Overnight Bus To Pushkar

Trip Start Jun 14, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Shri Shyam Krishna Guesthouse

Flag of India  , Rajasthan,
Sunday, November 28, 2010

Since being in India we've heard a lot of harrowing stories about bus journeys. One recent story we heard was of a tourist taking an overnight bus between Rajasthani cities.  The traveller had a terribly bumpy ride over potholed roads, but little did he expect the bumpiness he experienced in the early hours of the morning that woke him completely.  It was only after he got out of his sleeper berth to investigate that he found the bus was travelling down a dry river bed negotiating all kinds of obstacles including doing a three-point turn around a massive boulder –all this in an apparent effort by the bus driver to take a short cut to their final destination.  Despite stories such as this we had no hesitation in deciding on taking an overnight bus from Jaisalmer to Pushkar—all in the name of new experiences! 

We booked a double sleeping berth, something that we and perhaps most of you as readers may be unaware existed on busses.  The sleeping berths are like oversized overhead luggage compartments with doors into which you climb and slide shut--the "bedroom doors" for privacy.  We thought the idea rather curious and exciting and were looking forward to our brand new experience.  Under these berths are people occupying regular seating.

The bus was due to leave Jaisalmer at 4:30 p.m. and arrive in Pushkar at 4:30 a.m. the following morning--a twelve hour bus ride.  We were rather impressed when after boarding the bus left half an hour early; but pretty soon we became aware that the bus was merely doing circuits around Jaisalmer, picking up a passenger here and there until we finally arrived back at the depot well after the time we were due to depart the city.  By the time we left in earnest, the bus was running one hour late and already Nancy and I, hidden away in our own private bedroom/luggage compartment/coffin, were dying for a pee and were muttering prayers to a pantheon of Hindu Gods that we would arrive somewhere to relieve ourselves before too long.  Unfortunately– and we think it was because the bus driver wanted to make up time–we had to wait about 3 hours before our first stop next to what appeared to be a village garbage dump that smelled of everything noxious.  I was off the bus in a flash expecting Nancy to be close on my heels.  I returned to the bus smiling with relief only to find Nancy still at the steps of the bus wondering where I was without any relief at all for herself

Nancy was clearly distressed as we climbed back into what for me was now a sleeping berth and must have felt to Nancy like a coffin.  Pretty soon Nancy was complaining that she desperately needed to go to the bathroom but we guessed it would be another couple of hours before another stop.  I was worried for Nancy and having one empty two-litre, wide-mouthed, stainless-steel, Mountain Equipment Co-op water container, I caringly suggested that she might try and relieve herself in the dark on this bucking and swaying overnight bus.  Nancy was appalled that I would suggest such a solution and we argued quietly over the absolute lack of options to this critical situation.  Nancy, who will try anything once, eventually relented and with some difficulty positioned herself modesty to one side as I guarded the sliding door for her privacy while she set about the contortions necessary to get something into the bottle–not that dissimilar from certain visits to the doctor she informs me.  Now, as most of you know, my hearing is very poor, but I tried very hard to hear the tinkling evidence that would signal the end to Nancy’s dilemma; but I heard not a sound except the engine of the bus and the wind whistling through a one inch gap in what was supposed to be snugly shut windows.  After what seemed an eternity to me, and actually was an eternity to Nancy, she came to the conclusion that this was not going to work for her.

On the other hand, I had over-hydrated that day and was quickly in need of relief once more; so I quickly adopted the solution I had hoped would work for Nancy and voided about a third of a litre into the empty water bottle.  Nancy was very impressed; and I must give Nancy her due credit she has the spirit of persistence and inspired by my success she quickly rose to the occasion again and gave it one more attempt that was sadly doomed to failure again

Eventually there was a second stop at an equally stinky roadside location.  The men piled out very quickly and I heard the bus driver announce, “Five minutes!” as Nancy shot out the door.  Trailing behind her, I confirmed with the bus driver “Five minutes?”  He replied “Two minutes”.  I stopped, appalled that he would have deducted three minutes from our stop in the five seconds it took for Nancy to pass him out the door and me to look for a confirmation.  I angrily turned on him and said “No!  It’s five minutes. My wife needs to go to the toilet (obviously a loose term considering the location)!” He looked stunned at my vehemence and nodded his assent.  I rushed out the door to assist Nancy in any way I could as she located a shadowy area amongst the roadside garbage and a few feet away from the men who were preoccupied in rushed voiding.  Necessity had already worked wonders on reducing Nancy’s threshold of shame!

We quickly piled back on the bus and climbed back into what felt more like a sleeping berth for both of us now as we collapsed in relief and talked quietly about this whole situation of just two rapid stops that seemed only intended to accommodate the vast majority of passengers who were men who in this culture have permission to pee anywhere during the day or night.  There were only three women on the entire bus and Nancy was the only white woman.  For some reason the other women didn’t appear to need a bathroom break, or perhaps they had prepared for the journey by being dehydrated so as not to need a break.  In any event, as Nancy and I talked quietly about the problem, we decided that accommodation of women on the bus journey was entirely secondary to accommodating men.

Nancy was ok for the remainder of the journey, while I managed to top up the entire 2 litre water bottle.

Now, as if this wasn’t enough of a shock to our psyche and our systems, in the early hours of the morning the bus came to a halt and it was announced we had arrived in Pushkar.  We were horrified since it was still only 2:30 a.m. and our planned arrival time was for 4:30 a.m.  We quickly gathered items we had removed from our backpacks and spread out around our berth and stuffed them in as we dragged ourselves and our belongings out of our sleeping berth and made for the door even as the driver was ready to pull away before allowing us to disembark.  However, we did get off into the complete darkness and emptiness of some kind of deserted street.

A limping little man approached us, clearly anxious about passengers he was to pick up. “Are you French?” He asked. We told him we weren’t, but he insisted on asking again: “Are you sure you’re not French!” Feeling disoriented as we were, I’m sure he might have convinced us we were French had he persisted, but our wits prevailed. We were directed by our disappointed little man to another auto-rickshaw that had already picked up a fellow white person heading coincidentally for the same hotel we were booked at.  When we arrived at the hotel outer gate it was locked up tight in the pitch black of the night.  Our driver was attempting to convince us to try his hotel connection (for which he would have received a commission) and gave only a half-hearted attempt at rousing the hotel custodians.  However, within a few minutes lights were turned on and we were welcomed in to Shri Shyam Krishna Guesthouse. 

Now there is a simple moral to this story:  never take an overnight sleeper bus from Jaisalmer to Pushkar.  If you do make sure you are the driver.
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