken a different bus in the direction they needed to go, but specifically went w/ us on a bus that would add *2 hours* to their journey. i couldnt believe it!! if i was lost in america, i could *never* imagine some stranger going *2 hours* out of their way to help me out. we were sooo thankful. over the course of the last few days, we’ve just been shocked time and time again at how nice people have been to us here. everyone is so incredibly willing to help us out, give directions, and even go out of their way for us. it’s so nice.
eventually, many many hours later, we got to a town near where we wanted to go, and Ramesh and Nisha went their own way. all we had left to do was to catch a cab to palitana, our final destination, a measily 35 km away. it should have been easy… but no. it was getting dark, and there were no cabs in sight. the few we found, either refused to go all the way to palitana, or didnt speak any english at all and we couldnt get our message across. eventually, some man was nice enough to lead us all the way across town, to where the main road was. we found some random guy there who offered to walk w/ us 1km to the main intersection to try to find a cab. but we were nervous. do we walk off into the pitchblack w/ a complete stranger? was he *really* trying to be helpful? Ramesh and Nisha had assure us that gujarat is ridiculously safe and that all the people were very nice… but who knows! i probably would have chanced it and gone for it, but caryn wasn’t having it, so we walked off back to town.
later we finally made the 1km treck by ourselves, and eventually found a minivan going to palitana who would charge us only 10 rupees each. (25 cents). during the 30 minute drive… we kind of started freaking out. who were these people w/ the van? were they really just trying to help us out? or would we be robbed? hrm. but everything turned out ok. they dropped us off in palitana, and in the end even declined to take *any* money off us. did i mention that the people are nice here??
so once again, quite a day. 3 buses, one van taxi, one minivan, and a shared rickshaw is what we ended up having to take to make the journey today. unbelievable! of course, i gotta admit, i’m loving every second of it. to me it’s like one big adventure, and honestly, the more crazy messed up stuff that happens, the better! i didnt come to india to have everything run smoothly… i came for some excitement, and something to remember… and a lot of these journeys, i’m sure to never forget!!