In the process of trying to make it to the starting line of the Rickshaw Run this year (that turned out way more insane than this) we took a bus from Jaipur to the north-eastern city of Jaisalmer, India. Except, we chose for that long journey a non-AC sleeper, which I didn’t know translated to coffin on wheels.
After nearly missing the bus because of the traffic in Jaipur, we made it to the station just in time — exhausted and sweaty. Our chariot to Jaipur, which looked as though it dated back to the 1960’s and smelled like it hadn’t been washed since then, would take us about 14hrs to arrive in Jaisalmer. It took so long because the driver stopped numerous times over the course of the trip to try to get us to buy more food after we had just stopped for some, or to pick up sketchy packages that would be hidden beneath the seats.
When I say it smelled as though it hadn’t been washed for 50 years, it’s because the retro tan mats that were to be our bed for the night reeked of a high school gym changing room; sour and pungent with a hint of piss. The compartment I was in rattled as we drove, and the window on my left kept sliding open because the clamp to keep it closed was broken. Not that I wanted to keep the window closed, I needed the semi-fresh Indian air to help with the bus smell, but the “safety bar” on the lower part of the window was broken so every time I would wake up accidentally in the night, I would be half hanging out of the bus.
Now, all of that isn’t what made me consider it the coffin on wheels, though the compartment sleeper felt like it — it was the driver and his need to handle the bus as if it were a formula one car. I was either being thrown to the right slamming my head into a metal bar as I nearly fell out of the compartment, or I was thrown to the left and almost tossed out of my broken window. The driver would overtake massive transport trucks or cars and swerve back into our lane just seconds before colliding into an oncoming truck. If it wasn’t that, the bus was so top-heavy from the mysterious packages on the roof and the 1960’s shocks so shot that I thought we were going to tip multiple times. When I could fall asleep, it was usually interrupted by a move that the driver would pull that made me jolt awake thinking it was the end.
Somehow, we made it to Jaisalmer of course to move on to an even more dangerous and insane adventure, but for your enjoyment, check out the video below of this bumbling death bus from Jaipur to Jaisalmer. It was the first, but not the last wild bus experience in India.