Dec 8, 2012

The Great Escape, Or How We Got To Udaipur

Posted by Mary |

When last we left, Beau and I had been stuck in Agra for days. We finally broke down and bought overpriced bus tickets just to get out of that festering hellhole of touts. I kid. Agra was lovely. (Seriously, try to do it in a day trip or skip it entirely. That place sucked.)

As we were heading back to the hotel, our rickshaw driver started offering to take us to shops. We kept saying no, and he kept offering. Finally I busted out the Hindi and told him "No, take us to the hotel." He got excited that I knew some Hindi, and we started talking Bollywood. When he found out we had been stuck for a few days, he told us he could get us bus tickets for Rs600 each. Good deal, but first we had to get our money back for the overpriced tickets.

The driver dropped us off around the corner from the travel agent. As we approached, I took Beau's arm and started trying to look weak. We told them I drank bad water and we couldn't travel. Sensing that we wanted a refund, they seemed to suddenly not understand English. With a bit of arguing, they peeled off some money and gave it to Beau. Some money, not all of it. Beau told them he had paid Rs900 each. Someone pointed to the back of the tickets and said that there was a 70% refund policy.

I started getting irate (but still acting sick) and asked them how we were supposed to read devangari script. The grumpy man in charge told us to sit down and wait. So we sat and waited. And waited some more. And it started to rain and we were still waiting. My mind started to turn. I asked Beau for his water while we waited and took a few sips to soothe my "upset" stomach. I got a good mouthful of water, gave the bottle back and waited some more. Suddenly, without warning Beau, I got up, ran across the travel agency and stood on the edge of the patio, dramatically heaving until I let the water flow from my mouth. As I stumbled back to Beau, wiping the fake vomit from my mouth with my scarf, I could see him trying not to laugh. Instead, like any good boyfriend, he wrapped his arms around me and asked if I wanted to try to get on the bus that night since I seemed to be feeling better. Bam! Full refund.

I've got a golden ticket. Not to the chocolate factory, but to get the hell out of Agra.

Ignoring the bad karma that lay in wait in my future, we headed back around the corner to our rickshaw driver and went to get our tickets. Rs600 each, we had tickets. And yes, if you're doing the math, I fake puked to save $12. It wasn't the money, it was the principle.

We showed up at the new travel agency at 6:00 for our 6:30 departure. And we waited. 6:30 came and went. 7:00 came and went. At 7:30, we saw our original bus drive by. Finally, at 7:45, our bus pulled up. Right on time (for India).

Bus! Freedom!
We were on a bus. We were on our way to Udaipur.
Things got a little crazy.
What happens in the double sleeper berth stays in the double sleeper berth.
Most importantly, we were leaving Agra. Beau was clearly giddy with excitement. We had a double sleeper berth, and we settled in to sleep. Which would have been easy to do if the bus wasn't slowing down for speed bumps every kilometer or so.

And then some time passed and it was morning and we were still on a bus. It turns out that taking a bus to circumvent Gujjar roadblocks means taking the scenic route. The very long, actually-not-so-scenic route. And even that route didn't entirely avoid the Gujjars, as we discovered when our bus came to a stop and was surrounded by yelling men with big sticks. Beau tried to look out the window to see what was going on, but I yanked him inside, hissing that he'd better keep his honky face hidden. After some terse negotiations, the bus was allowed through the roadblock to drop off a few locals, then promptly turned around and sent off to find another route. We were back on our way to Udaipur. Nothing could stop us!

We attempted to slyly take a picture at first.
Until we came to a stop on a hill. The bus had run out of gas. Undeterred, someone jury-rigged a funnel system and attempted to put a few liters of gas in from a plastic bottle. After many attempts, the driver got the engine started, and we were back on our way to Udaipur. Nothing could stop us!

At this point, we just balatantly took pictures.

Until we were a few hundred feet up the same hill, when we ran out of gas again. You really can't make stuff like this up. This time, they sent someone down the hill in a rickshaw, and brought back an open bucket full of gas. They set up a more complicated system using tubes and gravity to fill the tank. It took several more tries, but we were back on our way to Udaipur. Nothing coul---oh hell, let's just jump to the chase. We finally got to the top of the hill, where we pulled into a gas station, and then turned around without getting gas and started going back down the hill to a different gas station. Really.

Finally, FINALLY, we got to Udaipur, got a rickshaw, and got to our hotel. The night did not end there, but that's a story for another day.