Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Post Leopard Valley, The Emily Bratt Hangover is real. And have to check out of my hut at 11am (I am travelling to Panjim). Then I am homeless with periodical waves of nausea washing over me. It’s catastrophic.

Staff at Marv-inns accommodation in Agonda beach, Goa
Emerging from the hut to these curious faces…. ‘Ah you go Leopard Valley last night?” They know.

I switch between lying fetal on a sun lounger and sitting mute in a café sweating into a Pepsi Max for about 4 hours before I finally have the strength of mind and body to start my journey, which should take 3 hours. Let’s take a look at how this journey goes……

Phase 1: Catch taxi to bus stop. There are no taxis. However, a guy from my guest house offers to take me and my 14K backpack on on the back of his scooter.

Phase 2: Catch bus to Panjim. Scooter man explains I’ve missed the bus that goes direct, but that I can get on one bus, change after 40 mins, and get on another. That sounds daunting A.F. but he insists ‘it’s very easy’. I pray he’s right.

Phrase 3: Sit on the first bus still feeling like death but cheered by the beautiful sub-tropical landscape we’re clattering through, as well as my own sense of independence: ‘I’m just taking an Indian public bus through the countryside. Life is amazing. I’m amazing.’ I feel I should get Moby playing on the old headphones and gaze out the window with a sense of spiritual wonderment and pretend I’m in a music video. I don’t though because that brings back the nausea. My spiritual wonderment dissipates quickly when we get to the city I’m supposed to change at and there are all sorts of diversions and gridlocks, and in 30mins we move a yard. What should have been a 40min bus journey becomes a 2hour one because I’ve chosen to travel on a day when there is a religious festival. It’s getting dark soon and I’m paranoid because I don’t want to be stuck at this half way point after dark.

Phase 4: Bus station eventually reached. Now just to find the bus to change to (amidst crowds of people, a good 50 or so buses coming in and out constantly, horns honking and bus conductors shouting their destinations in accents so strong that the names are incomprehensible to me). Eventually I find the correct place to wait for the Panjim bus: a 200 meter long line which doesn’t move for the 45minutes I stand in it. COOL. I’m also not sure what we’re queuing for, because there is no bus at the end of the line. There seems to be a ticket office up ahead but the dialogue between the family in the queue and the ticket office staff never seems to end, so I don’t know if we’re all waiting to buy tickets or not. And normally you buy your ticket on the bus. SO WHAT’S HAPPENING? I ask a woman in the line who tells me the lack of bus and throngs of people are due to the festivities and normally it’s quicker than this.

Phase 5: I make the difficult decision to leave the line to take a punt on a taxi. I find a tuktuk but the man won’t haggle and when I try he says ‘Ma’am please don’t talk to me about money. Panjim is far far’. He says this so gravely that I immediately feel ashamed and embarrassed and spend the first 10 minutes of the journey being overly chatty to ingratiate myself. The incident still confuses me though HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHEN AND WHEN NOT TO HAGGLE??!

Phase 6: He’s right, Panjim IS far far, it’s an hour’s journey. Except it’s not because of all the traffic, so it’s a 2 1/2 hour journey: 2 1/2 hours, in a tuktuk, stationary for the most part, wedged between the exhausts of giant lorries, in the dark, with a pounding headache and intermittent nausea. Despite all this, we have some good chats and he’s as frustrated as I am because he’s worried about getting in trouble with his wife for not getting back in time for dinner. It turns out that fear of the wife’s fury is universal.

Phase 7: Arrive at hostel in Panjim, 10pm. Staff have finished for the night. The security guard shows me to my bed in a dorm based on the notes he’s been given by the staff. It turns out to be the wrong bed, as I learn when the bed’s occupier – a Finnish girl – returns. The other bed isn’t made up, so I need to find sheets, and a lengthy discussion between me, Finnish girl and security guard ensues. He is adamant that my bed is Finnish girl’s bed, even though Finnish girl is still sleeping in it. Several exaggerated hand gestures and confused expressions later and I have a bed with sheets. I don’t have a towel and I can’t find my shampoo, but that’s tomorrow’s problem.

Next time an interviewer asks me for an example of a time I’ve shown strength and resilience, this will be what I reference.

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