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A Road Once Taken

My Scholarship entry - A local encounter that changed my life

WORLDWIDE | Sunday, 22 April 2012 | Views [304] | Scholarship Entry

It was chilly and dark, but for the pale glow from the only building in sight. A few feet away, hood open, driver peering into its belly, was my bus. Still 2 hours to Toulouse, we were stranded by a lonely cafe in the middle of France. Dusting myself off the pavement, after being woken up and ushered down the 22-seater, I groggily made my way in.
The aroma of fresh coffee greeted me as I entered. It was 4am and I had a feeling we’d be there a while. “Un cafe, s’il vous plait”. Andrea, a fellow traveller smiled as I motioned if I could join her. Acquainted when the bus was late to depart Barcelona a few hours earlier, we both sipped our coffee and waited. They’d get it fix or send us another bus within an hour, so we’re told.
French music played softly in the background as other passengers filled the cafe. Few had coffee; others pastry; some rested their heads on their arms on a table and resumed their disrupted sleep. Then there were those camped at the Wi-Fi area, where they could also charge their gadgets. I joined the latter, but sadly, the Wi-Fi was down.
Even worse, I had a train to catch from Toulouse at 8. My new Guatemalan friend, coincidently, needed to catch the same train. So after an hour and still no bus, we considered other options. A painstakingly complex tête-à-tête with the locals given our restricted French, and many crude drawings later, we found out we could take a train to Toulouse but it would take an hour to get to the station and there was no guarantee that there was a train out that early in the morning. Mathematically, we realised that even if there was, we still wouldn’t make it in time, so we continued waiting.
Yes, we missed our train that day, and it didn’t matter if they fixed the bus or a replacement finally arrived. When we did reach Toulouse at 8:01, we got on the next train and though delayed, we still got to our destination. In the end, it’s the journey that I’ll never forget, one which Andrea and I still talk about until today.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2012

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