Not the destination but the journey


After two minutes on the road we were plunged into darkness, I panicked and reached out to check that Geoff was still sitting beside me. To compensate for the loss of a sense, my nose was working overtime to make sure I picked up on every wave of nauseating stench that washed over me. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d eaten, but I felt that familiar lump in my throat, warning me that I might throw up soon. I’d never before inhaled air so thick with the distinct smell of human waste.

You’d be mistaken for thinking I had been kidnapped in the Colombian Jungle, or got myself caught up in a military coup in some war-torn nation. I’m afraid my story isn’t that exciting; I was just riding an overnight bus from Portugal to Spain.

I’m normally a glass-half-full kind of girl, but in this situation, the glass was half empty, and it wasn’t even what I had ordered! Our original plan was to fly to the Portuguese island of Madeira and spend the weekend hiking or swimming with dolphins. Air traffic control had different plans and grounded our flight, so we were left with the only cheap option available; sleep on the overnight bus to Spain, and explore the Roman ruins of Merida the next day.

Before planning a trip people have always advised me to squeeze a bus journey in at some point, “you can learn a lot about a country by riding the bus”, they say. By this logic, I can only deduce that Spain is a land of urine-soaked drunkards, which we all know isn’t true. It was just this particular bus happened to be carrying a man I can only assume had spent the last few days urinating in his sweat pants.

Knowing that it would be the only chance I would get to sleep for the next 30+ hours I decided to take advantage of the reclining seats, cover my nose and try to rest. ‘Carcolepsy’ has its perks, I was blissfully dreaming of tapas and sangria within moments of closing my eyes, until Geoff rudely disturbed my slumber.

“Put your seat upright, now!”

Apparently, our new friend of questionable hygiene had moved to the seat behind us and had been leering over me while I slept. And so began the most torturous three hours of my life, sitting in complete darkness, trying to limit my oxygen intake, and counting down the seconds until we arrived in Merida.

L Howarth

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