Friday, November 03, 2006

Bound for Bombay


The smell of petrol and burnt rubber is overpowering, it tickles the back of my throat and my hand throbbs.

I am on a bus from Udaipur to Pune via a bus change in Mumbai (Bombay). I fear I may have dislocated my thumb when it was jammed in the window.

The bus grinds to an unexpected halt, following a large bang and I realise that we have had a tyre blow out.

I wonder if we will ever make it, we are already 5 hours late after stopping in transit for a grease and oil change. The journey is estimated to take 19 hours and I watch as 15/20 men stand around the tyre and take of the old rubber. This really could take forever.

My hand is very swallon, Indians spill into the isle and an old lady in a red sari sleeps on the floor beside me.

Faintly, I can smell the soothing scent of nag champa incense waft through the bus to take away the toxic rubber smell.

The neon lights are out, replaced with soft red night lights offering a delicate pink hue to everything and I wonder if I am travelling in a moving bordello.

I am unable to find any painkillers, those which I gave out so freely yesterday are missing in my over sized bag. My torch is nowhere to be found and I grit my teeth as I lie in my sleeper compartment. I am on the top bunk of the bus and walled in on both sides, it feels like a coffin. My head and feet touch both ends.

There are 4 other tourists on the bus, 3 are from Spain and their English is broken, there is also the only English speaking French man I have ever met, fresh from spending 3 years on Wall Street as a broker. He has ginger hair and ginger eyes and he acts as translator with his broken Spanish and we all nod along in confusion together.

Secretly I think he is in love with one of the Spaniards, the give each other the eye and giggle together in their European way.

In the morning everything is different, the dessert surrounds have been replaced with a lush tropical back drop with palm trees dotting the landscape.

My finger is different too, it is now the colour of lapis lazuli and whilst I have regained some movement there is still a numb pain that extends to my elbow.

White Ambassador classics are now out numbered by black and yellow premier fiats, still similar to my beloved old Holden's but perhaps a little more modern with less chrome and a squarer shape.

Traffic starts to build and I can sense our approach to the monster-tropolis that is Mumbai.

Epilogue

The bus trip to Pune took a little over 29 hours all told. I was 9 hours and thirty minutes late and arrived in the night in the middle of an unseasonal storm.

1 comment:

joannie and fam said...

Hi kath,

how amazing!!! I wish i was there with you or had the time for that sort of travel - maybe sometime in the future. how long will it be now until you reach england - just wondering - not trying to hurry you up. I found that some of the most uncomfortable travel times were often the most memorable. I am back from toronto. the trip went well but strategic and i'm hoping the contacts and experience will help me get more connected here both before i finish and in getting a job! well take care and love from us in Canberra and Hannah says ..... caring is sharing.... !!!