Matt Phillips in Northern India travel blog

Indian Bus

Fields of Green

Less than a week into this magical Indian joy ride and I already have reason to laugh at myself. In the name of research, I was attempting to charter a path from the coastal village of Digha to the beach town of Bakkali without returning to Kolkata. This path would cross the mouth of the Ganges River and save travelers oodles of time, not to mention the pain of retracing many bumpy miles of road.

However, unlike the sane travelers I'm writing for, I decided to attempt this long journey in a single afternoon after I'd already spent an entire morning cramped in a bus. I was exhausted by the time the sun neared the horizon, but I could almost taste victory. After all, I was only a 2½-hour bus journey away from completing my lofty goal!

Feeling slightly energized, I dragged my belongings off the ferry and politely asked an elderly official where to buy a bus ticket to Bakkali. He kindly led me to the ticket booth where I purchased my Bakkali ticket. Then after a few more inquiries, I was led right to the Bakkali bus. How helpful, I must say! I collapsed happily into my seat and awoke 2½ hours later in...Kolkata! Let's just say I was less than enthusiastic about the five-hour, bone-jarring bus journey to Bakkali the next morning. Yes, this kind of thing happens - even to travel guidebook writers.

Earlier in the week, I had hired a car, driver and guide for a day (all for a whopping $30) to explore the region immediately north of Kolkata. One of the things I was excited to see was an ancient Portuguese church in Bandel that is mentioned in the current LP India guide. Unfortunately, the extensive work done on the church in 2003 obliterated all evidence of the church's past. Imagine the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel being tiled over. Not so good - that's a review for the cutting room floor, I'm afraid.

On the bright side, while delving into the imambara (a place where Shiite Muslims observe Muharram) in Hooghly, I found a spiraling staircase of 152 steps that reaches the most heavenly view of the verdant countryside - the breeze up there was to die for! The weather has been cooking since my arrival, with the mercury commonly above 40ºC. Unfortunately, my tight research schedule won't allow for siestas when things reach the boiling point!

So the moral of today's story - you win some, you lose some and hopefully you have the odd chuckle along the way.

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