Rambling on….

about anything under the Sun!

Nainital, here we come…

After what seems like several months of tireless work in the office, my team decided to take a break and go on a morale-boosting trip to Nainital. Our flight to Delhi was at 6am and we barely managed to get there in time to catch it.

Factoring in some delay because it was Air Deccan wasn’t such a wise move, the flight was pretty much on time and got to Delhi around 8. We had hired a bus from Delhi but our group was split in two parts and the second bunch wasn’t arriving in Delhi until later that night. So the first batch had about 12 hours to kill – while most folks had plans to hang around in Delhi and take the bus, I had no intentions of staying back in the sweltering heat, so I decided to head to Nainital right away. Madhu (he’s a colleague – well worthy of a dedicated blog) said he would join me but wanted to see the India Gate – the two of us got inside a rickshaw and drove right past India Gate just so we could satisfy his requirement and headed towards the New Delhi railway station so we could figure out the quickest way to get to our destination. We passed thru Connaught place however and saw the Metro station – given all the good things I had heard about the Delhi metro, I had the sudden urge to ride it. So we jumped off the rick, went down to Nirulas for a breakfast buffet (Was 160 bucks and highly rated but certainly not worthy of either – I am trying to think of something positive to say about the food, but am drawing a complete blank) and then to the metro station.

The autowallah told us that taking a bus from the ISBT (Inter State Bus Terminal, I believe) might be the more practical approach because there were no trains available to Nainital in the morning, so we rode the metro to the Vishwavidhyala station, which is right outside the Rana Pratap ISBT. But as luck would have it, the buses to Nainital run from the Anand Vihar ISBT, which is oh, only several kilometres away. Plan before you leave on a trip people, PLAN! Took another auto to the Anand Vihar bus station and as luck would have it, two friendly looking agents accosted us as we were entering the station and offered to get us on a “high-tech” super deluxe bus for Nainital that was leaving in the next 10 minutes. I usually stay away from these agents, but one peek inside the bus station at the state-run buses was enough to convince me that a high-tech bus was worth a second look. So we faithfully followed the agent to the bus – there was nothing high-tech about it but it was mostly full and looked ready to leave. And my Delhite friend had warned me that there might be no state buses to Nainital at this time of the day, so we didn’t want to take a chance. We coughed up the Rs. 280 fare for the journey (to Nainital) and got two of the best seats in the house.

The bus didn’t really seem designed for humans – there was absolutely no room between seats and given both Madhu and I are reasonably tall, this 8-hour adventure was going to be a journey to hell. The bad news was that the worst was yet to come…The bus finally left about an hour later. It was 12:30pm by now and we were already tired. The agency had claimed there were no scheduled stops – clearly, we misunderstood. It just meant that none of the stops were scheduled. He was happy to stop at every street corner and pick up just about anyone that was heading remotely in the direction of Nainital. Despite all his attempts to keep us locked up like cattle forever, we managed to reach Haldwani at the foothills of Nainital after 8 hours of corporal punishment. And here is where the real shock came. He casually informed us that this was the last stop as the bus couldn’t climb the hills and that we were on our own from here on. When I asked him why our ticket said Nainital, he pleaded helplessness and blamed the agent for having made promises that couldn’t be honored. I tried arguing with him, but it was futile. And this is why you don’t ever trust the agents in India – I am very aware that I am generalizing here, but with good reason. They are all grade A crooks!

We got down and trekked to the taxi stand (there are no buses that go up the hill after sunset – so if you are planning to reach there by bus, make sure you get there before dusk) We started looking for a cab and the first guy that agreed to come wanted 800 bucks to drop us off because he would have to come back empty. We tried to bargain down, but 600 was his last offer. We refused and kept looking. An hour later, we were hungry, tired and frustrated because no one was willing to come. Finally found a jeep that agreed to take us for 650 and we happily agreed (all that training I took on Negotiation Skills and Strategies was clearly “helping”). We reached our resort an hour and a half later at 11pm – more than 18 hours after I left home and in very bad shape. After a hot shower, I was happy to hit the sack. Clearly, our vacation wasn’t starting off in great fashion, but the good news was that it could only get better from here. More on Nainital later…

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