On Tuesday, we left the peace of Kuzhupilly for our next destination – after all, we didn’t come to India to hang out on the beach indefinitely (as I did in 2007). Our hosts enslisted Suni (the baby-faced autorickshaw driver we’d already had a couple of times) to bring us to Ernakulam to catch a bus to Coimbatore. Sajimon, the cook, hopped in with us to catch a ride into town.
Along the way, Sajimon stopped the vehicle a couple of times to point out various temples and landmarks, and when we dropped him off, we took a quick photo of him before bidding him farewell. Shortly thereafter, it became clear that Suni, who had been given instructions by our host about where to bring us, had not the slightest idea how to get there. Riccardo and I raised our eyebrows at each other as he made excitable-sounding phone calls, glanced unfamiliarly at the street names, and stopped to talk to other drivers. The language barrier rendered communication with him utterly impossible, and the minutes were ticking by – our chances of making the bus grew slimmer and slimmer. Suni then suddenly parked in a random lot and led us across two crowded streets before stopping another autorickshaw which we all somehow piled into. The other driver good-naturedly joined the mission and offered whatever assistance he could, including speeding into oncoming traffic honking his horn with wild abandon. We were impressed with Suni’s resourcefulness, especially when we deduced that he was calling the bus company to try (unsuccessfully, it turned out) to get them to delay the departure. By 5:30 pm, though, it was obvious we weren’t making our bus. Suni eventually figured out, with the other driver’s help, that he could bring us to another bus station where there was another (public) bus at 7pm. We’d been wholly sympathetic to him until that point, when he implied that Sajimon’s very short stops to show us landmarks along the way were the reason we missed our bus. Way to pass the buck, Suni!
The public bus was a far cry from the comfortable Volvo we’d paid extra for, and to add insult to injury, we had over an hour’s wait at the exceedingly unpleasant Ernakulam bus station. To add even MORE insult, we discovered that none of the stalls and small restaurants by the station sold beer. We asked around and found there was a bar around the corner – phew. At least we could enjoy a beverage before our trip. But alas – the bar, if you please, had a strict no-females policy!! (Two exclamation marks are wholly in order here.) I was forced to wait indignantly outside while Riccardo got the beers to take out. He told me afterwards it was a pitiful place, filled with dudes sitting around looking glumly at each other. Well done.
We passed time on the bus chatting and dozing despite absurdly bumpy roads, hairpin bends, and several invasions of our personal space by our fellow passengers, and finally arrived in Coimbatore 4 hours later than we’d planned.
As if the above weren’t annoying enough, we discovered the ultimate insult later that night: when Suni had taken our 1000 rupee note to the ticket counter to get change for us so we could pay him his fee of 300 rupees, he deftly pocketed 300 rupees before handing the rest back to us. We can’t blame him for trying, though, and are unfazed by this tiny inconvenience compared to the amazing trip we’re having so far.