1/22/2008 to 1/24/2008 | India , Madhya Pradesh

Sanchi

Sanchi is a small town near Bhopal (infamous as the site of the Union Carbide chemical gas leak in 1984 that killed over 20,000 people) in central India.  Sanchi is the site of the best preserved of India’s Buddhist stupas.  The stupa complex set on a hill above the town contains some beautifully carved gateways dating from around 35 B.C. which are regarded as some of the finest Buddhist art in India.  Getting to Sanchi from Khajuraho, involved taking a 10 hour over night bus trip to Bhopal.  While overnight buses have gotten considerable more comfortable since my first overnight bus journey 14 years ago from Mangalore to Goa, which consist of little more than your standard Indiana bus stopping every 20 minutes throughout the night for chai and pee breaks, the bus to Bhopal had sleeping births where someone of standard Indian height (5’ 9”) could actually lay down and stretch out.  The births, wide as 2 seats on a standard bus, are generally for two people but with no division in between the births.  However, my length extends these dimensions so I was left with one of the two less than desirable choices.  First option, sleep in the fetal position in my assigned bunk towards the middle of the bus getting spooned by an Indian guy in a country where “right guard” means there is a guard on your right.  The second option was to take the bunk in the very back of the bus and have the entire space meant of two to myself, allowing me to stretch out diagonally across the two births.  I opted for the latter option, which of course seems like a no-brainer, until one factors in that the roads in this area of the country have more pot holes than paved surface.   That fact combined with the “suspension” (if one can actually use that word to describe the collective ridged pieces of meal connecting the wheels to the bus frame, that may have at one time been labeled with the misnomer, “shock absorbers”), and the physics of levers and mechanical advantage, or rather disadvantage in my case, meant that I was being catapulted airborne every 3-4 minutes landing with a graceless thud against the thinly padded mat.  Needless to say I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep that night.  At one point, between 2 and 3 am, I actually found myself second guessing my choice, and longing for a less jarring ride in the arms of that odorous Indian guy.

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