Adventure · Himalaya · Photography · Travel Writing

The perils of riding a rickety bus – alone


Drag the bag/
Board the bus/
Should be home/
No fuss.
[Was it really that simple?]

The day after my adventures in Pin Valley, I woke up in the hotel in Kaza, spiti valley (11000 feet altitude) a bit before 5 am and viewed the beautiful face of the mountain behind shortly before sunrise. Maybe it was the elusive blue hour that people like me, living in polluted Indian cities never get to see.

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Blue Hour at Kaza, Spiti

I said my goodbye to Sanjay, the hotel’s man Friday who had been very helpful through the stay here. The plan for the day was simple and clear – drag the bag (unintended rhyme) to Kaza bus stand, procure a ticket for the journey to Recong Peo and ride and ordinary (read uncomfortable) bus, arriving around 4 pm. From there figure out a way to get to Simla and then back home to Delhi NCR. I had no tickets until then for any of these three legs, I just wanted to go back. Well before six am, I was walking across the large dry nullah  (gulch) that separates new Kaza from old Kaza. The sun poured wakefulness on the mountaintops and the sky turned a dull blue. The dogs that had bothered me the evening before last were missing, thankfully.

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The nullah that runs through Kaza

At six am I was at the bus stand of Kaza and unsurprisingly everything was closed, including the ticket window but a HRTC bus stood under the large tin-shed that serves as bus parking. The man at the window was near the building and after I requested him, he opened the window and gave me the seat I wanted –sometimes the early bird gets the worm, or the seat. Shortly thereafter, a couple of co-passengers appeared.

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Kaza bus stand

I also shot a small video of the place to show how quiet it was around the bus stand.

 

I then deposited my bag inside the bus under my seat – the door had been opened – I noticed a quote on a board above the conductor’s seat – perhaps a prophecy for the day’s journey ? It addressed all and none for the moments when other co-passengers, goats,  bags of mail and sundry loose stones shooting down the mountainside get a bit much for their  patience –

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Translated, it reads thus –

Speak (to others) with decency
/ (you will get) respect for free.
Namaste -ji

In a few minutes, a breakfast outlet opened on the bus stand and the lady who managed affairs of the shop confirmed that she will make thukpa (hearty tibetan noodle soup) for me.Her kitchen was a little slice of nepali / tibetan cooking that people all over India and in Nepal recognize – a kerosene stove provides the heat and the cylindrical flat pans stacked atop another store ”momos” (steamed dumplings)

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I heart a strange alluring tune emanating from the loudspeaker of her phone – turned out it was in Tibetan language and hence and unlike anything I had heard in my entire life. Some of the tracks were devotional in nature but played to a faster beat than what the monks in the monastery play. You may hear a bit in this video I captured (memory cards were nearly full by then so couldn’t record too much).

I used the time she was chopping vegetables to transfer some of these songs into my phone via Bluetooth (she was OK with that). I was using a distinctly low tech nokia e63 at that time and it paired effortlessly with her phone – sometimes it pays to be behind the technological curve. By the time the thukpa was served (with a very satisfying hot broth, served with dark vinegar and garlic vinegar – below), I had five rare tracks in my possession.

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Around seven the bus left Kaza and I was seated on the side that the mountains were – not on the side the river would be as we were going back. This of course limited my chances to photograph but I didn’t regret it much as while coming in I had had my fill of photographing the way-side scenery. For the next hour, the camera was inside the bag.

Around ten, the bus stopped and a few people got down and I asked the conductor how long the stop was, the bend by the river was quite nice. A natural stream was coming down the mountainside and a few people (seen behind the bus) started filling their water bottles. He said, it’s OK and I can get off.

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Natural stream comes down the mountainside – Spiti

So I did and as I was clicking photos, the bus sped away! All i had on my person was the camera – even the jacket was inside (on the seat). I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. Traveling solo has its downs, but this was one  I was unprepared for.

Anyone got a Prophecy for what happened next?

[In response to the dailyprompt]

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3 thoughts on “The perils of riding a rickety bus – alone

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