It was a difficult time. I was battling my inner demons with regards to travel in the state of Uttarakhand. After a narrow escape with disaster in Garhwal that happened in the month of February/March 2015, I did not have the heart to be on the road for a month or two. And when I finally got out of Jaipur to make it to Kumaon in Uttarakhand, instead of directly reaching Haldwani – I made another mistake and reached Dehradun instead. I didn’t know a direct bus existed between Jaipur to Haldwani and commuted by the Jaipur-Dehradun RSRTC AC bus.
After chilling and walking around Dehradun for 1 day, I found myself on a train to Kathgodam in the night and next morning in Nainital. I found a cheap place to stay and was having a lovely time strolling around Naini lake and aimlessly perusing the sights when I remembered that I knew someone in Nainital. I was solo travelling in Parvati Valley hardly six months ago and had met three guys – one of whom lived in Nainital. We had spent 2-3 days travelling together and had a nice time.
Usually I am pretty bad at keeping in touch with people, but this time I called the guy and said that I was in Nainital. As luck would have it, his home was located close to the hotel and he was adamant that I shift my bags to his home and stay there. He lived with his mom and dad and I had no reason to think otherwise. His exams were finishing next day and we were supposed to leave for Almora and then head up to Kasar Devi for a day or two. It was my first time in Kumaon and all I knew was that I had plenty of time to explore everything the state had to offer.
I put the necessary stuff in one bag and left the bigger bag at his home. We reached Kasar Devi and were having a super time enjoying the stormy cool weather. The guy suddenly seemed to have different ideas and said if we could live in separate rooms since he wanted to practise some meditation. Of course, I had no problem with that. Next morning, the sun was out and I was reading a book while having breakfast at my homestay. I didn’t bother as such when the guy couldn’t be seen till the afternoon. It was only around 3-4 in the evening when I tried calling him but his phone was switched off. A visit to his homestay made things even more complex; the owner said that he checked out of the room in the morning itself and was supposedly heading back to Nainital.
My heart sank. Since this was only meant to be a 1-2 day trip; I had left my laptop in the bag at home. I didn’t know what to do; it was as if the whole world would come crashing down. I could do no right and was worried if the guy conned me into making way with my laptop and other belongings. And then I began thinking about last night’s events with a calm head. His dad was a high ranked government official and his mother had fed me dinner like a welcome guest. Maybe I was getting unduly worried, once bitten twice shy. But still, since we had come together to Kasar Devi – there was no reason for the guy to simply disappear without even telling me.
Check : Binsar through my eyes
I remembered his father’s name, googled him and found the contact details. I called and told him that his son had disappeared in the morning and was not with me. Instead of asking me to not worry, he curtly asked me to come home and take back my bag. I decided to give him a small threatening dose on the phone itself and told him that I’ll come first thing in the morning next day to collect my bag and that the things in the bag better be as they were. It was already close to dark and there was no possibility of reaching Nainital in the night.
I was lucky to meet people from Rajasthan staying at the homestay. They dropped me to Almora and I found another shared taxi to Bhowali and then to Nainital. I was at the door of the guy’s home at around 1030 am and pressed the doorbell. His dad came out, didn’t even bother to ask me to come inside the house and angrily brought my bag at the door. I instantly opened my bag before he could go inside; thankfully everything was in an undisturbed state. Upon asking, he told me his son had come home yesterday morning itself.
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I felt bad and didn’t bother to stand there any longer. I felt defeated; unsure of my decisions and began doubting myself as a solo traveller. It was still morning and I was in Nainital, walking to the bus stand. I had decided solo travel was not for me. Maybe it was Uttarakhand; I thought the state did not like me and was sending out signals to go back. I caught a shared ride to Bhowali and then a bus to reach Jeolikote. Intent on going somewhere; either to Delhi or Rajasthan, I even bought a bottle of honey in Jeolikote.
Haldwani was terribly hot and I was at the bus stand looking for an air conditioned bus to Delhi. There was one that was supposed to leave in a few minutes; at 1:30 pm. I had to make a quick decision. Either to admit defeat, or find some courage from somewhere and be on the road. In my mind, I was already wondering if there was any point in going back home. It was the simplest and most stupid dilemmas, and there is no right or wrong answer to this.
Also read : Lost and found in Munsyari
I don’t know if it was the heat or the concern of not knowing my next step that caused a rare show of emotion : I threw my bags on the ground, spread my arms to the elements and screamed at the top of my voice. In that moment I convinced myself that the road was indeed my home and I had waited for so long to be in Uttarakhand. If the Gods are trying to give me a hard time, then I am prepared for it and shall be more careful from now on. ____________________________________________________________________________________________
So, I walked out of the bus stand a free man with no baggage of the past. As luck would have it, the first bus that came was for Almora and since I didn’t seem to have any thinking capability left, I boarded it. When the bus stopped at a dhaba after Bhowali, I had my first meal of the day. There was no destination in mind and hence when the bus pulled into the market bus stand in Almora, I was happy to say yes to a shared sumo guy who was heading to Bageshwar. It was 430 in the evening and as Kheem Singh Mohan Singh Rautela’s signboard went past, someone suggested I should try the baal mithai. This was to be the start of my great love affair with baal mithai and singhaudi.
After a gorgeous drive on country roads, we crossed Binsar and arrived in Bageshwar at roughly 7:30 pm. I checked in to a cheap hotel near the bus stand and sat down for a while. My stomach was grumbling but I felt on top of the world. I was pretty excited to see the ancient temples of Bageshwar located at the confluence of the Saryu and Gomti rivers, the next day. I walked outside the hotel and sat at a local dhaba for my dinner. It was pretty horrible and I realised my stomach was in deep trouble!
Bageshwar seemed to be a lawless and filthy town; I looked at the map and decided that I wanted to go to Munsyari. Munsyari appeared to be the farthest point in the mountains connected by a road and that alone made it exactly my kind of place. After fiddling with the non-existant internet connectivity, I called it a night.
What a monumental day it had turned out to be. It made me realise I should be thankful for all the happy times I had on my journeys. Sometimes people think that solo travel is a piece of cake; after days like this I know it is not. I write this in hindsight of more than two years, and as a happy memory am pleased to recollect that this day was the turning point in my explorations in Kumaon.
Next day, my luck turned and a chance conversation meant I was attending a Kumaoni wedding ceremony! More on that in the next post.
I’m sorry, but these are all the photos that were clicked on that fateful day. As you might have understood, when the mind is not at peace – we fail to appreciate the beauty around us.