Day 12, 19 Jun 08
5.30 am, Its 5.30 and I cant resist my bowel movement. I need to shit… aagggh!!! my stomach needs an overhaul. By 6.00 Vj’s alarm is ringing, but we decide to cut it off, my head is aching and I don’t feel very healthy, my head is aching a bit, we decide to go back to sleep. Finally around 7.30 we wake up, but it is dark outside, I wonder if its a morning or an evening. Its raining, heavy clouds over the Hrishikesh. We prepare for our ‘check out’. At 9.00am we are at the ashram office, Vj finalizing the details, its raining. I hope it does not rain on the Ram jhulla where we would have no cover to run for. 15 minutes later, ‘Parmarth Niketan’ settlement is over and we move for the Vikram stand on the other side of the river. Things weren’t lucky for us on this trip, and my fear comes true, we were just at the halfway of the bridge and the clouds break lose. The heavy drizzle turns into a torrential downpour. We are left with no option but to run with the big bags till we find ourselves with other fellow tourists under a shop shelter.
We wait well over 30 minutes and the rain has gone from bad to worse. Few more minutes and luckily its back to the ‘heavy drizzle’ and we move on. By 10.15am we get a Vikram for Haridwar which is approximately 28kms from Hrishikesh, just a hour plus journey. Around 10.45 and we are in the Motichur forest zone close to Rajaji National park and the rain is now insane. It continues well till the borders of Haridwar. As if heavy bags and wet clothes were not enough, a huge traffic jam at one of the national highway junction is added to our misery. It takes about quarter of a hour for that to clear and we reach ‘Har ki pauri’ by noon.
Noon, We were lucky enough to find a cycle-rickshaw to port us to our local stay at the Gujarati Ashram. The poor fellow waded uphill amongst bustling streets full with cattle, people, cars, pulling around 170kgs of payload just for Rs. 20. At the ashram, luck seemed to be on ourside, when we got a decent room (for a trekking nomad) with an attached toilet/bathroom. We dry ourselves and rest. I’m for sure not feeling normal. Seems like I have temperature. Mallik calls, with bad news, his train is cancelled and now has to fly back to Mumbai. We move out to find food, same old ‘bhojanalayas’ with big fat tandoori rotis and spicy curries, we didn’t want those but weren’t spared. At food, we wondered if we should stick to original plan of the train or book the flight tickets, finally we too decided on shortcut route, flight. We tried to find a cybercafe on the main road, but couldn’t some of the vendors didn’t even understand what we were searching for. Haridwar in this context is quite backward to Hrishikesh, which due to its more foreign influx has somehow kept itself updated. Luckily we find a cafe just close to our lodging. We were lucky to find some tickets vacant for the Mumbai bound flights and book it.
It was almost 4.00pm when we reached back to our room, with nothing to do, we decided to rest. We had planned a evening aarti at Har ki pauri had it been our original plan, but now after booking for a 10.00pm bus to Delhi from Haridwar, that idea was out. My head was still aching and some body was tired, we decide to sleep. 7.00pm, I can’t sleep anymore, perhaps I’m uncomfortable for a sound sleep. In the balcony its cool breezy evening with beautiful colors at the horizon of Haridwar. We click our final snaps of our tour from the balcony of the Gujarati ashram. Go get back on the streets around 7.30pm to have tea and cancel our rail tickets. Vj gets a shave from a local saloon and feels better. By 8.00pm we were packing our bags for the final time, it was more than 12 days back when we had packed our bags for the next day flight for the very first time, wondering how we were gonna make the trek with the 10kg + bags. The chapter was finally on its last few pages.
9.00pm, After checking out of the dharamshala, we were at the travel agent’s shop waiting for a cycle rickshaw to pick us for the bus stand. We wait for almost 30 minutes, getting restless that the travel agent is just not willing to arrange for the cycle rickshaw. Finally he arranges one by 9.30 and we were on our way to the bus stand, in pitch black darkness somewhere around the corner there was a pack of buses, where the fellow asks us to get down, the cycle-rickshaw fellow checks with other fellow who gets a sheet of paper and probably ticked at our bus seat numbers. The bus is full of Gujaratis, Vj jokes he has no respite from them. It feels like being in a bus from Rajkot to Junagarh. Around 10.30 the engine whines and the tyres roll taking us into a new day for the last journey in our trip, back to Mumbai!
Day 13, 20 Jun 08
The seats of the bus are not ‘ergonomic’ a word we really didn’t care at the begining of the trip, but with the last moments with a tired body it made a lot of difference. My neck was aching, the bus stood still, I woke up, the bus was waiting at a restaurant for the tourists to break for food/washroom. It was 2.30am in the morning. After a few minutes its rolling again. I make a head rest out of my wind cheater and luckily have some sound sleep till 4.30, when the conductor of the bus calls for ‘Last Stop, ISBT !’.
That meant we were in Delhi, the bus was circling around some big area lighted with tall lamp posts, somewhere I saw ‘ISBT’. We were circling around the Delhi bus stop, ISBT. Few minutes later the bus stopped and our bags were yet again on our backs, for the last time. There were many auto-rickshaws offering a ride to the airport, with ranges of Rs. 150 – 300. We decided to check at the bus stop. Luck couldn’t favour us more, in front of us we saw slick bus with electronic signboard ‘IGI Airport’
5.00am, The bus moves and we move through the Delhi’s posh and wide roads, circling many government buildings, the Red Fort till we reached the Airport by 5.45. We have some biscuits to soothe our burning stomachs and wait. With us there was group of foreign models probably from Eastern Europe, opposed to us they were very well dressed, with their make ups and energetic. We at the other end were tired, dirty from night long bus ride. I decided to brush my teeth and take a dump at the Airport. Felt a little better, but my body ached, fever for sure, we waited restlessly for our call of ‘Indigo’ flight for Mumbai.
Around 8.30, we checked in our luggage and waited for boarding. By 9.15 we were in the fuselage. As I took my seat my memories returned when all 6 of us were in a similar plane all enthusiastic for the 2 week trip. Around 10.15 the plane took off. We didn’t have much to chat and discuss, both of us tired. As I put my head on the head rest, every single moment of the Dodital trek raced through, Mussoorie, Dehradun, Hrishikesh and all. By 12.15 the plane landed and it took us almost 1.30 before we ventured on the roads in the rickshaw, Vj’s friend came to meet at the airport and I hugged him thanks and all that for the trip and we to split into our own directions. The streets of Mumbai felt familiar but somewhat strange, from the lovely hillocks of the north, crisp clear skies, cool winds and snowy caps, I was back into Cement jungles and tar roads, nevertheless felt very happy to be back Home!!!