Don't Stop, You are just a step away.
how was the BUS?6th-7th April 2019, Delhi to Shangarh err… Kalpa?
Not to be late for the bus, I took an Uber one and a half hours before the scheduled departure and managed to reach the ISBT Kashmere Gate with plenty of time to spare. This time, I managed to kill with a packet of chips and a cold drink.
Even though I had tried my best to pack light and even left behind the zoom lens and backup camera body, the camera and cloths bag still weighed 10.5 kg. Normally when I travel to Ladakh, my camera backpack weighs this much, hence I was happy to have packed frugally, at least for now.
I boarded my bus 15 minutes before its departure and found the seats relatively comfortable, though still not in the same league of a Volvo. Strangely, AC was kept off, until the bus crossed the Delhi border.
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Once out on the highway, I drowned out the sound of the bus and traffic with music and began to let my thoughts wander.
It was a good thing I had eaten chips and drank cold drink at ISBT, because the bus stopped for dinner around 10:30 pm at the Kurukshetra Bus Stand, though it seemed more like a private one with just one place to have proper food and that too only offering thalis or dal-chawal etc. no ala carte.
Worse still, the waiter placed the more expensive paneer thali in front of me, just as I sat down at the table and I had to call him for 5 minutes, in order to get it replaced with Rs. 150 dal-subzi thali.
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Thankfully, food was not bad. However, considering the taste, quantity and quality, it seemed expensive.
I had to shell out Rs. 30 for a liter of Bisleri Water Bottle, which normally has an MRP of Rs. 20. In fact, I had to pay Rs. 30 for water, everywhere the bus stopped en route.
Around 11:30 pm, the bus continued on its journey towards Shimla and I dozed off for a few minutes.
After a rather uneventful journey until Zirakpur, the bus hit something or the fan belt slipped on its own, just as the bus was climbing a flyover. Thankfully, it was fixed within half an hour and did not cause any problems later in the journey.
As the bus started gaining altitude, weather became colder and the AC, well it was switched off again!
Around 3:30 am, the bus stopped again at the Vakna Hotel (Murthal Wale), 22 km before Shimla. Apart from freshening up and a passenger ordering maggi, no one seemed to order anything from the hotel. I bought a bottle of water for Rs. 30.
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When I came back in the bus, my seat was taken over by co-passenger, who seemed to be sleeping throughout the journey and had not gotten down once. In fact, both the times I had to ask him to wake up and move, so that I could get out of my seat. I thought it would be rude to wake him up again and as it is, I was not getting any views. Therefore, I decided to sit on his seat instead.
The bus had barely gone a few hundred meters and I realized the folly of kindheartedness. His seat would keep reclining at turns and I do not find reclined seats comfortable due to my back issue.
Therefore, for the next 4 hours, I would keep fixing the seat upright, every few minutes or sit sulking on a reclined seat!
Thankfully at the next scheduled stop at Kingal (we barely stopped for a few minutes at Shimla), everyone got down to freshen up, including my co-passenger and I could recapture my seat!
View from Kingal looked beautiful and I could not wait for the journey to Jalori Pass to begin.
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Even though I had earlier traveled to Jalori Pass, during BCMT’s North India Meet, I had only done it from the Shoja side and never from the Anni side.
As my mind was racing through all these thoughts, the conductor announced, all those passengers who wanted to get off at Sainj, should get ready.
In a flash, everything became clear.
The Sainj mentioned on HRTC website was not the Sainj of Sainj Valley, rather the small Sainj after Kingal, where the road bifurcates into two, one leading towards Jalori Pass and another going towards Rampur Bushahr.
The Sainj I wanted to travel to was 105 kilometers away!
No wonder the bus had taken the road via Shimla and had shown such a short time to arrive at Sainj. Though I still could not make out, how could they have written Rampur 5 minutes after Sainj, even though it was 30 km away and is not referred commonly as Rampur, rather Rampur Bushahr by Himachalis.
This was a major screw up and I had to get down at this Sainj and find another bus or taxi to take me across the Jalori Pass and towards Sainj Valley.
Well, when I screw up, I stop; ponder for a moment, in order to figure out, how can I make it larger?
Now it was time to change the plan completely.
I asked the conductor to extend my ticket from Sainj till Rampur Bushahr and I had to pay Rs. 78 for it.
I figured, I would reach Rampur Bushahr and then decide whether I wanted to travel to Kalpa, Sangla or somewhere else.
However, as the luck would have it, the decision was made, as soon as I got off the bus at Rampur Bushahr.
