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Harwar - Hubli, Hubli - Delhi.

INDIA | Friday, 12 September 2008 | Views [1788]

10/09/2008 - 12/09/2008

Harwar - Hubli, Hubli - Delhi.

Trust the mental map.

And here i go again - another story about Indian travel. But, Karnataka is a hell of a long way from Delhi, as you are about to read. After our goodbyes to Shai, we went searching for the right bus. Not as easy as it sounds. What i had taken so far as meaning 'yes' in Hindi (a sort of grunt), led us onto a (yeah, you guessed it) crowded bus. We took our seats up the back, where there is at least a bit of room for the packs. And of course, no one else wants to sit in the back - behind the rear wheels, you are guaranteed the worst ride. The gap between seat and ass can widen to half a meter at times... After an hour and a half, i realised my error in Hindi translation; 'yes' means 'yes', and the non commital grunt was exactly that. It meant 'yes, you CAN get to Hubli VIA this bus'. We were dumped at a bus stand in a un-named town, right as the bus to Hubli drove away. Shit. Being a non tourist town, the locals were firstly shocked, but then curious about our arrival. Our attempts to work out when the next bus left were frustrating to say the least. I really should have tried to learn some basic Hindi before coming. Then again, there wasn't much time for that..

Our efforts to find the next bus had also attracted a crowd. There were about 50 or 60 students at the bus stand, and while the older folk are happy to stare from a distance, these guys were a bit more personal shall we say. Within 2 minutes of arriving, we had a circle of onlookers, 50 strong, in an ever tightening ring around us. You have no idea. The phones came out to take pictures, text message friends - it was crazy. I have been in a lot of places where a tourist is the last thing they expect, but never, ever anything like this. It was confronting to say the least! Didi had played their game, and worked the crowd into giving us half a meter of clear space around us. But it didn't last. Within 30 seconds, they were as good as touching us again. There was one guy, who could speak passable english, who had helped with the bus conductors (who had no english - or at least pretended so) and was amoungst the students. I asked him if we were really that interesting to them. He answered an emphatic "Yes, you are - tourists never visit here".

To escape, we got onto a different bus. There was no way we could sit there with the increasing crowd for the hour until the Hubli one. I had taken it with good grace, but it's not what i would call pleasant, and i didn't want to be there any longer than necessary. While Didi had taken it well at first, she was looking like she would have an asthma attack after 15 minutes. She was obviously more of an attraction than me, so the subject of most of those eyes. And with 50 people crowding around you, it's quite an oppressive feeling! Not to meention physically hot and stifling. There was a town further along where we could change buses again, so we did it. The next bus stand (about 90 min away) was nowhere near as bad, though of course we had the beggars and a small group of spectators - about 10, who all moved so they could see, then simply stared. I have mentioned lessons from India before - and there was certainly one in this. To be so completely different in a foreign place can be incredibly daunting, at times scary and at others uncomfortable - a true experience of being the outsider. Being stuck in an unpleasant situation with no conceivable means of escape is enough to bring up all sorts of personal issues, fears and predjudices. Acceptance of what 'is' being the lesson forced upon me over and over... Uncomfortable, yes. Empowering definitely. One of those experiences i'm certain i will never forget.

Finally, 5 and a half hours after leaving Hampi, we arrived at the Hubli railway station. Actually, we overshot it, and had to catch a rickshaw back. Today was looking to be a long day, with most things that could go wrong, going wrong. At least we had made it to the station on time i guess. I had booked our train tickets to Delhi through an agent - it was easier than trying to work it all out myself, and i needed the emergency quota - we had left it too late for normal tickets. So he had said 16:20, leave Hubli, 06:05, arrive in Delhi. This of course threw my mental map of India into question again - i've mentioned this before. I should really trust it. But more on that later. We found our way to our sleeper, and after getting our gear sorted, were asked to move. The numbers on our tickets were wrong - we had been changed. My deep breath was exhaled when i realised it was only 1 cabin away. We sorted our gear again, and sat back for the journey. The ensuing hour saw even more reshuffling, affecting us in that we now had new cabin mates. There's 6 berths to a cabin, and we now had a family of 6 sharing with us - a couple with their 2 yo twin boys, plus the wifes sister, complete with 1 year old. This was going to be a long journey. I'm a reasonably tolerant man, but would have happily strangled those 2 little spoilt selfish brats!

I'll try not to dwell too much on this journey - i am used to long travel, and all the 'excitement' that accompanies it in India, yet i have to mention the times... I spoke before of my mental map, and our projected arival time of 6 am. In my head, it was a 30 hour journey. The times made it a 14 hour journey. Didi went to bed (i won't use the word sleep - i've mentioned the twins) happy that we would be there soon. I went to bed worried. All was confirmed in the morning. At about 2 am we had some new arrivals - the Shimla tae-kwon-doe team was returning from a tournament. They had booked 7 berths - there were 2 available. I awoke to a young guy, about 17, sitting at my feet. It didn't worry me, and i said he could stay. It was from him, Parveem, that i worked out all the details. We would arrive in Delhi at 6:05, but not today. We had another 24 hrs on the train - somehow i had made the same mistake again! I awoke Didi to tell her the news... Her first reaction was denial. A direct "NO".  Then, after muttering something in Hebrew, she rolled back over, and went to sleep. It turned out better than we thought though. As annoying as the twins were, as hard as my bed was, as much as the toilet stank and as much as i needed a cigarette, the 38hrs passed quickly enough, and soon i was watching the day dawn over Delhi. A day later than i had planned, but hey, no one's perfect....



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