And it was interesting how our families let us go... with a disclaimer that we had lost it !!! and that nothing could be done !!! what else would you say about two guys, who just pack and go somewhere at midnight !!!
Just then, an auto stopped, we hopped on, reached the ISBT and took the bus after a few difficult choices of a bad bus, a not so bad bus, a not so good bus, the UP Roadways or Uttarakhand Roadways bus stared at us in the face... We finally took a decision and took the UK (Read UttaraKhand) Roadways for Rishikesh :)
Tushar did overhear a small issue when we boarded the bus, but too bad that we did not take it seriously... We realized after 15 minutes that one of the twin tyres at the back of the bus had a puncture and we could not move at more than 30 kmph till the time it gets fixed.... Which was a major disappointment as this clearly meant that our plan of reaching Rishikesh around 0600 hrs was fukked up pretty bad !!!
Li'il that we could do, but laugh at the situation :) for some reason we did enjoy the slowness on the road... Every vehicle honked and passed us while we were cruising at a top speed of 30-40 kmph on the HIGHWAY !!!
The first pit stop was at some Nataraj Restaurant, in front of the Cheetal Grand, Khatoli ( some 40 odd kms ahead of Meerut)... This is where the driver found a Puncture Shop and decided to give the tyre for a repair... It was around 0415 hours that the guy removed the tyre, and though the conductor said we should be good to go in some 30 minutes, I had a feeling it was not going to take anywhere less than 60 minutes, maybe more !!!
Me and Tushar walked around the place, discussing the entrepreneur skills of the guy at the tyre shop, who was managing the operations, the finances, and infrastructure etc etc all by himself !!! I had a cup of warm sugar with bits of coffee in it !!! We also discussed taking a different bus to Haridwar just to save sometime, but did not do it thinking that it would make a difference of about 30 odd minutes only... the slower part of the journey was already over... We finally moved at 0545 hrs ( as expected ) and dozed off almost immediately.. All I remember was that the driver suddenly had changed the entire tempo of the journey... It was his turn now to honk and pass !!! and he made a full generous use of the pressure horn in the otherwise not so quiet bus :)
We reached Haridwar around 0800 hrs and had to wait for another 20 odd minutes before we got another bus to Rishikesh... We reached Rishikesh, and then took a Tempo to Ram Jhoola... Breakfast was planned at Govindji's Prasadam (one of our favorite eating places in Rishikesh, for its hygiene and tasty food at decent prices, but extremely slow service and a strange combo of Tea, Lassi, and Curd in the same combo breakfast)... Unfortunately the quality has deteriorated over the last 3 years... Anyway... this is where Uncle God decided to start playing a few games :) and it started raining... Our entire plan could have been washed out, had it not stopped raining in a while... It thankfully did, and we were now ready to move too... A long walk and we were on the other side of the Ganges at the taxi stand for Neelkanth Mahadev Temple...
A very interesting door I saw while walking around... this ladder is the only way to reach the door...
Neelkanth is about 25 kms (drive) and 14 kms (Trek) away from Rishikesh... The taxis are available near the Ram Jhula and Laxman Jhula, near the Choti wala Restaurant and Trayambkeshwar Temple respectively... It's a little tricky to get a taxi here, because the drivers/operators are not keen on any empty seats and because a lot of people travel in groups, it's tough to get the exact number of seats in a cab... We were lucky and an operator helped us get an Amby shared between the two of us and family of 3... The travel time to and back from Neelkanth was not much thanks to the good quality car and very efficient driver...
We however were stunned to see the amount of people who were there at the temple... We took the pooja thalis and moved towards the end of the queue, walked for about 10 minutes before we saw the last person in the queue... And this meant that there were at-least 200 people in the queue ahead of us...
It was already pretty hot by then, and I was in no mood to stand there... Tushar did not either, and we turned back towards the temple where we offered our prayers at a different Shivling, lucky us that we realized there was a view of the main temple and Shivling... and offered our prayers through that window :) smart US :)
A Lady looking at the interesting roof of the Neelkanth Temple... Though it's in the north, the temple's roof and top resembles the temples in the South a lot...
We moved back from Neelkanth, got down at the Laxman Jhoola, took a few pictures and walked for about a km or more in the heat looking for a Tempo towards Ram Jhoola... we finally got to enjoy the best ride of the trip with our bags inside the tempo and we standing outside with the cool breeze whooshing past our faces drying up all the sweat and fatigue :)
The Trayambkeshwar Temple, near Ram Jhoola, has 11 floors in all, here is a list of all the Gods you can meet there :)
The motor boat near the Laksham Jhoola... The same As#$%#le had hit our raft head on at full speed on one of my rafting trips... It's only Gods grace that I am alive right now, otherwise he had made sure that the people on the left of the raft had their heads ripped off from the bodies... No idea how we managed to survive... Thank you Uncle God :)
We reached the Ram Jhoola, and spent sometime trying to figure out which beach/Ghat we could go to take a bath... It was not a very difficult decision, however once we were there, getting inside the water which seemed freezing cold was tough !!! took us a while before we decided to give up all our fear of the current, and cold water and just jumped in !!! spent some gooood 45 odd minutes before we decided to leave...
And then I made Tushar do some chapaak chapaak :) He is lighter... you can see his head going in... with me being atleast 100 kgs heavier than him :) my fall was quicker :D
But the two brothers were very happy after the 20+ dubkies, the throwing water at each other, the running out of water because it was cold, and the chapaak chapaaks :)
Had good food at the Chotiwala... waiting for a bus at the bus stand... thought of coming via Dehradoon for the charm of AC buses running between Delhi-Dehradoon, but finally took a decent Pawan Gold to Delhi... slept most of the way in awkward positions on the seat :) just to wake up at times with a painful lower back, or a pulled musled in the neck, or legs :) change the position and sleep again :) This time as well the journey took much longer than usual, thanks to the freaking jam at the border near Dilshad Garden... must be about 2 kms long and it took about 100 odd minutes to pass !!! We managed to reach the ISBT, Kashmiri Gate around 0400 hrs and then home around 0445 hrs....
What a trip it was !!! just the perfect 24 hour recharge that my mind required... I can now wait for some 10 days before I start getting itchy about another travel :) hehehe...
Some more information, not necessarily about this trip but for the Delhi- Haridwar- Rishikesh Route:
Delhi - Haridwar : 208 kms; Delhi- Rishikesh : 230 kms
2. Approximate Time :
Delhi - Haridwar : 4-5 hours, Depending on the time of the day you are driving
3. Best way to travel:
Hire a cab or drive yourself...I would say hire a cab, its better to be driving around on the bad roads instead of punishing your own vehicle... The 4 lane highway is under progress for good on the stretch, however it would take a good couple of years before it can get fully operational..
4. Eating options enroute and on location:
Cheetal near Khatoli, Moolchand just before the Muzaffarnagar bypass; Mohanji Poori wale near Har Ki Paudi, Chotiwala Restaurant near Ram Jhoola, Govindji's Prasadam near the parking in Rishikesh
5. Bus Tickets and other fare : Rs. 150 per person (Delhi Rishikesh in the UP Roadways bus); Rs. 5 for the boatride one way near the Ram Jhula; Rs. 5 for Tempo per person from the bus stand to Ram Jhula in Rishikesh; Rs. 600 for the Amby ( Seats 5) for Rishikesh-Neelkanth and back
6. Staying options: Many hotels ranging from Rs. 500 per night for a double occupancy to Rs. 2500 double occupancy