Pankaj left in his auto as I bade him goodbye from the ashram. He said enjoy Yourself, make the most of it. I gave him a big hug. He has been an important influence in my life since I met him.
He introduced me to the mountains, prodded me to explore more, not to set limitations, Introduced me to Indiahikes, I shared a lot of my life experiences with him and so did he. He was a very dear friend and that would be for a lifetime I know that.
It was almost 10 pm and it was time to take a bus to go to Haridwar. The friendly auto guy who Kishore introduced us to was the same one who dropped off Pankaj and Jogen too.
So when I told him if he could drop me off to Haridwar, he said Madam, I will ensure you get into a bus to Haridwar, worry not. My train was a midnight one at 12.15 am.
There were few buses by the time we got to the bus stand as it was past 10.30 pm. He found me a bus and I got into one packed with men. All those preconceived notions I put in my head as North not being safe for women came back big time.
So I was pleasantly surprised when one took my backpack and kept it near the driver’s seat and another one made space in his front seat so I could sit. They were concerned that I was traveling alone to Haridwar at that time of night.
I started chatting with them on practically everything, especially with the gentleman next to me who seemed to be big time into politics.
In fact I realized that politics was so embedded in the North. These guys knew each and everything. They gave me ‘Gyan’ from Modi to Adityanath to Pappu 🙂
As I got down from the bus, these guys helped me with my backpack and the driver was so nice , he stopped right in front of the station saying, ‘Ye Raha saamne aapka station ( Here’s your station in the front) and he even pointed right opposite one dhaba saying kuch khaalo bahut time hai na? ( Do eat something as you have plenty of time)
I was in the mood for a Lassi. I still had time to kill, a good 40 minutes. As I sat there, 11.30 pm and observed people coming in and out, eating, drinking, leaving and seriously not bothered that a woman was sitting alone at that time, I was wondering ,is it Rishikesh?
I had another 20 minutes so I walked to the station and I couldn’t believe when I saw my train details. The train was delayed by 2 hours and it would be 2.15 am now!
Oh man, this was going to be tedious. I was looking forward to getting in and get some shut eye. My schedule was total awry now.
The original plan was that the train would reach Kathgodam station at 6.15 am and from there I would take a shared cab to drive to Almora, as Deepta mentioned the fare would be cheap and the duration would be 3 hours and then my friends would pick me up from Almora as it was another 15 kms distance to Hawalbagh. I was like now what?
What do you do when faced with this? You enjoy the ride and the trek actually made me non fussy. Seriously it did.
From sharing tents to using portable toilets and not showering for 6 days, well this was nothing. This is one of the big things that changed me.
I walked in to the waiting room and it was full, so I placed my backpack down, spread my sleeping bag on the floor, used the day pack as a pillow and lied down.
It felt nice as I saw passengers coming in and out, waiting for their trains. I saw a big family with children placing a thick blanket and sleeping on it. I chatted with them a bit. I was happy at least I had a space to wait.
I met an Ecuadorian, a South American girl who was lying down next to me. She was beautiful with her blond dreadlocks. I saw an interesting book in her hand and that set the conversation.
She was backpacking across North and she finished her Yoga Course in Rishikesh, she was going back to Delhi for some days and then to Himachal Pradesh. So cool.
I also met two local girls who were taking the same train to Kathgodam. They were visiting their Aunt who lived in Haldwani.
Now when I think about it, I really don’t know how time passed. Sometimes in conversation with others, sometimes dozing off and suddenly waking up to see if I might have missed the train.
I remember thinking so what if I miss the train, I will take a bus the next day or even go back to Rishikesh, no harm. I was open to any possibility.
Finally the train came around 2.20 am and I got into my berth, a side upper berth and I was pretty happy. I was finally going to be in Hawalbagh tomorrow!
When detours happen, you take it 🙂