1 Sept – 8pm, just back from work. A slightly tiring day, coupled with a week long fever had put the trip on tenterhooks! Scenario at home wasn’t any better, with dad not being too comfortable with me making the trip. Names like Nako, Tabo, Kaza and Peo wasnt of much help either.. If anything, it made it worse! With the flight scheduled to depart at 530 am, I had less than 9 hours to pack, put on a brave face, get a cat nap and leave to the airport; and hope fever stays away, at least for the next 13 days!
Another reason for the jitters, a text from a friend in Bangalore informed me of the nation wide strike for the following morning. The implication, if it were to impact Chandigarh too (NATION-wide… silly me!!!), I would have to stay back in Chandigarh, and would not be able to get to Narkhanda, as planned (such an over-rated word)!!!
2 Sept – 5 am – Day 0 –
Chennai airport, domestic terminal, Indigo flight 6E 194. Just as the flight took off for Mumbai, I felt the all too familiar jitters. I had not researched enough. I dint have a clue about where to stay at Chandigarh (although my plans was not to stay there!). Two hours and I found myself waiting at a queue in the loo of Mumbai airport, departure terminal waiting for the plane from Hyderabad to take me on to Chandigarh. When the plane did come, it dint help soothe my nerves! If anything, it troubled me more, there were hardly any passengers on it!
1230pm – Chandigarh – First way point of the trip and the first delay! The plan, was to head straight to the ISBT 43 and get a bus to either Shimla or Narkhanda and onward to Hatu peak! Thanks to a hartal, there wasn’t much choice but to stay back at Chandigarh for the day! The first stop over implied that the trip schedule had to be adjusted – on the very first day…
Not much to write home about the hotel in sector 17 where i plonked myself for the night! The unplanned stopover if anything, increased the anxiety that had started the previous night back home! But for a friend who kept company over phone, the anxiety might have been a lot worse. For some reason, I was at sea, completely lost and directionless the very first day of the trip! So much for a ten day trip!!!!!!! A day of long pointless walks, including two trips to isbt 43, one of which confirmed that the buses will ply to Himachal the next day onward! A relief at last… Rendezvous @ 8am.
These pointless walks did its bit keeping me distracted from the worry of the delay, and the anxiety of what lay ahead! Sure it is fun to stroll aimlessly in a strange city, on a week day when the whole place is buzzing with activity..! It is as if time stood still around me, and me being the spectator, watching it all happen!
Sector 17 – Plaza
Travel tip :
For those looking for a stopover at Chandigarh, there are staying options at ISBT 17 and 43. While they are cheap, ranging between Rs 700 and Rs 1000. It is, however suggested that you get a good look at the room beforehand. While one of the transit lodges is maintained well (this is located at the far side of the ISBT 17 from where Delhi bound Volvos depart) – they also have dormitories at about 300-400.
Day 1 –
8am -ISBT 43 – Thanks to an auto guy who stuck to his word of picking me up by 7am! — Yet another perk of aimless wander – making friends with a random autowallah —
745 am – ISBT 43, Himachal counter – waiting for ticketing to start for the Ambala-Rampur bus. Half hour and a casual chat with a fellow traveller later, I was in the bus, headed towards Pinjore and onward to Rmapur. The trip has finally begun.
The destination for the day – Rampur. A distance of about 250km. A trip which I had thought would last a few hours lasted the whole day! Although tiring, the views of the valleys and the intoxicating scent of the apples all around more than made up for the fatigue. The low point of the leg of the trip, was missing out on Hatu peak and Narkhanda due to the hartal.
The drive, while reasonably smooth until Shimla was mess thereafter. An hour’s traffic jam ensured that we weren’t reaching Rampur until after dark. The HRTC buses serve as a lifeline in these area, ferrying not just people, but also the mails. They make a stop at post offices along the way to pass on the bags they have got and take in the new ones…! The traffic remained choc-a-bloc until Theog, the apple season not helping our cause! After Theog, the roads had eased up, and the bus did pick up speed.
A couple of hours before Rampur, the bus had stopped at a rather obscure little village with barely a couple of shops for refreshment! The little village, in the setting sun had such amazing view. A view that people here have gotten used to; the same thing for which I have come from a thousand km away!
The twinkling lights all around and above the main bus stop, and the constant gurgle of the Sutlej somewhere out of sight was the first imagery of Rampur. Thanks to the dark, there was no way to figure out how high the mountains around me were, or how far below the Sutlej was flowing; at least not until the next morning! The co-traveller from Chandigarh; a native of Rampur helped me check in to Hotel Sutlej View.
Travel tip: A double bed, non a/c rooms costs around Rs 750/- a night. The place is best suited for solo travellers or backpackers expecting a little bit of creature comfort, While the rooms facing the river seem slightly more airier, the ones to the road side are slightly on the dingier side. The location notwithstanding, the hotel wasn’t exactly what one would call clean. While it is ok for a night’s stopover, someone who’s finicky about hygiene will find a lot to crib about, right from the stains on the bed to a few insects crawling around.
The place has a restaurant attached, and they do serve a decent meal. This, however might not be suitable for families. The Bushehar Regency (Hp tourism) might be a better option, although at a slightly higher price tag!
While the room was a disappointment, the gentle rumble of the gushing river below was so soothing that it was hard not to get lulled into a dreamless sleep… As for Rampur, and the next course of action, it has to wait until tomorrow.. Two days into the trip, and not one place visited..
….the vistas opened up the following morning….. contd…