There was a bus leaving for Reckong Peo with one aisle seat vacant, and as soon as I got on the bus, the bus began its journey to Reckong Peo. Ticket price for Rampur Bushahr to Reckong Peo ordinary bus was Rs. 189.
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Of course, travelling in fully packed local bus is never easy and I was travelling in one, after a gap of two years.
Add to that, there were four laborers from Rampur in UP occupying 4 window seats since Haridwar (I was travelling in Haridwar – Dehradun – Shimla – Rampur – Reckong Peo bus), not only taking up more space than other passengers, but also keeping their luggage by the side, effectively occupying more than one and a half seats!
Later on in the journey when the bus got a little empty and there was just me and one of the laborers sitting on the seat meant for three, bugger kept trying to sneak into my portion of the seat as well. Until I told him in Delhi style (without the expletives of course) to move to the side. I had gotten rude with him, because this was after a woman had asked for the seat and he had refused to move a little in or put his bag on the bus floor, so that 3 people could sit on a seat, meant for 3 people, even though I had requested him kindly.
His friends were no different and even lied to people’s face, telling them seats were occupied, so that they could continue laying in it. I have no clue why none of the locals said or did anything about this, because frankly speaking, in majority of India and especially in Delhi, these chaps would have been roughed up or put into their place for their conduct!
To add to the woes, the road to Reckong Peo was under construction and full of multiple landslide zones, making for a tiring journey in dusty conditions.
By the time we reached Reckong Peo, I was dead tired. I got off at the taxi stand and thought of taking a taxi to Kalpa, instead of bus. In order to ensure, I can comfortably reach a hotel and would not have to walk a lot from the bus stand.
View from the taxi stand.
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Turns out, the standard taxi charges for Reckong Peo to Kalpa, a distance of 7 kilometers is Rs. 500 and that too in an Alto! I was aghast and tried to bargain, to no avail.
I finally agreed to pay Rs. 500 to Ram Singh (9816172785), who is originally from Shimla, but has been running his taxi here for past few years. Compared to the local driver I spoke with earlier, he came out as a courteous and soft-spoken person.
Before driving to Kalpa, we stopped at a wine shop and I bought a half bottle of Himalayan Monk Rum for Rs. 250 (Mrp was Rs. 205, I later found out).
Ram Singh showed me a couple of hotels from the outside, each time I rejected them based on the view they would provide and we eventually drove into HPTDC Kinner Kailash.
Turns out HPTDC had stopped giving off-season discounts from 1st of April and initially the front desk manager kept quoting rates for Kinner Kailash and when I did not seem to budge, then he quoted rates for Kailash Cottages.
Reality is, HPTDC Kinner Kailash is the primary and expensive property, while Kailash Cottages and Sun N Snow Cottages are annexures and located in the same complex, yet away from the main building.
For Rs. 1,512 per night (room only, inclusive of taxes) I got a room at Kailash Cottages.
It had everything I needed; a beautiful view, large room, comfortable bed, decent toilet and best of all, a lawn through which I could do all the photography I wanted and none of the noise of the hotel, since I was the only one staying at Kailash Cottages!
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The major issue with the room was that the intercom was not working, so I had to call the front desk at (01786-226159) from my mobile phone, in case I wanted something. Additionally, despite telling them I needed two jugs of water in the room, they left only one. Therefore, I decided to order water bottles instead, since I cannot do without water at night and the one they had in jug, had a different taste.
I was dead tired and I had packed for the 25 degree Celsius weather of Shangarh. Therefore, as far as warm clothes were concerned, all I had was a light fleece and a windcheater, which were not enough for the 10 degree Celsius temperature of Kalpa. When the temperature started dipping even further, I decided to call it a day and moved inside my room, abandoning the time-lapse or any intention of shooting a sunset.
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I ordered veg pakodas to go with the rum. The pakodas were good, but the rum did not seem to have any kick. At least I did not feel any, even though I ended up consuming two-thirds of it. All I got from it was a slight lightheadedness and headache.
I ordered Murgh Anardana, a local chicken dish cooked in dry pomegranate seeds (anardana) and garnished dried nuts for dinner, along with chapatis. The flavor was unique and scrumptious.
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After a heavy dinner, it was time to go to sleep.
Even though initially I was planning to head back home on 8th i.e. I would have left the next day, I decided to extend my holiday by one day and instead of one night, I would be staying two nights at Kailash Cottages.
To be continued...
my wife and I traveled in Volvo (Himsuta) Bus from Kasmiri gate to Manali, we got first two front seats,
bus was really comfortable compared to private bus which we took while returning from Manali.
Private bus got BAD odor, which made my return journey horrible.