3 Packs, 3 Buses, and 1 Hell of a Day

I looked like a crazy person as I walked out of the hotel. I could hardly see over top of Kelsi’s bag that I had strapped to my front. My own bag was balancing me out on my back: my little legs looked like they were about to snap under all the weight. I hobbled sideways down the three stairs to the street level. I hadn’t fallen thus far, which meant I was doing much better than I had visualized while I was strapping myself in!
A Tuk Tuk drove by just as I stumbled into the street.
“Hello Tuk Tuk?”
“Yes, to the bus station please”
He didn’t even rip me off that much. He probably looked at me and thought I was in enough trouble.
“You have a lot of bags!” He yelled back to me while we were en route.
“I needed one for my shoes.” I yelled back.
He looked confused. To this day he probably thinks I’m one of those crazy backpackers that carries 19 pairs of heels and a hair straightener with me.
No big deal. If I have it my way I’ll never be back to Madurai again.
I looked even crazier at the bus station as I put all my packs back on. Not only did I have to walk partially sideways so that I could see, I was also giggling to myself at how ridiculous I must look to everyone.
“I need a bus to Nagarcovil” I said as I reached the bus official’s stand
“Where are you going?” He asked
“To Trivandrum.”
“You can catch this bus to Tirunivelli and catch a transferring bus to Trivandrum” said the bus attendant from a neighboring bus.
“I’d rather not. Buses for Trivandrum from Tirunivelli only leave every three hours, I’d never catch the connecting bus. Plus it’s not a By Pass Rider, so it’ll take twice as long.”
The attendant turned to the officer behind the desk, shocked that I had any opinion on the matter.
“She’s right. Nagarcovil is the best”
I am SO glad I had the full spiel from Muthu the waiter the night before.
“This is the best route. Only use a by-pass rider, they take half the time and cost the same amount. They leave every 20 minutes” he had explained.
I might look like an idiot but I sounded like a pro.
“Go ahead and sit down, a by-pass rider to Nagarcovil will be here in five minutes.
And just like that I caught my first bus!
I majorly lucked out and got the only, single seat at the front of the bus. I attached one pack to the side of the seat next to me and the other in front. I threw my feet up on the bag in front and was set to go! Finding space for our luggage on buses has been the most trying task for us in India. It grieves Kelsi and I each time we drag ourselves on to a crowded state bus. Finding this seat was my equivalent of winning the lottery (well, a small lottery).
The first bus was 5 hours. 5-hour bus rides don’t phase me in the slightest. After traveling South America, where we leaped for joy at any journey less than 14 hours, 5 hours was like taking a nap. I can zone out and stare into nothingness for at least 7 hours before getting restless.
To my surprise, the estimated 5 hour time was spot on. I was dropped of in Nagarcovil almost exactly five hours after leaving Madurai.
It took me a while to stumble off the bus, but when I did I smelled something only a Vancouverite knows well: rain. It was that scent that means you have a five or ten minute window before the skies open up and you and your 150 liters worth of luggage get soaked to the bone.
I ran off to find my next bus. And let’s be honest, by ran, I mean I hobbled my way crookedly to the next bus stand.
Turns out the bus was leaving that exact second. What are the chances?! I hopped on just in time to feel the first few drops of rain hit my face. Good thing I’m under the cover of the bus!
But I should have known better; in India, things are never that easy.
It took a total of 30 seconds of torrential downpour to realize the bus wasn’t waterproof. Water leaked in through every crack, every opening, and every seam on the bus. The floor started to flood, and the bags were soaking up the rain water. The poor man in front of me tried desperately to save my things. I hauled my bag onto my lap, and he pulled Kelsi’s towards him. Water was dripping in on our heads and down his back. Everyone desperately shut their windows in an attempt to stay dry; problem was, this made the windshield fog up.
Indian buses are clearly not cut out for rain. The windshield wiper only covers about 1/10th of the windshield. I’m not joking. Just the upper right hand corner where the bus driver looks out gets wiped. Not that it mattered on this bus really, since the single wiper blade had so many holes and bends that it didn’t work at all.
