Bus mix ups (and downs)

The dispatcher made another call and a rickshaw appeared. We were loaded into it and off we zoomed into the rain and darkness with instructions to pay the driver 200 rupees. The driver flew the rickshaw over humps and bumps while we held on for life.

THERE’S nothing worse than missing your bus in the middle of nowhere on a rainy night and you just can’t hop on another bus because there’s none but that’s getting ahead of the story.

It all started when my travel buddy Rolly and I booked our return trip from the Himalayan mountains to New Delhi from a small travel agency in Manali. The guy we talked to gave us a receipt for our bus tickets, and that was it. We were excited to check out the place and didn’t even check out what was in that small piece of paper, not until the next day when I discovered I didn’t even see a bus number.

Fast forward the next day, we checked out of our hotel at noon, spent the afternoon at a restaurant before heading to the bus station on the outskirts of town. I was imagining the usual bus terminal with a roof and rows of seats at the waiting area but I was in for a surprise.

There was no terminal. Buses of all sizes and colors were parked everywhere at a sprawling muddy lot right next to the Beas River. We walked to one of the few tents selling coffee, hot noodles and snacks as it began to rain. More passengers arrived and we all crowded under the sagging tent.

Our bus was scheduled to leave at 5:30 p.m. Rolly went out in the rain to find our bus. He came back dripping a few minutes later and said that the bus was parked way out in the other end but it was not open yet.

We waited as the skies poured out its fury, shivering with the cold and dodging every time the tent gave way and dripped water on us. Finally spent, the rain reduced to a drizzle and we went to our bus, picking our way around mud and flooding waters.

It was finally open. With our luggage stored under the bus, we found our assigned seats and settled in.

The bus began to fill up. A couple of young Indian men headed to our direction while looking at their tickets. They looked at us and we looked at them, until one of them asked if the seats were 32 and 33.

Sure enough, they got the same seat assignment as us.

My buddy looked for the dispatcher, who in turn checked his list and said that we were in the wrong bus and our bus already left half an hour ago.

This is not a place where you can just hop on the next bus because you have to book tickets ahead of time. You cannot just get on without reservations, unless you want to stand up for the whole 15-hour trip.   

My flight out of New Delhi was at 11pm the next day and it connects to two more flights and I can’t afford to rebook all of it.

My buddy argued with the dispatcher for not checking. The dispatcher made a series of calls, none of which we understood but we can tell he was arguing with someone. Finally, the dispatcher said we had to ride a rickshaw to chase our bus.

The dispatcher made another call and a rickshaw appeared. We were loaded into it and off we zoomed into the rain and darkness with instructions to pay the driver 200 rupees. The driver flew the rickshaw over humps and bumps while we held on for life.

My mind stopped registering anything else. It seemed forever until we finally spotted the bus on the side of the road in the next town.

We had to pay our luggage again because the first bus won’t return our money. Dripping wet, we made a grand entrance to our seats as all passengers in the bus followed our progress with piercing looks, all of them angry at us for causing the delay.

Traveling offers so many lessons that you learn the hard way, lessons that no one else can teach you but count it all as part of the fun.

Travel notes/tips

If you go to Manali, you have an option to take the government run buses. They are kind of dilapidated not so comfortable as the private buses but the government-run buses have a covered terminal right in the center of Manali, you don’t have to go anywhere else. You can’t have it all

The 15- hour bus ride spans a distance of 603 kilometers along winding mountains and rivers and picturesque views but you don’t get to enjoy it as the buses usually travel at night. If you want a daylight trip, you can book with a tour company which comes with a car and a driver and you’re in good hands

Read more adventures/misadventures at www.travelwands.com.

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