On reaching Phagwada, the first thing we tried was again, try for a cab. So my friends went about to find out about cabs, while I, spotting a cobbler at the entrance of the bus terminus, got down to fixing my boots. No more bare feet! But soon my friend returned with bad news, no luck with the cabbies. Bus was now our only option, but after a chai ! At the chai stall, we met a Himachal Tourism driver, who learning that we are headed to Dharamsala, informed us, to our glee, that he was headed there. Only catch, he would leave late at night. His bus was supposed to go to Ludhiana first and then depart from there, but roads being the way they were, he could not reach Ludhiana, but being bound by a schedule, he would not leave for Dharamsala before 2200 hrs. We figured, since it was early evening already, it would be better that way, reaching Dharamsala after 2200 hrs would land us in a trickier situation as most places would be shut. This way, we could at least spend the night in the bus, than on the streets. Anyway, we were already way off from our schedule and not that we had any other choice.
Who or what influenced the bus driver, we will never know. But he drove like a maniac. Instead of the next morning, we found ourselves standing at Dharamsala amidst heavy rains at 2.30 in the night!
We had no choice but to wait till 6.00 when the hotels would open. Soon we were not alone, cars of all shapes and sizes began to throng the main square of McLo. Judging by their license plates, these were cars that had been held up in the traffic.
In the morning, our fears turned to reality, all the hotels were out of rooms. As we knocked from hotel to hotel, we would get the same reply. Even my regular hotel, where I’ve always stayed, was unable to offer a room for me.Overbooked for the long weekend. He directed me to Green, and told me that I was sure to find a room there. But Green also turned us down. [Though, later they did allot rooms to an American couple, an hour later, while we were having breakfast there! I suspect Green has stopped giving out rooms to Indians, the reason for which is the matter of another story. It is sad, if that be the case, since the first time I ever came to McLo, I had stayed at Green.]
After a lot of searching around, we managed to find a hotel, newly built and quite further downhill from the main road, which probably explains why it had rooms at all.
When we came up to the main square later, we were shocked. The entire area was crowded like never before, and the place had definitely undergone a sea change to cater to the new clientele. Discos with DJ nights and bars and dhabas screamed out from the square, much to my chagrin. Bhagsu was worse, German bakery at Bhagsu now has a new menu, included, among other offerings, paranthas and chicken curry and kadai paneer. I spoke to the waiter, who also seemed dazed and lamented about the good old days. Dazed, disillusioned, heartbroken, the three of us were wondering why we took so much trouble coming here.
The first thing we did however, after the hotel rooms, was to book our tickets back. This was a wise move, or at least it seemed then, since we were the last three to get tickets as all buses were again full for the next two days.
Without wasting any time, we went up towards Triund, far from the crowd. It is at Triund, we found our peace and all seemed worthwhile. It was raining all the time during our trek and my Cats gave up on me again! But, the hills made me happy enough to forget all the trials. On our way, shortly after we started, we met couple of people, but none of them were keen to go up. The rains had washed away the roads, so vehicles couldn’t go there. This thankfully contained the crowd to the main McLo.