Travelling by Night: The Nis Express

There are some train and bus journeys which are well-known across the world. Epic train trips like the Trans-Siberian, which is a dream of many, or the experience of the open-ticket Vietnamese sleeper busses between Saigon and Hanoi, shared by scores of young travellers. Trips like these leave experiences that can be shared with other travellers you meet… At least, I assume as much, I haven’t experienced either of those.

This isn’t a story about one of the epics. This is just a story about a standard overnight bus, from Sarajevo to Nis (Serbia). It wasn’t a trip frequented by travellers. It didn’t even seem to be frequented by locals. I only counted 4 other people who travelled the whole distance, of 10 people on the bus when it left Sarajevo. Also, don’t be fooled by the name. The Nis Express takes 10 hours to cover 450km. It’s sloooow. But, I was armed with a fully charged ipod, a journal, a book I had already read, a bag of food rations, and little sleep. I was prepared for the journey.

17:58 – Boarding. Ticket ran to 46KM (23euro), but woke up too late to hitch, so no other choice. Paid 1KM (50cents) to stash the backpack. Standard. Not many people on the bus = Win. Score myself a window seat, in the middle of the bus. Settle in with my supplies. Bus actually seems pretty comfortable. Feeling optimistic about getting a good night’s sleep.

18:52 – Pale station. The bus has been stopped at the station for 20 minutes already. We drove for 30 minutes before the driver stopped for what is currently a 20 minute rest break. No wonder this trip takes 10 hours. After the busses in S.E.A, I expected freezing A/C all night. Instead, am almost breaking a sweat from the heater next to my ankle. It’s March in Europe. Just noticed there is a coffee machine installed at the front of the bus.

1 sandwich, 300ml water.

21:32 – Bosnia – Serbia border. Legs are still uncomfortably hot, but now A/C has turned on, and my top half is getting cold. I think I managed 30 minutes of sleep so far. The only straight roads I have seen have been through the towns. Everything else is windy mountain road, would be awesome to have my own wheels for this. Seems like a difficult route to try and hitch though. Explains why 450km takes so long in a bus. Have started trying to translate the Roman alphabet to Cyrillic, using road signs. Border crossing took 5 minutes at each side. Didn’t even leave the bus. Breezy.

2 sandwiches, 1 apple, 500ml water.

22:43 – Uzice, Serbia. Still struggling with temperature. Legs way too hot. Can’t find a comfortable position. Serbian roads seem smoother than Bosnian roads, but just as windy. Noticed that oranges look black when viewed under blue light. Made sense when I thought about it.

2 sandwiches, 1 apple, 500ml water, 1 orange.

23:56 – Some town. Still no sleep since 9pm. Driver seems to be searching for a petrol station. I say this because we are stopped outside a petrol station for the second time since leaving Uzice. The driver has walked over to ask the attendant. He was out of luck.

2 sandwiches, 1 apple, 700ml water, 2 oranges, 2 slices marzipan.

04:10 – Arrived at Nis. Unsurprisingly dark. Last 4 hours is a haze of switching chairs from window to aisle, and shifting position in my seat. Dozed off a couple of times, but have memories of  the digital clock glaring bright red, 2 or 3 times each hour. Have no idea where the centre of town is from here. Want to find somewhere to lie down. Want to use a toilet, but don’t want to pay 30din (30cents). Will find an alley somewhere.

3 sandwiches, 1 apple, 900ml water, 2 oranges, 2 slices marzipan.

06:32 – Just watched the sunrise from inside the Nis fortress. Was the only person here. Really want to get rid of my backpack now. Tourist office doesn’t open until 8. Cafes aren’t open. Time to start the day.

3 sandwiches, 1 apple, 1L water, 3 oranges, 2 slices marzipan, 200ml pineapple juice.

Worth it for the sunrise

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4 thoughts on “Travelling by Night: The Nis Express

  1. Hi, great post. I’m travelling the same route next week, but was wondering which bus station this left from in Sarajevo? Cheers

    • Ah, the Eastern one, from memory. Basically, not the one a couple km from the centre, but the one much further out. Can’t offer any insight on public transport to it (I had a new local friend drive me), but a google search should help.

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