All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go, taxi's waiting, it's ....
Nov 4, 2005
|Our first desire was to reach the town of Nainital, which resides within the Himalayan foothills close to the western Nepalese border. The descriptions that we read talk about fresh air, great walks, and on clear days wonderful views of the great Himalayan mountains in three directions. The trouble though, is that trains only go Wednesday night (at midnight) and Saturday night (at midnight). It is Thursday. The bus option is less than ideal with an eight hour (minimum) journey on a shockless bus on bumpy mountain roads. Having discussed possible options the night before, we both wake, (strangely), with the shared notion that the bus ride is not what we want for ourselves this day. We, instead, set our sights on the hillstation of Mussoorie, which is much more accessible by a short train ride and an adjoining bus.
This decision brings us to the train station, bright and early, to work out reservations and tickets. First, since it is displayed prominently, we approach the Tourist Information Counter.
"When is the train to Dehra Dun, and how much is it?" We ask.
"Is there a train to Dehra Dun today"
Looks about, and then back at us. Blankly.
"Do you know anything about the train to Dehra Dun?"
"This is office for tourist information."
"This is office that gives information to tourists only."
We look down at our white hands, and our small backpacks.
"Yes. And can you tell us about the trains to Dehra Dun."
He looks at the handwritten train schedule on the wall to his right.
"Only here information for tourists."
"We are tourists. And we need information. Can you tell us if there is a train to Dehra Dun?"
"You go to 'Enquiry Counter.' They handle enquiries."
"Ah, yes, of course. Thank you.
Three feet to our left is the Enquiry Office.
"Can you tell us what time the train to Dehra Dun is?"
"And what time is it?"
"You can buy ticket."
"Yes, but what time?"
"Yes, Dehra Dun."
"Dehra Dun, yes, but what time is it? How much is it?"
"Dehra Dun, okay, no problem. You can go there."
"I would like to go, but I need to know..."
At this point, my time expired apparently, another 'enquirer' pushes me out of the window.
Time to regroup. Mandy and I decide that we should try the next building, which we had visited the night before, and see if that is more helpful. There, we see eight ticket windows. Each sign over the window is written in hindi. In small letters, however, and in English it reads: "All windows sell tickets for all destinations." We choose a line and start waiting. We wait for over an hour, as several folks do there best to cut in front of us, at least one succeeding. We are one person from the front when the "tea break" hits. This is a scheduled twenty minutes stop when all the ticketers stand up - regardless of what they are doing - and go into the back recesses of the station to enjoy chai and a smoke. (I think the guy ahead of us was just waiting for his receipt when the time came.) So we wait twenty more minutes. When our man returns, and we finally get to him, "No, Dehra Dun - go last window down."
"But the sign says 'all destination'."
"Yes, all destinations, but Dehra Dun is not long journey, so it is different line. Not long journey to Dehra Dun. No problem."
We go, reluctantly, to the last window.
"Fifty six rupees. Dehra Dun. Leaves 2:30. Okay. No problem."
Money over, tickets back, and walk back into the sunlight, dazed and hungry.
Back at our hotel we pack, check out, and then enjoy an extended lunch and many pots of tea while we wait for two oclock to roll around. We are a little tired to go romping around, and at 2:15 we walk the short distance back to the station.
The train is no longer at 2:30, but now at 3:00. No problem. Through another comical runaround we finally establish the platform number which our train is scheduled for. #2. We sit on our bags, watch the crowds come and go as we wait for the train to take us to Dehra Dun. 3 Oclock comes and go. Now the train is at 3:30. Okay.
At four a train pulls up at platrorm #3. On the side is the numbr written on my ticket. Back to 'Enquiry'. "Has the platform changed for this train?"
"So this train is still coming on Platform #2?"
"Then what platform is it on?"
"Not Platform #3?"
"Yes, Platform #3."
"You are sure?"
Back to the platform, up with our bags, down the platform, up the ramp, over the tracks, down the ramp, down the platform, find a car, find a seat, and sit down just as the train pulls out of Haridwar Train Station.
The train ride is smooth and pleasant as we pass fields and small towns. On these trains there are no glass windows so the fresh air comes in (if it is fresh) and the countryside is accessible to the watchful eye. In the nicer trains, which have airconditioner and waiter service, the windows are a thick and tinted glass and make it difficult to view the scenery at all. We arrive in Dehra Dun, the capital of this region, just as the sun is setting. We make our way to the bus station and are just in time to get the last few seats heading to Mussoorie.
It is a one and a half hour ride up steep slopes and hair-pin turns which would more likely be scary if the sun hadn't set and you could see more clearly the drop-offs to the left or the cows in the road. The passenger who had our seat previous must have felt the effects of the road quite well as he or she left a symbol of their sickness dangling on the window's edge and dribbling down the outside of the bus. I spend most of the ride keeping my left eye on the vomit pool, making sure it stays on the outside edge and that a sharp turn or bump doesn't compell it to jump inside and onto our innocent, resting backpacks which are stacked below.
We arrive at the south gate of Mussourrie at about 8pm. We have chosen, from the guide book, a place that sounds nice and fits the budget - the Hotel Broadway. The trouble, like so many times is finding it. The main problem is that Mussoorrie is a real hill station and although map provided seems clear enough, it is hard to account for the myriad streets and the up and down nature of the whole place. Each street and alleyway goes around corners as it bends away or wraps around a building. We can identify a landmark, such as a restaurant, but then are perplexed to find that street between this one and the next doesn't seem to exist. As we ask directions and stumble around the town's power goes out. In an instant the whole street is black and still we have no idea where we are. As we begin to ask shopkeepers and people on the street for directions we get varying instructions. "Go left, then left, then more left, then up." "It's just there, around there, one minute." "Go down, until the street levels out, then ask someone else." We walk in a circle and then decide to stay someplace else. The whole town is built of hotels.
We stop at the next one we see that looks nice and inquire. The manager offes to knock the price from 2500 rupees down to 900. "Just for you. Only for you." Still this is more than we are willing to spend and we decide we'll give the Broadway one more shot.
By now it seems this little part of town is all laughing at us, as after an hour of our arrival we are stilling carrying large packs and wandering around lost. The next guy knows we are looking for the Broadway before we open our mouths. It is he, though, that through precise explanation is able to guide us up a street that we had continually missed sight of that helps lead us to the Hotel Broadway.
Inside the cozy front hall we are greeted by a short Nepalese man with an amazing mustache. He smiles big and offers us a room which we are only too happy to accept. The night air has chilled us and inside we are happy to find big warm blankets on the bed and carpets on the floor. After the tiled and cement floors of the past six months we cannot remember the last time we felt wall to wall carpet. A little dirty, maybe, but carpet just the same. We are very happy to have found the warmth of Broadway, even if our names weren't written in the marquis lights.