Close to a year later, I figured I’d better finish this chapter of my journal off.
After our failed attempt to get a breakfast at the dhaba (and after watching the owner drink out of a cup on the ‘help yourself’ shelf then wipe it on his sleeve and put it back for the next unsuspecting drinker to use), we grabbed a bus back to Shimla. This took a mere 8 hours, after an unscheduled stop at a most inconvenient landslide, which did nothing for my ‘Gotta get there – I have a plane to catch!’ nerves. We got to the bus station at 8pm exactly and made enquiries about another bus to Kalka to catch the 11 p.m. train back to Delhi. Ahhh, the God of Irony strikes again. It would take 3 hours to get to Kalka, and if there were any more landslides, we were stuffed!
A quick confab and we decided to see what buses were available to Delhi.
“Ah yes sir, you can be catching a luxury bus to Delhi.”
“What time does it leave?”
“It is leaving at 8 p.m. sir.”
“What time is it now?”
“It is being 8.05 p.m. sir.”
Somehow we made it onto the bus in question and flopped into our seats to wipe the nervous sweat from our brows. This was just cutting things too fine! However, even though I had to take turns sitting on each of my now very unhappy buttock cheeks, it was a major relief to have pulled this whole situation off and we started to relax and come to terms with our major hunger pains and the prospect of sleeping sitting up all night. Fortunately, with our bus fares came complimentary packets of snacks and a bottle of water each. I think the snacks lasted all of 30 seconds.
Happily, the bus driver stopped at a restaurant somewhere out of Shimla and we were able to have a quick wash in a lovely clean, posh-feeling western bathroom. We had a meal of something that I can’t even remember now, but it definately did the trick. What happened after we paid the bill and arose to get back on the bus was very much more memorable. I was standing around waiting for the other passengers to rise, when a reasonable sized crab started sidling along the floor, coming from the kitchen direction in a beeline towards me. I kind of rubbed my eyes and looked again, and sure enough, there was definately a crab coming towards me. What on earth is a live crab doing in a Himalayan restaurant, hundreds of miles from any sea, walking around at nine o’clock at night?! None of the other customers had seen it, but when I looked at the waiters and gestured towards the crab, they just looked at it then back at me with very straight faces. I had to cover my face to smother my grin as the crab made it from one end of the restaurant to the other and out a doorway with not one single customer noticing it. One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, and it really made my day. Another one of God’s little jokes? The waiters and I just waved goodbye to each other quietly and I climbed on the bus feeling priveleged to have been in on such a nice little crustaceous joke.
Arriving in Delhi at the disgusting hour of 6 a.m., we caught a rickshaw back to Pahar Ganj and were finally able to lie on beds in our usual room and take the weight off our poor calloused buttocks. And feel heat and high humidity again and listen to the roar of the ceiling fan going at typhoon speed, backed by a veritable symphony of dozens of horns blasting outside in the traffic. Ahhh, home.
Two days later and I’m back in another vehicle on my way to the Airport. My driver was a keen sort of a chap and took some very exciting risks, squeezing our little mini van between large, uncaring trucks and doing 4-wheel drive numbers off the side of the road to get us no further than we would have been had we stayed on the road anyway. At one stage he got us hooked up on a large rock, where we sat marooned and rocking, while he revved the living daylights out of the engine in a most unhelpful way. But I wasn’t worried. In fact I was feeling fairly smug about my decision to leave for the airport 2 hours before I actually needed to. And I just knew that after all our hard, rushed travelling back out of the mountains, the God who sent the crab through the restaurant would be there for me and get me to the plane on time. Which he did. So I’m back in New Zealand and all is well, and it only took a few months for my buttocks to lose their callouses and flat shape, and we’re now going through the planning phase of our 2008 trip back to India.
I wonder what happened to that crab?