Thursday, 1 October 2009

Bus day out

Jeypore here we come, crammed on. An old style charabanc that had obviously been welded together by some back street bus company without ISO 9001 accreditation. Windows had long gone and the two half doors were hanging on by luck, or was it disguised chewing gum? Pushing and shoving we pile in and I end up standing on the steps along with 2 others plus the pusher onner who also doubles as the conductor. He hangs on, half in half out, to his door and chats at the same time. We set off. I think we are already too many as it is really tight. Bumping along he whistles and the bus stops. Not to let someone off but to let another dozen or so on. No room here, use front door. They comply. It is hot and sweaty, rattley and you hang on for dear life. A few kms up the road he lets out an ear piercing whistle and the bus stops, eventually, again. More pushing and shoving as now someone wants to get off along with the sacks of whatever they have crammed under the seats. Now more get on, one off six on. 3 get on my end and now I’ve got let’s just say a large women with her shoulder pressed against my stomach. I cannot move back as there are 2 small children sitting on Mums lap one thousandth of an inch behind me and I don’t want to smufurcate them and anyway I’m not able to move as six Indians are all vying to stand on my flip flop clad feet, and who am I to spoil their fun. 

I notice that the conductor knows when someone wants to get off as they stick their arm out of the window. He whistles and the bus stops. The journey takes about an hour, or two lifetimes, and the driver is unconcerned about the huge potholes, sharp bends or petrol tankers that often want to be on our side of the road but are coming towards us. It has to be the most comfortable (not) journey I have ever made. Getting off I say I’ve had the experience, do not intend to repeat it and it’s taxis for me from now on. Arriving at Jeypore the conductor kicks the door open early, just as we are going over a huge pothole. There is an enormous bang and the door is off. Once stopped he walks back for the door and throws it on the roof. Fix tomorrow he says with a grin. After buying more chewing gum, I think. We have arrived, for the huge sum of 5p, in many small pieces (us I mean, not the money coins), at Jeypore.

Koraput is a small market town with little choice. If you cannot see it they don’t have it and are unlikely to get it. But it is the regional centre, probably because it is cooler and the British decided it was more comfortable for them during the Raj. Jeypore is much bigger although most shops are along one very long road. But most things are gettable, with persistence. We find, by accident, some cheap battery operated strip lamps good for 4 hours after a full charge. H and I buy one each as the power goes off too regularly to rely on torches and candles. No more worries about power at night. We then find some pillows and hard foam seat pads. More joy, we can all sit reasonably comfortably now on our plastic seats. I have a spare pillow but one end is missing and it’s only a matter of time before I have tiny pieces of foam everywhere.

Time to eat. We find a small cafe/greasy spoon and eat. They have no tea in a country that grows the stuff and the service is anything but quick. But we are on a day off with nothing else to do so who cares. We buy bottled water after leaving. It rains. We put on a motley collection of rainwear. My poncho from Bali gets all the attention although I have seen transparent ones in use by some locals. Now we find knives, forks and spoons, more joy. By now we are on a high. We came as a trip with nothing in mind so it is looking good. Now small china cups are found and H is desperate for a tin opener. Using my many talents with sign language and an upturned steel mug to illustrate, the shopkeeper smiles and says sheet cutter. Of course I knew that all along, I’m only testing him. H is over the moon, that tin of baked beans or Spam (label is missing so it may well be dog food) from the UK can now be consumed. And then, the piece de resistance, A finds loo rolls. Here much hilarity as I say I will buy the lot. 17 rolls. Enough to last my time and I offer, at an enhanced but special rate, to sell some to the other two. H then buys some linen throws, A and I look at shirt materials but only because it’s raining again and it is a pain to put our water proofs on again. Rain stops, we decide shirts can wait and leave.

We find 2 white cars that suggest they might be taxis. A makes a phone call to a friend to check that the price is reasonable. It is. In the meantime we have been invited to see photos of tribals in the owner of the taxis small office. 2 pics catch our attention. One is of a group standing on their heads, reason unknown as his English runs out at this point, the other of a group ducking someone to waist, head down into a pool of water. Again, reason unknown but I say one of 2 things, either a baptism or somebody has done a very bad thing and this is their punishment. For some reason this seems to be understood so much laughter from the locals observing us.

Our journey back is more comfortable despite missing 2 or 3 petrol tankers who always seem to want our side of the road. As we pull in to Koraput my phone goes. More hilarity about the banana ring tone so along with my super shirt (I’m not allowed to wear it in the UK, to garish and gaudy, but I love it) they are both totally convinced I am some sort of nutter. But, if it keeps the prolls amused who am I to dissent. The shirt by the way, intrigued Jeypore locals who asked which shop I had bought it in. Rather than explain my daughter had (she loves me really), I told them a shop in Delhi. The taxi driver wants the name of the Delhi shop and promises that he will send the boys in. Not sure what he means by that. Back at the flat I say goodbye to landlord and family off on a short break and promise I will triple lock every time I go out. His relief was transparent when I told him that. Why, I wonder?

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