+Next: Rishikesh and Laman Jhula
It was the morning of early February. It was pleasantly cold in the morning when I headed out in a noisy auto-rikshaw towards the airport. It was mildly foggy, which made the slopes of the inner ring road look picturesque and beautiful. I was heading out to North India and was to be travelling for a month. I was a little nervous but very happy. I had been thinking about travelling like this for a long time, and when it was about to materialize, I planned it for a few months and anticipated for this day.
If the signs in the beginning were anything that would indicate the success of my journey, they were not very encouraging. I had a tough time getting a taxi to the airport, and the flight was delayed while we waited for fog to clear. I reached Delhi an hour later than I was supposed to.
But the weather in Delhi seemed too perfect to be true. I have heard many rants about the extreme weathers in Delhi which rises to as high as 40 in summers and drops near zero in the winter. Newspapers were full of news about cold waves that affected north India. But I was there at a time when winter was giving up its hold, and the day looked perfect. It was mildly cold and comfortable. The breeze coming on to my face reminded me that it is winter, but the mild sun neutralized it. It was so pleasant that I forgot all about the delays and the waiting, and found myself smiling. It was a good beginning.
An hour long taxi ride took me to Interstate Bus Stand somewhere in the middle of Delhi. This is the second time I am in Delhi, and as I moved around, I could not help but appreciate the open spaces that Delhi boasts of. We drove through thickly wooded area for nearly 30 minutes, which gave way to large buildings and wide roads. The traffic is smooth and uninterrupted though that is not the case in all parts of the town.
I was heading to Rishikesh from the bus terminus. Travelling by day means you are unlikely to get a comfortable bus that can take you through the journey with out much pains. I ended up getting into an old rickety, congested bus which stopped at every possible place. I was the first one to get inside and managed to find the most comfortable place of what was available. There is no good place to eat at the bus terminus, so I end up skipping lunch. The skimpy breakfast offered by the airline is all the I got to eat through the day.
If the taxi ride was comfortable and took me through the best and spacious streets of Delhi, the bus went through just the opposite. The roads were congested and the traffic was too much. It became hotter as the day progressed. Our driver seemed to prefer the right lane for driving. He bullied the smaller vehicles to give way, honked away to glory and has little care for lane discipline – probably a concept he never knows.
The people in general appear friendly and minutes after the bus starts, strangers start conversation and make friends. The topic of conversation varies from politics to hot weather to merchants who swindle the buyers and much more. The bus breaks suddenly somewhere and an old man who was not yet seated falls down. People rush to help him stand, but he is fortunately not injured. The driver is apologetic but conveniently blames the traffic. It is an accepted means of apology in a world where people do not expect the formal ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ but understand subtle expressions of the same.
The bus eventually leaves Delhi and enters the fertile Gangetic planes. The entire highway is swarming with vehicles and the journey is painfully slow. Bullock carts, cars and trucks share the same road and the carts are actually in a large number. The bus stops at every small town, and hawkers rush to the bus to sell whatever they can each time it stops. There are fields of sugarcane and (probably) paddy everywhere. Every inch of land is used up for agriculture, houses or roads and there is no concept of free space all along the way. I understand why Uttar Pradesh is such a populous state. There seems to be a good amount of money around here, as I notice many resorts, townships and entertainment centers dot the highway. The bus passes via Meerut and I briefly recollect Mangal Pandey and the first revolution of independence in 1857. Further on the road, there is a heavy traffic jam at Roorkee which holds us for another hour, adding to the delays. The driver had said earlier that we will make it to Rishikesh by 7.30pm, and when we finally arrive it is 9pm. I don’t have time to look for a good place to settle down, so I decide to get into the first smallish hotel near the bus stand and check in for the day. It was a long journey through the day and I haven’t eaten much. I find a nearby place to eat and pounce on Chapatis, come back and crash.
More on Rishikesh at paintedstork.com
* Rishikesh photo gallery
* Arriving at Rishikesh.
* Walking around Laxman Jhula
* Ganga Aarthi at Rishikesh
* Photo Essay: Babas of Rishikesh
* Rishikesh to Kaudiyala
* About Rishikesh