Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Long Road to Pushkar

Even though we were enjoying our time in McLoud Ganj, we figured it was time to move on. I mean, we can't really say we've been to India if we spend all of our time hidding out with Tibetan Refugees up in the Northwest corner. So, after finishing our last cooking class (which can only be described as "delightful" ...yes, I said, "delightful"); we boarded a night bus from Dharmasala to Dehli.

Now, you all know how much I generally love night buses. Well, this one wasn't half bad. We got sleeper bunks, so we had a small bed to share. And, I popped a couple of sleeping pills, so I spent the night actually -beleive it or not- sleeping.

The sleeper bed on our bus to Dehli. And, no, we didn't sleep head to foot, I was just trying to get a picture that conveyed how tiny the sleeper bunk was.

We awoke outside of Dehli,around 5am, which is also where our bus basically dropped us off. For reasons that I don't fully understand, most of the private buses drop their passengers off in what appear to be completely random streets. So, we hired an auto-rickshaw to take us to the bus station.

And, of course, the auto-rickshaw broke down halfway there. I've come to realize that, in India, pretty much everything just barely works. But, the rickshaw driver flagged another one down, and we were on our way again.

But, then the rickshaw driver didn't seem to know where the bus station was. Which was doubly odd because we very noticably drove past it a couple of times. So, eventually, Sarah and I just had him pull over, and we walked to the station on our own.

At the station, we were approached by a salesman. "Where would you like to go?"

"To Pushkar."

"Well, we don't go to Pushkar, but we go to Ajmar. Which is very close. Like, 5 kilometers. You arrive in Ajmar at, maybe, 4pm. You can buy a ticket in Ajmar for, maybe, 5 Rupees to get you to Pushkar." So, we bought a ticket.

Then, they loaded us into a van to take us to where their bus was parked (because, of course, it wasn't parked at the bus station). As we loaded our bags onto the roof, Sarah remarked: "Do you think they are safe up there?"

"Of course they are, honey. They do this all the time. I'm sure they know what they are doing." I replied.

So, of course, two corners later, my bag goes flying off the roof of the van and tumbling across the (thankfully) empty intersection. The driver and I leap from the van, and dash back to where my bag sits in the middle of a group of spectators. As I go to put the bag on the roof, the driver says: "Maybe we put inside."

Arriving at the bus, we board it and at 8:30am it slowly departs. Over and hour later, it still has yet to leave Dehli. Another thing that Indian buses are fond of, is slowly tooling from bus stop to bus stop, taking on random stragglers until there is standing room only. And then (and only then) do they depart for their destination.

Sometime around 4pm, we finally make it... to Jaipur. Which is only halfway to Ajmar. "Last stop. Everyone off." The driver announces.

"But, our tickets were for Ajmar (actually I said "Am-jar"... my reoccuring mispronouciation)!" I protested, holding out our ticket.

"Ah!" Some random tall thin man says, snatching the ticket from my hand. "Follow me." So, Sarah and I grab up our bags, push through the crowd of auto-rickshaw drivers and follow him to another gravel parking lot across the street.

"Your bus will be here at 4:30. You take this bus to Ajmar. Maybe 2 hour drive. There you can catch a bus, maybe 15 Rupees, to Pushkar."

"But, the person who sold us the ticket said we'd be at Ajmar at 4pm." I replied.

To which I merely recieved a confused head bobbled that I've come to understand means "this is India, what can I say."

So, at 4:30 we board another bus. And, about 2 and a half hours later, we are being unloaded on another random street, somewhere 6 kilometers outside of Ajmar. Again, the swarm of auto-rickshaw drivers surrounds us.

"500 rupees! I take you to Pushkar!" "400 Rupees to Pushkar!" They announce proudly. To which Sarah and I can only protest: "No! The bus driver said it would be 15 Rupees."

They all look at us with disbelief.

Eventually, we determine that we are at the privte bus station, and that for 100 Rupees we can get a ride to the public bus station. From there, we can get on a bus that will take us to Pushkar.

So, without another choice, we jump on another rickshaw, who takes us the 8 kilometers to the public buys station. Pulling up to the station, the driver parks across the street.

"It looks like you are too late. The buses have already left. They would be here. I will take you to Psuhkar for 500 Rupees." Even though he says that, we can see a visible crowd across the street, and a line of parked buses.

"Just let us go look at the station. See the schedule." I say, as we haul the bags from his rickshaw.

"Then I need pay for drive you here." He replies. I hand him 100 Rupees. "No," he says, "100 Rupees each."

Somehow I manage to drag a snarl from somewhere deep within Care Bear-Hell and reply: "No! That's not what you said! I heard you! 100 for both!" Amazingly he repeats to his rickshaw.

Meanwhile, loaded down with bags, Sarah's weaving through traffic to the line of buses. I follow. Between her and I is a sea of rickshaw drivers: "All buses to Pushkar have gone! I drive you for 500 Rupees!" They seem to announce to me in unison. Just as I'm about to start a shoutiung match with them, I suddenly hear:

"Tyler! Here!"

I look over to see Sarah -loaded with her backpack- literally throwing herself onto a slowly moving bus. Turning she says "its going to Pushkar!"

Breaking free of the mob, I trundle over, and manage to leap and squeeze myself onto the bus also. Te bus is packed, but at least we are on. And, the 8 Rupees a person cost definitely beat the 500 Rupees the rickshaw drivers were asking.

So, squeezed onto the bus, Sarah and I make the final leg of our trip to Pushkar. Sitting next to me is a cheerful 9-year old boy who proceeds to bombard me with questions, via his father:

"What is your name?"
"What is your wifes name?"
"How old are you?"
"What is your mom's name?"
"What is your job?"
"What type of school did you go to?"
"How many kids do you have?"
"Tell me how much you love your country."
"Why doesn't your wife wear a sari?"

Then, 30 minutes later, we are being unloaded onto a random street in Pushkar. It's 8pm. 26 hours. 4 buses. And three auto-rickshaws later. We've arrived.


Betsy Wasser said...

Why doesn't your wife wear a sari? That's what I'd like to know.

d said...

f*ck the monorail. seattle just needs a massive fleet of rickshaws.

The General said...

I'm not sure why Sarah doesn't wear a sari. I think she's completely crazy.

...I mean, I'm wearing a sari right now.

Oh, and I'd completely loose my mind if Seattle had a fleet of rickshaw drivers. Imagine the most clingy, needy person you've ever dated... now times that by about four. hat's your average rickshaw driver.

littlemonstercallum said...

What a journey! But as you say... "this is India..."

Divya said...

this is a fantastic post! I think you really just captured the essence of india right there. my favorite part is your descriptions of how people just blatantly lie to try and sell you stuff!