A dark road takes me to the bus station of McCleod Ganj where an old, dusty bus is parked. A prehistoric Volvo. I ask the driver if this is the bus to Manali and hope his answer will be: “No, miss, local bus, bus Manali still coming.” Wrong. He tells me to hand him my luggage and pay ten rupees extra and wait.
I hang around with some other travelers and a dusty dog and wait for my bus to depart. One of my fellow travelers wears a snail shell in her hair. I wonder how it ended up there.
An Israeli couple refuses to pay for their luggage and an argument between them and the driver follows. Eventually they carry their luggage inside the bus. The seating is small and with their luggage in between them they are crammed into their seats like sardines in a small tin.
An alternative-looking youngster walks in. He picks the seat next to Snailgirl and they start chatting. The beginning of a new friendship? They seem to get along well.
I am working on the window, trying to see if it is possible to open it without breaking it. Somewhere far away I smell poop. I try to check my shoe soles, hope to not have stepped into a nasty product of dusty dog. Happy travels. The bus leaves.
General excitement: I open a bag of nuts and crisps. I start eating. The food makes me thirsty and I drink more water than I should, knowing already that I will regret it later. I am in denial.
Three hours later. I am in desperate need for a toilet and fantasize about the bus stopping at a nice parking lot with a 7-Eleven and crisp white toilets. Meanwhile, I listen to the Beach boys and the Mamas and Papas and dream about Californian wine.
We stop at a roadside shack with a mystical atmosphere. Chai and chapati are served and I make my way to the local loo: the roadside. I try to find a nice, dark spot and drop my pants. Then I see lights. My muscles cramp. Now or never. Nothing happens. I walk back to the restaurant and the driver tells me to get into the bus.
Five hours later. The bus stops again. A new chance. With a real squatter toilet. General relief. Endlessly grateful. I buy a big bottle of Fanta to celebrate. And recreate my own circle of needs.