How bad could it be??? That’s the attitude we had as we boarded our rickety tin can of a bus in Manali which smelt of shit and had peanut shells and other various crap on the floor. We settled in and it wasn’t too long before we set off down the rather twisty mountain road through the Kullu Valley (which we later found out was really dangerous and over a dozen travellers had gone missing in the area in the last two years! *gulp*). The Kullu Valley was beautiful in the daylight and the road was truly epic as it clung to the side of the various Himalayan peaks as it worked its way down the valley. The road, as amazing as it was could really have done with re surfacing, it was so bloody bumpy my spine hurt and we were getting thrown all over the place as we rocked down the road.
We’d been going a few hours and we were still in the Kullu Valley but we were thinking it really wasn’t that bad. Sure, it was bumpy and sure, it was a bit frustrating that every 2 minutes we were stopping to pick people up. The dude at the back blew his whistle, bus stops, door slams, off we go again. We were still laughing and finding it amusing though… for now!
It started going dark and we were still in good spirits although we were getting a little tired of the people getting on and staring at us until they eventually got off. Turned out they don’t see tourists on local buses in the Himalayas, boring tourists! We’d travel for an hour and a half then we’d have a 40 minute break, that soon started to get pretty annoying. We’d been going for about 10 hours and we were still doing pretty well, that was until we came across a car accident on the mountain road and had to sit for nearly an hour before it cleared. We finally started moving again and now our driver was trying to make up for lost time as we hurtled down this narrow mountain pass not using the brake, only taking his foot off the gas, pulling wide, taking the corner tight and hitting the gas the second we hit the apex of the bend. I swear he thought he was Michael Schumacher! Every bend Al and I were thinking, we’re not going to make this, but every time he expertly managed to swing the big lumbering beast around the corner and into the next one, all the time avoiding debris from landslides and also the obligatory Indian cows who just like to chill out in the road.
The time had come when we were ready for some sleep, this is where it started to become hard work, we’d been on the road for 11 hours and we were tired and uncomfortable. Could we get to sleep… could we hell. Just as you’d be nodding off some clown would want to get off so, off we go, whistle, harsh braking before a huge slam of the door which I could only liken to someone angrily slamming a filing cabinet draw. Started to drift off again, then we stop, only this time to fix the wheel…
Eventually we both were so tired that we had managed to get a little bit of sleep only to wake up to find we’d stopped again.. what was it for this time? We looked up to find we were now the only people left on the bus, the conductor who had been laughing at us all day looked at us, smiled and said… “Amritsar Friends!”… finally, we’d made it, and we were still alive!
We took the first available rickshaw to a nearby guesthouse, woke the owner up and got a much needed few hours of sleep.