After McLeod Ganj our next destination was Rishikesh. We hoped to have some rest near the mountains and the Ganges. Everyone who we met on the way kept repeating how great and “chill” the place was. We thought to give it a shot.
But the question was – how to get there? The first option that we considered was going with a bus from Dharamsala to Pathankot, take a night train to Haridwar and then a bus to Rishikesh. Estimated travel time around 24h in total. Second option was to take a direct night bus from McLeod Ganj. Estimated time – 12 hours.
Bottom line – the bus was cheaper (900 Rs each) and it would take us about half the time to reach it. Looked like we had a winner.
On a Wednesday, 2 December 7 pm we went down to the dark bus station of McLeod Ganj. A mini bus was waiting for us (in the high season regular size buses are provided, lucky bastards…). Our backpacks were stored on the roof of the vehicle. At least they were covered with some plastic material and ropes were used to secure the construction – thank you for that! Cause there were times when we seriously doubted, it our backpacks (and us too) will make it to the destination. Then we embarked the little tin can, where we will have to spend the next 12 hours. It was fully packed. 12 passengers. No place for any extra bags. Seats only party push-back, knees piercing in the seat in front.
The first hours were the worst. The driver considered his duty to take over every single bike, car, bus or truck that was in front of us. Did I mention that it was a mountain road? No lights on the sides, holes and speed breakers on the road. And our driver speeding like there was no tomorrow. Mini-bus is not the most stabile vehicle when it comes to crazy driving. It was constantly swinging from one side to another. And we were swinging along with it. Sleep was not an option. I cramped my self in the seat and tried to concentrate on the road, hoping to survive until the next stop without vomiting all over my self.
The first stop came after 3 hours. When I got out of the bus, it felt like I had been on ship. My head was dizzy. It took time to readjust to the flat ground and reality. We were not the only ones suffering. Few more passengers (also with some more experience with Indian buses) confirmed, that it was a bit too wild even for India. We hoped to get to Rishikesh alive.
The next following 4 stop-less hours were a bit better. We were back on the flat ground. Of course that made our dear chauffeur drive even faster. I do not know, if the AC was on, but we were freezing. We had our warmest clothes on, but it was no help. By our next stop we were to cubes of ice.
The next and the last part was a little bit similar to the part one. This time the road was a little bit wider, but there were also more cars and trucks on the road. At times we were driving on the opposite side of the road with no option to go back, as bars were separating the two opposite streams of traffic. Stijn could not hold it anymore and rhetorically asked the driver “Where did you get your drivers licence? Did you buy it?”. Luckily the driver did not hear it, or pretended not to…
Even though the man who sold us bus tickets promised us that mini-bus is more comfortable, we are pretty sure that even the public buses are much nicer and more comfortable. We know by now, that not being able to drive fast can be an asset. When it comes to public transport – the chance of being killed on the road is much smaller, if you get lucky with such a crazy driver like we did. The only positive out-come of this madness, was the fact that we arrived in Rishikesh about1,5 hours ahead the schedule.
With the first glimpses of light we got out of the hell machine somewhere, god nows where, in Rishikesh. We could not believe that we had arrived in Rishikesh in one piece. We just stopped the first tuk-tuk and asked to take us our guest house. We could not see where the driver was taking us, but once he stopped, it seemed like we are in the middle of nowhere. I was doubtful, if we were in the right place. But we were. It turned out that our guest house (one of the Swiss hill top guest houses) was located on a hill, slightly away from the rest of the city.
We could not find anyone to ask for the directions, but we met 3 cheerful puppies. They found our shoes to be very entertaining. We found them the best thing that had happened to us in the last 24h.