Perhaps the one thing I really don’t look forward to when I travel is taking the bus. And when that’s an overnight journey, well, it’s a recipe for no sleep, a crick in my neck and an extended period of being uncomfortable.
South America beckons later on this year, and there will definitely be a few overnight journeys in that. It’s been over a year since my last overnight bus – and it wasn’t too bad actually on of the best buses I’ve taken on an overnight trip from Inle Lake to Yangon in Myanmar. The seats were ultra-luxurious with only three across the bus instead of four. Or in West Africa, depending on the bus, five or six or more.
If I’m taking a bus I like to do it in the day time. I can see where I am and get a sense of how long to go, and also there’s far greater scope for meeting people on a day bus. On a night bus I’ll finally fall asleep after trying for hours. I will then wake up and check the time, only to be saddened by the fact that it’s only fifteen minutes since I last checked and obviously I’ve had next to no sleep.
Here are some of my most memorable trips.
India – Jalandhar to Delhi
My first overnight bus in India, and my second ever, back in 1999. I had been staying with a family that took me in in Jalandhar and when it came time to leave I was headed to Jaipur, which involved an overnight bus to Delhi and then a day bus to Jaipur. I was told the train was ‘unsafe’ and I shouldn’t take it, and so was given a big send off by the family and friends before I left.
Not a lot of sleep, the bus was ‘VIP’ and wasn’t too bad, what I do remember specifically was arriving in Delhi at about 430am, which was pretty early and there were three hours or more before the connection. So, I was allowed to sleep on the bus by myself! The journey itself was very stop-start affair. Winding, stops here and there for toilet breaks I guess. Then I took the bus in the daylight to Jaipur, a road that winded around cliffs and chasms. I thought to myself – if that’s what I was passing at night, I’m lucky to still be alive.
Pakistan – Quetta to the Iranian border
This was truly epic, across the Baluchistan desert, not really something you can do today due to safety factors. Took a long time to leave in the bus, wasn’t VIP but still only four seats across, half the bus taken up with bags of grain and whatnot. Bags and packs were put inside the bus too. Left Quetta, where it was pretty cool, with air con on, two seats to myself.
After a couple of hours we picked a few more people up and I was no longer alone, I was sitting next to a policeman I think, with a big great rifle! The air con was turned off, pretty much as we hit the desert, and I barely slept. I was sweating like crazy. Light came up and we were still in the desert at about 5.30am, it was a beautiful sunrise as we had a brief stop in the middle of nowhere. There was a concrete floor and the bottom half of a room, and water from a well. I took some amazing photos and film there. I have neither of them anymore for different reasons.
When we pulled into the border town of Taftan they opened the baggage compartment of the bus (where there were no bags) and out scrambled half a dozen or more sheep, and the sweat was falling off them like crazy. Yes, they had been in there sliding around all night poor things! Suddenly, my journey didn’t seem so bad.
Next week I’ll bring you part two of Night Bus Adventuress – I’ll be taking a bus from Iran to Turkey, and also bring back some memories of a journey in Vietnam. Take care – and May the Journey Never End!