We woke up early freshened up and bid our goodbyes to Manojji and Kuldeep. We would miss them terribly. Hopefully we could get to see them again on some other trek, who knows?
Saying a warm goodbye to Imroze we got in to our vehicle. It was just the four of us. Rajinder and Prashant left earlier to catch another train. Vinayak had the good fortune to go on a long journey to Dehradun with the Aunty- Niece combo.
The previous night we gave him our best wishes and to be strong as he was grumbling and mumbling about it. The rest, we would see them at Kathgodam.
We stopped at a breakfast place and had our Parathas after a while. I was pondering on stopping at my friend Deepta’s newly opened cafe that was on the Highway, closer towards Almora. I was not sure if we would go that side.
In fact, when we started to Lohajung from Kathgodam on the first day, I thought of my dear friends Julia, Deepta & Arjun. I had spent time with them in Hawalbagh at Julia’s homestay Innisfree in April this year. I blogged about it back then. I remember messaging Julia I missed them so much as we were crossing Almora.
This time it was not possible to stop at Hawalbagh to meet Julia, it was 10 kms away from Almora and we had a train tonight but would it be possible to meet Deepta, Arjun and visit their beautiful cafe?
I already told Bhim about it and all were game for it. As long as we didn’t have to take too much of a detour. Indiahikes hired the vehicles and they wouldn’t like us to detour like this. Luckily the cafe was near Kosi river and right on the highway.
I was so happy when we knew this was possible. Deepta gave directions to the driver and by 11 am we were there! Meeting Arjun, Deepta’s hubby was always awesome! I gave him a big hug and was so proud when he showed me Deepta’s labour of love. It’s called ‘THE BONG BOOK CAFE’.
Meeting Deepta was always a joy. As always frank, she was a no nonsense person. She couldn’t handle bullshit from anyone and told them on their faces. The only other person I know who is like that is a very special friend of Bhim’s and mine, Kamakshi.
We met Deepta & Arjun’s adorable dogs Fuchka and the chummy mountain dog Cola. Cola was a tiny fluff ball when I saw her in April and now she was growing up fast! They were all over Bhim and me as we cuddled and played with them.
We sat down and chatted with Arjun while Deepta was getting our lunch ready. Arjun as usual being the gentleman he is, gave us the good stuff 🙂 We sat in his office and had our own time out.
Nag and I went into our zone sitting with them while Arjun regaled Hawalbagh stories, the local issues, how business was done and how lazy the locals were. He was a sensible man, he saw how things worked here and he would toe the line as long as it helped their business.
Nag by then was smiling benevolently with the after effects showing up. He would smile sweetly and from there on we went into a giggling marathon. Neha somehow started giggling more and we wondered if the fumes affected her too like second hand smoking! Nag gave us his Gyan on being in the present moment and being in touch with the self!
Lunch was ready! I told Deepta to make one fish curry for me and Nag as Neha said she had enough chicken last night and one vegetarian as Bhim was a vegetarian.What we ate was pure delight. Neha couldn’t control when she saw the fish curry and she dived in too 🙂
Deepta pampered us with Pooris (Luchis in Bengali) Paneer, Rice, Fish Curry, Dal fry, Aloo Poshto! It was Yum!! We devoured it. Deepta’s charming mom gave us company while we ate.
As I looked around the tiny cafe, I saw Deepta’s classy touch all over. Warm orange colours, a vintage telephone, hanging wind chimes, books, a tiny shelf, lovely chairs the works. It truly was an awesome cafe and I could see the hard work behind it. Fresh Lime Soda was served to us in Unique Bulb Glasses.
One book that caught all our attention was ‘Clever Wives & Happy Idiots’. We were surprised when Deepta told us this was an old folktales book from Kumaon! So next time you are near Almora, Kosi River, on the highway do check out The Bong Book Cafe.
We checked with the driver if we were still on schedule, he assured us that the other big vehicle was close by and they still had to stop for lunch. It would take them quite some time.
Giving big hugs to the amazing couple we started off. We spent a good two hours there and were blissed out by now.
As we went into deep sleep to dozing off, the driver sped on. At one point I could hear in my sleep, soothing soft Kannada songs, I looked up groggily to see Bhim, Nag and Neha singing. It was so nice and pleasant.
Then suddenly I got jolted by Garhwali songs, proper Pahadi songs and LOUD. I was like what the hell?! Neha burst into laughter, Nag commented that maybe this chap switched to his own songs after hearing us sing 🙂
And this is the thing with Pahadi songs, each and every song sounds the same! The rest of the journey we were trying to decipher the difference while Bhim tried to understand the meaning by shooting questions at the driver. We were laughing throughout watching the interaction between Bhim and the driver 🙂
I remember at a Chai Break point Nag and Bhim went into a ‘Hypothermia Dance’ that was taught by Imroze to keep us warm, by humming Garhwali Songs 🙂
We were the first ones to arrive and decided to sit at the Dhaba opposite the station. Their train was one hour earlier as they were going to Haridwar while mine would be to Delhi with the others.
I remember sitting there eating pakodas, Aloo 65 speaking random shit, laughing at crazy videos. And all this was ending soon..
To say goodbye is tough and it’s tougher when you had amazing company and made new friends. I didn’t want to get emotional in front of Bhim, Nag and Neha, I gave them all a big hug and made my way to the waiting room.
I was in no mood to meet the others either so when the train came, I got into my berth and was glad to see I was the only one, the rest were in different compartments.
I had my own journey to go from here. To Dharamsala…
I co-ordinated with Harsha who was in another compartment and once we arrived in Delhi station early morning, we banded up with Vimal and Pihu to take a taxi to Delhi airport.
Saying goodbye to them all I waited in the Plaza lounge and relaxed. I missed my friends and I missed those mountains but yes I had to move on and I was slowly getting back to myself knowing I had another journey.
Mcleodganj felt like second home when I visited it for the first time last year in September and I was looking forward to it.
As I was waiting at the gate, I saw a very senior revered Geshe- La ,I knew him. He was a translator to the Dalai Lama for 30 years and now he was the director of Tibetan Library and Archives. I met him in Mundgod – Tibetan Colony last year. I introduced myself and he warmly spoke to me.
Once we landed in Dharamsala, he was kind enough to offer me a ride. He was so sweet, he was like why do you want to spend so much money? Let’s share a cab. After he got dropped off at the Library, he paid 90% of the fare refusing my offer to contribute. He also invited me to visit him during my stay.
As I saw Mcleodganj, my heart was filled with Joy. What was about this place that made me feel like home? I never felt as safer and as warm as in other towns or cities, not even in Hyderabad.
All I did once I checked in to my hotel was to wash my clothes, eat all my meals in the room and look out from my balcony which had a beautiful view of the hills and Dharamkot, a small town above Mcleodganj.
I was tired and after all that adrenaline rush my body was telling me to rest up and not get out so I stay put that night. There will be tomorrow to look forward to, to exploring more.
Little did I know that my adventures wouldn’t end here, and who would have thought I would make an everlasting friendship in Mcleodganj?