Mistakes are like a house of cards, with one other follow. This is what exactly happened to me a month back during a short vacation down south. Honestly, I do not prefer long bus journeys, I simply hate the restricted space along with limited or sometimes no access to washrooms. With a seven-year-old in the team, it becomes an even more challenging task. But as fate would want I had to take a long I mean really long bus journey from Madurai to Rameswaram.
My original plan was to take a train from Madurai to Rameswaram but this did not work out as on the day that I had originally planned to take the train had absolutely no direct link service. However, a blog did mention about a train from Manamadurai that would directly take me to Rameswaram. So without wasting any time I booked the tickets. Later I realized that this was a mistake since the departure time was at 5 AM in the morning and Manamadurai was not a distance that could be easily be covered with an auto that too in early in the morning.
After reaching Madurai that first thing that I did was to locate alternate bus service and I was informed at the hotel desk about a scheduled bus service that would start at around 7 AM and would cost Rs. 200 per person. The gentleman at the travel desk urged me to book the seats as they were filling up fast. I bluntly ignored this thinking that he was just trying to con me into making this advance booking. So I went straight to my room and the first thing that I did was to cancel my train ticket as by then I was confident that there is regular bus service between Madurai and Rameswaram. I would obviously book the bus ticket but not so soon might be late at night once we return from our Madurai tour. This one little mistake would haunt me for the rest of the next 24 hours.
After touring Madurai city I reached the hotel travel desk for booking the next day bust tickets, I was politely told that the bus is full and since the next day was an extended weekend holiday no more busses were available. By then I had also cancelled my train tickets so basically, I had no arranged reservations in any mode of transportation.
My next one hour was spent running between various travel agents all not being able to provide a bus ticket. After searching for long I met up with a travel agent who told me that usually busses do get arranged at the last moment but the tickets are always hiked up due to the surge in demand. So instead of Rs. 200 I had to pay around Rs. 500 per person. With no other option in sight, I agreed.
As promised the next morning at the prescribed hour we were taken to our bus and being the first passenger we secured the best seats possible. And then the wait starts, apparently we were the only passengers booked at that moment and we had to wait till the bus gets filled up. The wait lasted around one and a half hours after which finally we started our journey towards Rameswaram.
The passengers included a family of four from Bangalore, family of six from Lucknow and an elderly Bengali couple. All of us wanted to reach Rameswaram as soon as possible except for the elderly Bengali couple. The first stop was made so that they could purchase bottled water and within half an hour of driving, they again wanted to stop for breakfast. Being an elderly couple none of could say anything so the bus made an unscheduled stop at a roadside eatery.
While we sat in the bus being grilled by the midday sun the couple were enjoying sumptuous servings of Idli and Sambar. After nearly forty-five minutes they boarded the bus and the driver started the bus. To be precise tried to start the bus. No matter how hard he tried turning up the key in various direction there was absolute silence. The self-start was clearly not working. We were asked to de board the bus and push it so that it can be started but this failed too. After nearly thirty minutes a spare battery was arranged and somehow the bus was started.
Now there was no waiting and our next stop would directly be at Rameswaram. Except us and the family of four from Bengaluru rest all had paid for a day trip including sightseeing at Rameswaram so they were supposed to return the same day. For them, it was important to reach Rameswaram as soon as possible so as to see as much possible. These people also paid nearly Rs. 1500 each for the return trip including sightseeing charges so now they were really worried.
Adding to the delay misery was the fact that our bus had a top maximum speed of 40 kilometres per hour. Somehow the bus driver was pushing it to 45 but not a single digit after that. The bus was so slow that even mopeds were overtaking it. By the time we crossed Pamban Bridge it was nearly 2 PM and then we got stuck. There were some political rallies taking place so all the tourist vehicles were stuck which lasted nearly an hour.
By the time we finally reached somewhere near the station we were completely exhausted. Luckily our hotel was nearby so we got off and planned to walk the rest few steps. It is then the Bengali couple realized that actually, they don’t have any spare time in hand for sightseeing as if they would want to catch their return train from Madurai they would have to leave right now. They started pressurizing the bus driver to immediately return to Madurai but on the other hand, the family of six from Lucknow had a late night train from Madurai thus they wanted to carry on with their original plan.
All hell broke loose the Bengali couple were pulling the bus driver’s hand to turn the bus back towards Madurai whereas the family from Lucknow dared the bus driver even to think about returning to Madurai before 7 PM. All this kept continuing and we quietly got down since we had reached our hotel. Just before getting down I whispered into the ear of the Bengali gentleman “wasn’t those Idlis delicious…”.
Somehow bus journeys always seem to bring some trouble to me so I best avoid them. For my return leg I did not want to take any chance so decided to hire a car instead. Of late I have been hiring a car for all my trips it’s more comfortable and can plan my route on my own. The type of travel blogging that I do often takes me to places less visited by regular tourists thus its always preferable for me to use self-drive car rental services like Zoom Car. I carry my GPS device pre-loaded with the route along with mobile phones thus making the journey much easier. I had extensively used car rental in Bangalore for my Mysore trip and it was economical as well as complete satisfaction as I could manage to cover all the major tourist spots within a short period of time.
This might sound something new in this country but in Europe, it’s a very common facility availed by most tourists. People even hire out trucks and minivans. This makes the trip fun as well as comfortable. Along with cars I have also availed motorcycle hire at different tourist places and my family has actually adapted to this type of travel and they simply love it.
The bus journey ended but the adventure continued, the hotel that we had initially booked in advance was a disaster on another level altogether. All that in my next blog till then happy travelling.