Thursday, 15 September 2011

August weekend adventure, part I

Last month, my hill-withdrawal had become unbearable for me. With a long weekend for the Independence Day around the corner, of course, I decided that I'll be heading for the hills.
Things started rather fluidly, with me not knowing where exactly in the hills I would be going; neither did it matter much to me, as long as it was the Himalayas. Couple of my friends whom I had told earlier of my imminent journey, were also keen to join and had expressed their desire to go to McLeodganj. I wasn't too keen on McLo because, as I had explained to them, being a long weekend, half the population of Chandigarh, Delhi and its neighbouring areas would be there. Anyway the last time I had gone there, I was a tad bit sad (this post here) on how McLo had started to become "touristy". But a few hours before my fated journey, my friends confirmed that they would join me. One of them had never been to McLo, so McLo it was!

However, whatever premonitions I had about the place being crowded was to be overshadowed by the events to follow and how!

Firstly, as expected, when we reached ISBT, we were told that bus tickets for the day and the day after to any place in Himachal were sold out. This was bound to happen and had we known of our plans earlier, we could have booked them beforehand and avoided this hassle. But me with my ' I-am-going-alone-so-I-get-on-any-bus-headed-for-the-hills ' attitude and my friends who did not know till hours ago that they would come along and we'd head to McLo, this was obviously not possible. Anyway, so having been disappointed by the Himachal Roadways and the private operators at ISBT, I suggested, we head for Majnu ka Tila to try for the private buses operating from there. At this point, one of my friends had suggested that we go via Pathankot, but I had declined as that road always has been bad for me. Last time I took that route; I reached McLo sick and could hardly venture out. But even at Majnu ka Tila, we couldn't find anything till the next day, by that time noon had become evening, so anxious to start that day, we decided to go back to ISBT and take the Pathankot route. We reached back and the earliest bus we could find was to leave at 2200 hrs.

If things had gone well, this would have dropped us at Pathankot around 5.00 in the morn, and we should have reached McLo around 1200 hrs the next day, a mere 5 hour delay than if we had got a direct bus ticket to Dharamsala, acceptable ! By 2230 hrs we had been escorted in and out of two buses, both of which were not accustomed to the concept of leg space or air conditioning. We put on our bravest selves and decided we shall endure this hell, after all the hills were just a night away. Next morning we woke up in an immobile bus, it has been such for 2 hours and showed no promise of challenging the status quo. We got down and saw the situation ahead. Heavy rains had caused the road to cave in and there was traffic all the way till the horizon. We were somewhere beyond Ludhiana, smack in the middle of some unfamiliar hinterland. After being patient for an hour more, we decided, its better that we go up ahead and forsake the bus, try instead for a cab. We were also hungry, and there was a motel nearby from where our bus had parked itself. This we decided could be our recon joint then. We'll have brunch and call a cab service, the number for which would hopefully be available with the hotel staff. Things went as planned, and we sat down for a nice brunch after having called a cab with due help from the manager. The cab guy informed us that he would arrive in an hour.

Two hours later, there was still no sign of any cab, and the traffic outside, had just started to trudge along. We called back the cab guy, only to be told that he was stuck and won't be able to make it ! Now, we were in trouble. So as any full-blooded adventurer would do, we decided, lets walk till the nearest town and try some mode of transportation from there. Luckily, a few metres down the way, we met our old bus, and promptly hopped on back ! But our joy was short-lived, ten minutes later, we were back to square one, the bus had stopped and the road ahead looked even more troublesome. We were back to our walking plan. In the long perilous journey that followed, we trudged through knee deep mud for 10kms ! My ancient faithful 7 year old Caterpillar boots gave up on me, the sole came off, so I switched to slippers, which after 20 fateful steps, decided to bury itself in the slushy mud. Unfettered by such conspiracies, I walked a good 8km of our 10km stretch barefoot ! The only issue in this brave endeavour was my yet-to-heal-hairline-fractured-toe, which made sure that I limped my way through 6km.

After this ordeal, we reached a town called Ghuraiya. The residents of the town must have been amused to see 3 rain soaked, mud caked boys walking through their town with backpacks on their backs, one of them barefoot! By this time, my toe had started its own struggle for autonomy. Having no luck with cabs still, we managed to talk to an auto rickshaw guy, who agreed to drop us till Phagwada, from where, he said, we could reach Dharamsala, via another route avoiding Pathankot. Relieved, we sat in the auto, tired, muddy and hoping that the worst is over.

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