Sunday, 10 October 2010

Mechanical Failure Day

After two days in Dhaka the storm subsides and my host decides it is time we get back to Khulna to continue the work with communities in the Khulna and Jenidah regions. We are working on bringing a few communities together and look at cooperative structures and how ICT can be of help in cross-fertilisation of coops. I've been staying in the Green House, a lovely B&B in Gulshan 2, Dhaka's diplomatic district. They pamper me whilst I linger about with a bad stomach and a headache and I am reluctant to leave.

My host decides we'd best set off early and I rise @ 6:45 AM to make it to the 8:30 AM bus, calculating in the hour+ it takes to brave Dhaka traffic to the bus depot. It's Saturday and I am lucky that traffic is light and I make it to the bus station before my host does. Not that there was any real point in hurrying there, as buses in Bangla don't leave @ their scheduled time and by about 9:30 we hit the road.

Some 2 hours into the 10-hr journey the bus pulls over. Mechanical problems ~ an oil leak of some sort which will run the engine dry, so we're stuck. The driver assures us that another bus is on the way from the depot, but it will take at least two hours before it will get there. About an hour into the wait, the bus driver admits that no new bus has actually left the depot and no bus is actually available ~ so more likely a 4-5 hrs wait ahead..

My host and I confer and after two phone calls  ~ it pays to be connected in this country! ~ he has lined up a private air-conditioned mini van to continue our journey. Before we leave our host demands a refund from the bus driver, but doesn't get far. Demanding a refund from the driver or his side-kick, or even getting them to write on the ticket that the bus broke down ~ they are not authorised to deal with ticket pricing and too scared to put their jobs at risk. They make an attempt to phone head office - no one answers the phone!  This has turned into one expensive journey !

As we speed up the road in our vehicle, we see at least another 5 buses on the side of the road with mechanical problems and decide this must be 'mechanical failure day'. The good news is that there isn't a cue to get on the ferry to cross the river Padma ~ one of the main rivers of Bangladesh ~ and things go smoothly from there onwards. 

Some 12.5 hours after starting out, we arrive in Khulna. In the meantime I've learnt that there is an option to travel by boat between Khulna and Dhaka ~ friends tell me it is a pleasant 14 hr overnight trip ~ and since I will need to get back to Dhaka at least once more before leaving Bangladesh, I ask my host to look into booking a cabin on a boat.

No more buses please !

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