We were three girls travelling together to Dharamshala and Mcleodganj from Kolkata. The trip began by flying into and spending a day at Delhi, shopping, eating and roaming around. We had bought overnight bus tickets online earlier and boarded the bus from the famous I.S.B.T.
The bus journey was initially exciting. Seats were great (Volvo Himsuta semi-sleeper A/C buses operated by Himachal Road Transport Corp. for 1100/- per person) and we even had a mobile charging point so everyone was happy. The temperature inside the bus was many many degrees higher than the freezing 5 degrees of the Delhi winter outside and promptly the word for the trip became: TOASTY. This was to indicate the state of being that was desirable within as opposed to the bone-chilling cold that existed without.
Mission Impossible V, ridiculously dubbed in Hindi, was playing on the TV screen at the front of the bus which made it quite difficult to sleep. However, our fatigue got the better of us and we dozed off. Trouble started after 3 a.m. when a member of our group started being violently sick because by now the bus had begun climbing up the ghat roads. Our driver was a near-maniac, not caring that his passengers were being flung around like beads inside a rattle was tackling the hairpin-bends without ever considering speed reduction. Soon one-third of the passengers began throwing up and this being an air-conditioned bus it became impossible to escape nausea. My other friend and I moved to the front of the vehicle to get some fresh air and to avoid being sick ourselves. It wasn't a good night and the journey was anything but pleasant. Words of advice post-suffering: prepare to be sick, take medication prior to the journey, carry plastic bags and tissue paper.
As dawn broke on the mountains, I viewed an orange and pink sunrise through the windshield of the bus as by this time quite a few passengers had gotten off and I was sitting on the very first seat right behind the driver. The conductor was overheard saying that our stop was approaching so I got up and exhorted my troops to Up Up and Away! Thankfully both were awake. Soon the bus stopped and with a loud "Dharamshala!" the conductor opened the door and jumped off. I let my friend know that I was going to get our luggage from the belly of the bus and they should get off after me.
I got off the bus to greet a chilly morning in Dharamshala. We were on a bit of mountain road that had a taxi stand on the gravel shoulder and the main bus station loomed over us. Clearly this wasn't going to be the last stop for our bus because it had not entered the bus station but was still on the road. I collected three pieces of luggage (one trolley bag for each member) and then before I could say a word the conductor got onto the bus, shut the door and the bus rumbled away down the hillside with my friends still inside it. I was so shocked at my predicament that I started laughing uproariously.
When my hysteria had lessened, I called one of the girls and found out they had managed to get off albeit a couple of kilometres away and were now trudging towards me. I waited for what seemed like a very long time before they finally appeared; all sheepish smiles and plaintive excuses. Our reunion, however, was rudely cut short by the discovery that in their hurry to get off they had forgotten one of their backpacks on the bus. Not the best start to the trip!
It wasn't something that could be given up so we walked up to the bus station explained our predicament and asked for help. Not one, not two but three damsels in distress was just too exciting for the bus station authorities who insisted that we wait there for them to contact our bus conductor, locate the bag and then have it brought down. Tired and in need of a bath, I impudently asked if we could come back later for it but no...that was not going to happen.
We had had the good sense to hire a taxi to take us to our home-stay and had left one member of the trio seated in it with all our luggage. It was she who suggested we scrap the waiting and chase the runaway bus with the red bag in it. It sounded like a plan so we started our journey to Mcleodganj where the bus apparently had been in such a tearing hurry to get to.