On May 21st 2009 I embarked on what was to be my longest continuous travel in India – 36 hours from door to door. The journey was from Chennai to Darjeeling. The most challenging part of this journey was the public bus ride from Kolkata to Darjeeling. I recently saw a sign in a store window in Manhattan that said “Smart has the plans. Stupid has the stories”. Well, here’s my story in a series of photos. A poor attempt to convey my 36-hour grueling journey.
From one of southern India’s busiest cities, Chennai, I flew north to Kolkata (Calcutta) home to over 15 million people, Formula 1 bus drivers and the last battalion of rickshaw drivers. Temperature in Kolkata 42C (107.6F).
I had about 6-hours before my bus left for Darjeeling so I decided to explore this bustling city by foot. One of Kolkata’s many roadside restaurants – ever full.
That evening I boarded a bus bound for Siliguri, the jumping off point for most of north eastern India, Nepal and Bhutan. A 12-hour journey. The bus was far from I was told it would be by the ticket seller, now long gone enjoying a great dinner courtesy of my trust. The “luxury” was far from luxury. The bus was very old, the seats ripped and stained, and the shock absorbers – well, they simply did not exist. Every pimple and dimple on the road was clearly felt.
We stop at a road side restaurant at midnight for the driver’s late night meal.
One of those little stores in India that has all the basics you need – a nano Walmart.
Another bus casualty courtesy of the wild driving Indian bus drivers are famed for.
I was sold a sleeper bunk onboard a “luxury” bus. For some it was luxury. For me, I barely squeezed my tall frame into this boucing tin can.
At 3am we stop for the gratuitous tire change. Who knows where.
We watch as the onboard tire changer works his magic. Darjeeling seems a world away.
A train whizzes by. (for the camera enthusiasts: F3.5, 6 secs, hand held)
8am and we are no where close to Siliguri. Another tire change. This little girl watches on.
She doesn’t seem to happy with this.
The road massage finally ended and we arrived in Siliguri 17.5 hours later. My longest bus ride in India so far. From here, Siliguri, one has to hire a jeep to begin to make his way up the mountains to Darjeeling.
After seeing how people got around here I had less to complain about my journey.
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