Bye, Beautiful Udaipur City
It was hard to say goodbye to Udaipur, by far the most beautiful city I have seen to date in India. I also took my departure from fellow traveller Einat (see above picture) and the other friendly Israelis I traveled with and celebrated the Shabbat with.
The last hour I spent again on Nukkad Guesthouse‘s rooftop restaurant, sucking in the view of the city at night. Matthew, a pleasant young Israeli guy with an uncharacteristic name, shared a chow mein dish with me and later helped me carry my “stuff” down the multiple flights of steps to the rickshaw. I gave him the delicious apples I bought at Kumbhalgarth Fort.
I was under a time constraint since Shiva from “Shiva Travel Agency” in Pushkar told me I must be at his office by Sunday. Only then, so he told me before my departure to Udaipur, would he be able to get me some special train tickets to Manmad Junction on an extra car that might be joined on the main train then. And even that was not for certain.
Mine was a very special case. Nobody else had ever asked him to make that connection across India. My plan was to go see my friends in a village near Shriampur, Maharashtra, a place totally out of the tourist trail.
It all evens out
The trip itself started on the left foot. The hotel manager, who had previously booked my bus ticket, informed me at the last minute that the direct bus to Pushkar broke down. He reimbursed me the 100R difference and said I would now have to go from Udaipur to Ajmer by sleeper bus and get a taxi to Pushkar from there.
The rickshaw driver put me on the spot and demanded an extra 100R due to the Ganesh festivities that were taking place around town. According to him, he was now forced to drive a longer route and I had to pay for that (that was found out later not to be true…). So, things evened out…
Ganesh festivities around Udaipur. September 2018
Udaipur to Ajmer - Starting on the Left Foot
The problem in India – getting from point A to point B
Generally speaking, things in India are cool and nice as long as you stay put in one place and learn to know and enjoy the vibes, the people and the locality. The problems always start when you need to get from point A to point B. Here is where the unpredicatable is the predictable and adventures, sometimes uncalled for, lurk at every bus turn.
The station where the rickshaw dropped me was empty, except for the manager sitting behind his desk. Nobody seemed to be going from Udaipur to Ajmer. It was getting dark. The bus was scheduled in three quarters of an hour or so.
The bus station was on the other side of the street from the Ganesha Festival – lights, music, food, people. I took a break and walked towards the event, leaving my stuff half-heartedly at the station. Men, children were following me, watching me, with unclear intentions. I steered away. Feeling uncomfortable I went back to the station.
From zero to 100%
Time passed, and no bus. People slowly started to show up and then dispersed into their respective buses. The guy at the station promised me it was his personal responsibility to get me from Udaipur to Ajmer, so I should relax. Somehow I did not relax and, indeed, things did not work out that well.
Out of the blue and in a big rush a very fat guy who was working there ordered me to follow him a few hundred meters to the other side, where several buses were queued. It did not occur to him to help me with my luggage, so I struggled behind him. As usual with transportation, activity increases from zero to 100% in the course of one minute, and the stress level accordingly.
The guy at the station said I will not have A/C, but the fat guy brought me to an A/C bus. He thought he was doing me a great favor. It was a disaster.
Udaipur to Ajmer - The Morgue
This was my first ever (and hopefully the last ever) sleeper bus. If you have ever been on a bus – I mean those long moving boxes with people tucked inside them – you know these things do not move smoothly and steadily even at the best of times. But when you are expected to sleep 50 cm from the ceiling of this box, and the bus hits a pothole, or an uneven pavement, there you go… The bus would jump and you would be a notch away from banging your head against the rails or the ceiling.
This as my booth. It looks nice and cozy, but was none of the sort. The A/C was so intense I felt I was on a cubicle in a morgue. The blanket was too short to cover me up, so either head or feet were constantly freezing. Closing the vent did not help either.
But that was the smaller problem. The big one was the A/C. Although the cell itself was nice and sturdy and there was a blanket provided, it was completely insufficient to keep me warm.