Even as the window fogged, our driver swerved madly through traffic, honking all the while. He was one of those horn-happy Tamil Nadu drivers… My favorite. He incessantly used the horn at the sight of anything! You know a society has a horn problem when they can actually lock in their horn so that it will go off continuously until you unhook it. Our driver would lock in the horn for a solid ten seconds while he used both hands to weave through cars at speeds way too fast for a bus in rain.
When the window fogged the driver turned to me.
“Getting foggy” he smiled at me.
Oh god. How in the world can you see anything at all?!
From the looks of the bus, there was absolutely no chance of a defroster. The dashboard had wires hanging out of it in all directions, all leading somewhere down by the driver’s feet. The driver leaned back and grabbed his 2-litre water bottle. He unscrewed the cap and tossed it out the window. He then took the two litres of water and began spraying it in front of him wildly. The water splashed against the windshield, dissipating enough fog for the driver to see. The rest of the water soaked down onto the dashboard and onto the wires.
What about this situation is safe?! This is crazy!
All I could do was laugh.
All of a sudden something on the roof opened up and a huge bucket of water came splashing down onto the man in front of me. It soaked both him and the bag that he was carrying… Kelsi’s bag. Goddammit that girl has the worst luck in the world! Even when she’s not here her bag gets a bucket of water poured right down into it.
I sighed. What can I do!
About 20 minutes of driving through the rain later, we finally came out of the cloud. Abruptly, the water all stopped. The streets were dry, the people on the streets unphased: it was like the water had just come out of nowhere!
Another couple hours and a bus change later I made it to Kovalam. I strapped on my 100 lbs of bags and inched my way down the windy road towards lighthouse beach. About a kilometer later, I’d made it to the edge of town.
“Excuse me, do you know where Ganesh Tattoo is? My hotel is next door to it.” I asked a guy on the side of the road.
“Ganesh tattoo?! Looking for a tattoo? Yeah! I know it, follow me!”
By this point I was dying. The sun was scorching, sweat was dripping down my face and my legs were jelly. I was so excited to just sit down. The guy that was helping me wouldn’t stop talking.
“What country are you from? Where are you coming from? You sure do have a lot of bags! Do you need a hotel for the night? Are you going surfing later?”
I could hardly answer I was so out of breath. You think he’d offer to help me with at least a small bag! Everyone could see I was struggling to stay upright. Finally we came around the corner and into a shop.
“Here you go! My friend does the best tattoos!”
“Is this Ganesh tattoo?” I asked.
“No!” He said “This is a way better tattoo parlor. My friend does the best in Kovalam. Here, look through his stuff”
“I don’t want a tattoo!” I exclaimed “I said my HOTEL is next to Ganesh tattoo!” I was exasperated. The entire time I talked about how I already HAD a hotel, and it was next to Ganesh tattoo… He hadn’t listened to a word I said. Who in their right mind gets off an 8 hour bus ride with two huge packs and before even checking into a room decides “hey, I should get a tattoo RIGHT NOW!”
“I’m sorry,” I explained “I am looking for Ganesh tattoo”
Totally unimpressed, the man sighed.
“That way” he said, as he flicked his hand in the general direction of the parlor.
Thanks. You’re so kind.
It was about a five minute walk further before I stumbled across it. I FOUND IT! A young girl outside knew where the tall Canadian guy was staying and pointed me in the right direction.
As I struggled up the stairs I called Myles’ name. I wasn’t half way up the flight of stairs before he poked his head out the door.
“Oh my god!” He exclaimed, looking at the state of me. He grabbed both the bags and helped me inside.
“Guess what? I’ve got beers!” Said Myles excitedly.
I nearly cried. It was the best news I’d heard all day!
The trip was over, the bags were in one place, I wasn’t stranded alone in Madurai, the sun was shining on the beach, and Myles and I had a cool beer on our patio. India round two is looking up!

1 thought on “3 Packs, 3 Buses, and 1 Hell of a Day

  1. I think we are all glad you are safely home…what memories you have posted.
    See you soon…in quiet, calm Brunswick.


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