The white mini-bus was parked just outside of the English Bakery – by the ‘Beas Knees’ and wasn’t as luxurious (hardly surprisingly) as the photos in the tourist office had made out.
A chunky, smiley driver complete with a head torch relieved me of my luggage and stuffed it into the back as I searched for my seat. I was the first there and nestled into my allocated space, pushing my thermal sleeping bag liner into various shapes and sizes to try and make it as comfortable as possible.
The problem was the seats themselves, they were at a forty-five degree angle, sloping downwards, so no matter how much you pushed yourself back into the seat, before long you slipped right back down to the edge.
Resting my head awkwardly against the seat I fell into a semi-state of sleep, aware that others were boarding the bus, but unaware if they were old or young, male or female, they were just people. I remember the engine starting and with a jolt the bus moving forwards…then nothing.
It must have been only about two hours later (for it was still pitch black) that I woke. I had a crick in my neck and a knotted back, but these were bearable – it was my feet that were the issue. I think they call it frost nip, the stage before frost bite…where your skin starts going bright red and losing feeling.
Well, the feeling wasn’t lost, so I guess it was the stage before that…but I was learning the hard way that flip-flops were not the best footwear for this journey. Crossing my legs in the Buddha position I tried to rub them warm and for brief moments the painful throbbing ceased, only to return as soon as I stopped. It was hellish. I couldn’t sleep the pain was so intense and I cursed myself for not buying the furry woollen slippers that I’d picked up and then tossed aside the day before.
And so it dragged on…and on….and on….until finally dawn broke and finally the mini-bus warmed, releasing my grip on my toes, I rested my head against the window and passed out.