On the Road Again
Last week I spent in Kochi, a picturesque little fishing town on the southwest coast of India. What hit me as most fascinating was the Chinese fishing nets standing in line like soldiers in the harbor.
The nets are fastened on enormous “forks” made out of wood. It works almost like a catapult and the fork is dropped in the water for a few minutes, then being hauled up with the new fresh catch.
Next thing I had in mind was to make the trip along the coast up to Goa. But being too far to reach in a day, I settled in Mangalore for a night of rest before continuing up north. Next day, the only onward bus I could find available was a sleeper. A sleeper is a bus that has replaced all the seats with beds. In other words; a hostel on wheels. I’d heard about the bad experience people related to them but since it was my only option I couldn’t but accept.
When I put my foot on the bus later that night I knew it was time to deal with my claustrophobia once and for all. The driver sits in a kind of concealed cockpit and you have to go through a locked door to get to the passenger area. Once in there, there’s a narrow corridor with beds on both sides. But calling them beds isn’t really making it justice. It looks more like shelves sticking out from the walls. I have the top shelf and manage to get up to my place.
It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that the shelf also has to be shared together with a complete stranger. That leaves me with about 60 centimeters of space to try to cram myself and my belongings into. There is no blanket available and no pillow either. Just a thin mattress on this hard, plastic shelf. Luckily I can use my backpack as a pillow and my jacket as a blanket.
The window is lacking curtains and when I squeeze myself next to the panoramic glass I feel like a fish in a tiny tank, staring out at the moving world unable to change position. I can’t even sit up straight since right over my head the channel for A/C is hanging down. I just hope it will be a fast ride and that I will fall asleep quickly.
But I don’t.
As the bus makes the quick turns on the curvy road I am just rolling along, back and forth, with the only thing dividing me between the world in here and the one out there being the huge pane of glass that I’m unwillingly smeared against.
When the clock reaches 4:30 in the morning, the bus slows down and I’m getting notified that this is my stop. I’m pulling my things together, putting my shoes on and manage to get down from my place and off the bus; me being the only one who leaves.
Outside, it is pitch black and as the bus roars off in the distance, the silence and the darkness grows complete. My final destination is about 20 kilometers from here so now the only thing to solve is how to get there.
During my travels I’ve always feared to reach a place too early in the morning but now it finally happened and it’s time to deal with it. Dogs are barking down the street but there are no humans anywhere near as far as I can tell. I pick a direction and start walking.
Now’s the time I would like to have those insistent taxi drivers chasing after me. But the only thing chasing me right now is a ferocious pack of wild dogs marking their territory. I hurry along so not to upset them more than they already are.
It’s a tiny village and no one seems to be up here at this early hour. The only thing to do is wait for sunrise. When rain starts falling, I sit down under a roof close to the bus station and read a book until the sun starts coloring the sky.
Later on I find a ricksha and I’m on my way again. I’ve made a reservation in advance this time and it’s around 7 in the rainy morning when I reach the resort. But the gate seems to be locked. Taking a walk down the beach, I realize I can enter the resort from the beachside. So I do.
In a chair, under a tent, I find a guy napping, but he wakes up instantly when I approach. “Sorry, closed up for the season,” is the only thing he croaks up before going back to sleep. Standing soaked in the rain, after an exhausting night of traveling I can’t believe this is happening right now. “But I made a booking, I have a reservation,” I reply.
After some discussion he finally get me a room and I can at last lay my weary head on a pillow. I thank him for that, but this place is indeed deserted and they’re literally packing up the whole town. My room even have the electricity cut off. My head is spinning of fatigue. First I need a good sleep, then I can decide the next move.