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India by Bus

Author: Matthew B.
Date of Trip: January 2001

Greetings all. It has been several days since my last blog entry so there is a bit of catching up today.

When I last wrote we were enjoying ourselves in Udaipur. A wonderful city that was thoughtfully built with the surrounding mountains as a first line of defense against any invaders. The city walls also enclosed a large lake to help alleviate any fears of water shortages. The King also built a beautiful summer residence in the middle of this same fine lake, which has now been converted into a high end hotel. One minor problem, the city consumes so much water that the lake has not been full for almost 2 years now. During our time there, the summer palace was surrounded by a large puddle and the vastness of what should be the lake was replaced by men playing cards and children enjoying themselves with a game of cricket.

We were unable to take full advantage of our last day in Udaipur as Rebecca was feeling a bit under the weather, turns out she was just one day ahead of my own ills. This was only made worse for her by the 150 plus mosquito bites covering her legs, I lost count somewhere near 125. That is what happens when you dine near a lake and forget to apply bug spray (good thing we have been diligent with our malaria meds). One of the best things about traveling in India is that you are able to walk to any storefront pharmacy and purchase just about any medication. After our second go-round with antibiotics we are feeling almost as good as new. When you travel in any developing nation and eat the local fare you have to expect to get sick at least once, sometimes twice! Enough pills for Rebecca and myself cost me $5.

Udaipur marked the end of the Rajasthan portion of our journey. We really enjoyed touring through some of the bigger towns in the western portion of India. It had a much different feel than the first three cities we visited along our tour. By the way, if you ever find yourself in Udaipur and are looking for something interesting to do at night just about every guest house in town has either a 7 PM or 7:30 PM showing of James Bond’s Octopussy. Some of the scenes were filmed in the city and it brings them great pride.

Following our flight from Udaipur to Delhi, we had hoped to catch an overnight bus to Dharamsala/McLeod Ganj. Due to the aforementioned stomach ails we had to adjust things. We were able to book a room in Delhi and actually stayed there for two nights. This minor setback gave us the chance to explore Connaught Place. This is a middle class section of Delhi, unfortunately many places were closed being that it was a Sunday, but we were able to still see enough of it.

Sunday night we were finally able to catch that overnight bus. Bus and train travel can be very different in many countries. Trains are run by the government so you know basically what you are getting. If you book 3rd class air con you know that your coach will basically be the same whether you board in Delhi or Varanassi. Buses, however, are a much bigger crap shoot. To travel by bus you generally buy a ticket from one of the hundred or so “travel agents”. For the 30 plus people on the bus you can guess that there were about 30 different prices for the same tickets. The most exciting part of the journey is the wait and anticipation as far as what kind and what shape the bus that pulls up will be in. Although our tickets were for deluxe, I don’t think that is an adjective I would use to describe the vehicle which I rode in. I still did better than the Italian travelers who booked an air conditioned bus, unless air condition means that when the windows are open you get a strong breeze. Needless to say that neither Rebecca nor I did much sleeping on the 16 hour bus ride. It was all worth it when we got our first glimpse of our destination.

I guess that catches you all up. We are presently dodging rain in McLeod Ganj. A beautiful spot in the hills of India. As I stated in a previous entry this is the home of the exiled Tibetan Government as well as His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It is so different up here that we have to remind ourselves that we are still in fact in India. I will describe the city in more detail after we get a chance to explore things a bit. We are here for two more days then we are not sure. Our bout with Delhi Belly has forced us to scrape our plans to visit the town of Leh. The two day bus ride to get there or 20 plus hours by shared jeep doesn’t make sense being that we only have one week left.

The Journey Is The Reward.- Taoist Proverb

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