June 19, 2006

Hogenakal Follies

Filed under: India — Chris @ 4:35 pm

So, I took a day trip to Hogenakal Falls yesterday and it was ultimately a pretty unpleasant experience. The actual time spent at Hogenakal* was perfectly nice, as evidenced by my pictures. What I’d like to focus on in this post is the ten-plus hours we spent on buses.**

The trip down was actually not that bad. We went from Bangalore to Dharmapuri (which took about 3.5 hours) and from there to Hagenakal (just about 1 hour). The road from Bangalore to Dharmapuri is an only-mildly-pothole-y highway*** and the bus was never more than mostly full and often half-empty. The road to Hagenakal was more primitive and the bus quite full, but we were filled with the golden glow of anticipation for the great adventure before us…

On the way back, we decided to get on the bus to Hosur, which turned out to be a “shortcut”—in the sense that the general direction of our travel was always more-or-less “towards” Bangalore, whereas Dharmapuri is several dozen kilometers “out of the way”—though what may be “short” as the crow flies seemed like a pretty frikkin long way on winding, rural roads through small villages and around small mountains, along which the driver would often have to slow down and honk loudly while waiting for cows, goats, dogs, chickens, and—only occasionally—people to get out of the way.

When we started off, I was standing. This would not normally be a major problem for me, but I am about four inches taller than your average Indian bus, so I had to spend a lot of effort as the bus careened to not bang my head into the hand-rail and developing a major crick in my neck. Much to the people of India’s credit, I politely declined at least 4 offers of seats from sympathetic short people.

This lasted about 30 minutes, until a man and his wife got off, leaving a reasonably comfortable seat open along the aisle near the front door.

This lasted about an hour, until we pulled into a village and the lady seated by the window next to me got off. I stood up to let her pass and before I could sit down again, a man (let’s call him Ass Face) and his wife had taken both of the seats on my bench. When I looked at this guy, like, “What the fuck?!,” he just looked right back, like, “Can I help you?” Now, I don’t know if this is some Indian law-of-the-jungle thing, or whether this guy was just, well, an Ass Face, or what—though I will note that the ticket taker seemed just as flustered by Ass Face’s brass balls as I was.**** The issue was quickly settled by a young man behind me, who scooted over and offered to share his seat in a spirit of brotherly good will that must have seemed outlandish to our Ass Face.

Now I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but there was one little problem with this young man’s seat and that was that the bus driver’s gear shift was where my legs wanted to be and the hump of the engine (which was hot!) was where my feet wanted to be (in the case that they couldn’t be at the end of my legs where my legs wanted to be (where the gear shift was)). So I’m sitting sideways in my seat and twisting to grab the bar behind me so I don’t fall on top of the engine as we teetered and tilted along the mountain roads. Meanwhile, the bus’s aisle is filling up, so I can’t even really put my legs there anymore.

This lasted another hour, at which point I leaned forward to let the ticket taker past me, only to find when I leaned back again that some lady’s ass was where my shoulder wanted to be. Now this Ass Lady (who at least had the good fortune to not have an ass for a face) was dug in, and wasn’t having any of my nudges and twitches, so I just twisted around into the least uncomfortable position I could find, with my legs not in front of me and my feet not on the hump and my shoulder not up Ass Lady’s ass.

This lasted about half an hour, until we pulled into another village and took a longish chai-and-chat pit-stop and Ass Lady along with a fair proportion of the people crowding the aisles got off the bus. I spent the last hour and a half of the trip to Hosur in the comparative luxury of the next seat over, where I still had to be careful not to put my feet where they wanted to be, lest they interfere with the operation of the gears, but where I could occasionally stretch out my legs when the ticket taker got up to move around the bus, and where I was seated next to Nandakumar, a very nice tailor from Bangalore who invited me to his house for dinner sometime.*****

With that, I’ll end my story. The trip from Hosur to Bangalore was relatively uneventful (though it did include a 9-year-old version of Ass Lady, who I nevertheless developed tender feelings for****** when the roof began to leak rain water on her head as she tried to sleep) and the trip from the bus station home is the subject of another post.

POSTSCRIPT: We didn’t even see the main waterfalls.*******

POSTSCRIPT 2: Would it make the above seem worse or better if I added that nearly the entire time (since we were on “super-luxury” buses) we were treated to low quality bootleg DVDs of Bollywood musicals at high volume?

* Or Hogenakkal, transliteration being as it is.

** Now you might say, “Ten hours on a bus? That doesn’t sound like a day trip to me. That sounds like a day on a bus.” And you’d be right. The culprits here are Tobi, optimism, naivete, and—oh, yeah—Tobi. It’s hard to imagine it could take 5 hours to travel 130 km (that’s about 80 miles for you metri-phobes). For comparison’s sake, it’s almost 200 miles from New York to Boston, with notoriously bad traffic, and 5 hours travel is on the high side of average. In India, you must bear in mind: (1) the roads are shitty and (2) the buses have the effective horsepower of a moped.

*** Woe, but were the potholes doozies! It might have been the suspension on the bus, or the fact that we were sitting in the back, but the potholes would literally send us flying out of our seats—several inches, in fact—only to come crashing down, wondering if all our vertebrae will still in their proper places.

**** A most peculiar anatomy had he, that Ass Face.

***** Is this the kind of thing that random Indians just disingenuously say they’ll do sometimes, or might this actually happen? Stay tuned.

****** Pipe down, sicky.

******* That’s according to Prasad. Who’s kind of a dick for even bringing it up.********

******** I say that in good fun, which I’m sure Prasad knows—one dick to another.



  1. Culprit?!?
    I organize a trip which gives you unique insights into Indian road culture, close-up (as in real flesh-on-flesh)) interaction with real Indians, intense immersion in contemporary Hindi & Tamil entertainment (video and audio!) for nearly 11 hours for not much more than the price of a bag of crisps in the US … and you call me the CULPRIT?!? Ts, ts, ts…

    Comment by Tobi K — June 20, 2006 @ 5:54 am

  2. I also blamed optimism and naivete and (by implication) inadequate Indian infrastructure (which is probably your fault too…)

    Comment by Chris — June 20, 2006 @ 6:13 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: