On May 21st 2009 I embarked on what was to be my longest continuous travel in India – 36 hours from door to door. The journey was from Chennai to Darjeeling. The most challenging part of this journey was the public bus ride from Kolkata to Darjeeling. I recently saw a sign in a store window in Manhattan that said “Smart has the plans. Stupid has the stories”. Well, here’s my story in a series of photos. A poor attempt to convey my 36-hour grueling journey.

Taxi driver in Kolkata, india

From one of southern India’s busiest cities, Chennai, I flew north to Kolkata (Calcutta) home to over 15 million people, Formula 1 bus drivers and the last battalion of rickshaw drivers. Temperature in Kolkata 42C (107.6F).
One of Kolkata's many roadside restaurants - ever full.

I had about 6-hours before my bus left for Darjeeling so I decided to explore this bustling city by foot. One of Kolkata’s many roadside restaurants – ever full.
Bus ride from Kolkata to Darjeeling, India

That evening I boarded a bus bound for Siliguri, the jumping off point for most of north eastern India, Nepal and Bhutan. A 12-hour journey. The bus was far from I was told it would be by the ticket seller, now long gone enjoying a great dinner courtesy of my trust. The “luxury” was far from luxury. The bus was very old, the seats ripped and stained, and the shock absorbers – well, they simply did not exist. Every pimple and dimple on the road was clearly felt.
Roadside stop on the way to Darjeeling, West Bengal, India

We stop at a road side restaurant at midnight for the driver’s late night meal. 
Littel store in India

One of those little stores in India that has all the basics you need – a nano Walmart.
Bus accident in India

Another bus casualty courtesy of the wild driving Indian bus drivers are famed for.
sleeper bus in India, Kolkata

I was sold a sleeper bunk onboard a “luxury” bus. For some it was luxury. For me, I barely squeezed my tall frame into this boucing tin can.
tire change, bus in india, kolkata, public bus

At 3am we stop for the gratuitous tire change. Who knows where.
tire change, bus in india, kolkata, public bus

We watch as the onboard tire changer works his magic. Darjeeling seems a world away.
train speeding by at night in india, time delayed photo

A train whizzes by. (for the camera enthusiasts: F3.5, 6 secs, hand held)
Bus changing tire on way to Siliguri, india

8am and we are no where close to Siliguri. Another tire change. This little girl watches on. 
Bus changing tire on way to Siliguri, india

She doesn’t seem to happy with this.
Siliguri town on the way to Darjeeling, india

The road massage finally ended and we arrived in Siliguri 17.5 hours later. My longest bus ride in India so far. From here, Siliguri, one has to hire a jeep to begin to make his way up the mountains to Darjeeling.
Siliguri town on the way to Darjeeling, india

After seeing how people got around here I had less to complain about my journey.
Siliguri town on the way to Darjeeling, india

There is always room for another person.

To be continued…

 

Famed for its tea, Darjeeling boasts spectacular views of the Himalayas and is one of India’s perfect getaways from the intense subcontinent. The New York Times photographic slide show of the tea industry in Darjeeling captures somewhat what it is like to be there. View photographs of Darjeeling by the New York Times. Our next spiritual adventure in Darjeeling will see us in this amazing Himalayan retreat for 5-days.

New York Times photographic coverage of the tea industry in Darjeeling, North India (Himalayas)

New York Times photographic coverage of the tea industry in Darjeeling, North India (Himalayas)