If I closed the air outlet, it vented on my feet that ended up freezing. When I changed angles, different parts of my body froze in turn. Blanket plus sleeping bag liner plus shawl plus extra clothing did not suffice to keep me warm… It felt like the bus was a moving fridge, and the cell was my cubicle in the morgue…
More people eventually got on the bus and filled the space between the booths. Some were sleeping on the floor.
Center of the sleeper bus
For hours I could not sleep, but then came the punch…
When I finally did fall asleep it was deep, very deep, so deep in fact that when I woke up it was daylight. There was a city outside, but when I asked people around me if this was finally Ajmer they told me we were already in Jaipur…
At first I did not believe them…
But, yes, apparently I passed my destination by about 2 hours … The Udaipur to Ajmer portion was just a section of the bus’s overall trip.
A Cargo Bus and a Bathroom Problem
Once I understood that this was, indeed, the reality, I rushed with my stuff to the bus driver. He was sympathetic to my plight, stopped the bus and hailed another bus going in the opposite direction on the highway. They seemed to know each other, but maybe they were just friendly, as bus drivers sharing the toil of the roads tend to be to each other.
The other bus driver agreed to take me and helped me get my stuff up the stairs. It was also a sleeper bus, but of the local cheapie variety, and served additionally as a cargo bus. It was headed to Ajmer. There was no A/C. I almost wished I was on this bus in the first place.
After 10 minutes drive or so he stopped somewhere to unload his cargo. Nobody spoke English. I was a total oddity among the passengers.
And then I needed to pee. Badly. Urgently.
Nature’s call and the art of improvisation
I communicated that to the driver, but he said there were no toilets there. Everybody’s faces were blank. No such facility around here.
Eventually one guy told me there was a toilet a few hundred meters away, like a 5-minute walk at least. He volunteered to show me where. I left my stuff on the bus with some trepidation, and followed him for a bit. But it seemed to go on and on, no end to the walk in sight, and after all there was no guarantee the bus driver would not get back on his bus and move on with my stuff without me.
Under extreme situations one does things out of character. On the trip from McLoed to Manali I threw my vomit bag on the ground against all my principles… And in the current situation I improvised a way to relieve myself. There was a bridge on the left supported by large concrete pillars. Ignoring the crowd of people I knew I will never see again, I went under the bridge, found a relatively secure spot, and went about my business as fast as I could. Then ran back to the bus.
All is well that ends well…
The bus was still there, waiting. My luggage was on board. Nobody touched anything. The passengers were happy to see me back.
The trip was lovely and the driver did not charge me a penny. Not only that, by now he was scheduled to change the route and actually continue all the way to Pushkar. I was dropped by the ashram on the main road, five minutes walk from the Shankar Palace. The universe in its roundabout way actually got me to my original destination for free…
I was only a few hours late. Simba at the Shankar Palace was happy to see me again, though I did not get a nice room this time. The better ones were already taken by a group of Israelis that had arrived during my absence. The big mochila I had left there was sound and well.
The world was now smiling at me. When I rushed to Shiva’s place, everything there worked out well too. Shiva promptly issued me the tickets to the Manmad Junction, as if all previous concerns were just hot air.
Life was good again and Pushkar blessed me with several nice days of strolling, good dining, dancing, shopping and beautiful views. More about that in a later post.
Keep posted. Subscribe.
The Morals of the Story
The morals of the story are:
- Mother said: take a sweater.
- Things in India seem to always miraculously turn around right in the end.
- Most Indian people are trustworthy. They have a word and keep it. Trust them, and they will trust you.
- If you can possibly avoid it, don’t go by sleeper bus. Anything else will be preferrable if available…
- God’s land is the original toilet.
- If you do sleep on train or bus, set up an alarm clock.
- Enjoy your India trip and life journey, twists, turns and all.
- Don’t worry – be happy. At least, while in India…