When Navdeep repeatedly warned me about the uber-bumpy buses we’d be taking on this trip, I didn’t really take him seriously. After all, I was used to dealing with the horrors of New Jersey Transit and Greyhound. Not to mention the fact that I once took one of those video-buses that play old, scratchy Bollywood flicks at eardrum-blasting levels the whole ride. It didn’t seem so bad.
I was shoved out of my false sense of security by our first “Semi-Deluxe” bus ride, from Chandigarh to Malout. We ended up sitting in the back, and things seemed to start off okay. Then we hit a couple of bumps. It started pouring outside, which should have made for a cozy, romantic ride. Instead we got drenched, because it was raining INSIDE the bus as well!
We tried to suck it up and not acknowledge the rain seeping into our clothes or dripping down our cheeks like tears. This wasn’t so bad. I could handle this. After all, I was Navdeep’s hardcore traveling honey bunny. I dozed off after much tossing and turning. And then I was really tossed–maybe say about three feet up, as the bus whacked a little white car. The impact, I later learned, was right outside of where I was sitting (hence the good air). And so we sat for two hours, broken and battered, before the bus got moving again. I had actual black-and-blues to show for it.
As bad as that was, there have been worse bus experiences. After our 18-mile trek to Vaishno Devi, we spend the next day attempting to recover before climbing onto the already packed “9:30 p.m.” bus from Jammu to Srinagar, where we were scheduled to recover on a floating suite on Dal Lake.
Well, the bus got a late start—mosquito-eaten and exhausted, we didn’t get moving till 11 p.m. And then, half-an-hour after our start, we stopped for an hour. No explanations. I drifted off to sleep, but every time I awoke, we were stopped and the driver was MIA, often for two hours at a time. At five a.m., I woke up to find us parked in the middle of a bridge, with an endless, rocky drop on either side of us, and a blaring “NO STOPPING OR STANDING” sign warning us off the bridge. Resigned, I willed myself back to sleep. Some eight hours later, we were uncerimoniously dumped in what we presumed to be Srinagar, but we later discovered we were still some eight km outside of Srinagar. We hailed an autorickshaw and headed to our floating palace, where we recovered from our 15-hour bus ride from hell for the next four days.
But it just wasn’t long enough. The thought of committing to a 24-hour joyride from Srinagar to Delhi was simply more than we could bear, especially at Rs. 1200 a pop. So we did the only sane thing and inquired about flights. We found out it would take us just a little over an hour to get from Srinagar to Delhi–and cost us about Rs. 2000 each. Even budgeteer extraordinare Navdeep couldn’t argue with that logic.
So we hopped a plane (GoAir–highly recommended) and were back in Delhi in a jiffy. But I know there are plenty more “Deluxe” buses in my future. And to that I say, “Bring it on!”