I reeeeeeeeally wanted to visit the North by the Himalayas. Late December-January is not the best time to travel up there, but then again, I reeeeeeeally wanted to go. It is only an hour plane ride to Dehradun and Rishikesh is another 45 minutes drive from there. My husband, Soheil, and I had always heard about Ananda at the Himalayas and wanted to stay there. I made the hotel and plane reservations well in advance. Since Dehradun is a tiny airport, the only airline servicing it is the reputable Kingfisher. So, on the last morning of 2009, with a beautiful sun shining upon us, we headed for the domestic terminal at New Delhi’s airport to board our short flight.
Kingfisher operates from a great looking, new terminal and upon arrival, we were led by a nice uniformed Kingfisher employee into the terminal. He promptly checked in our bags and checked us in (by cutting through the big line of passengers checking themselves in). After tipping him, we quickly passed through security and headed for the gate. So far, so good. About half an hour before the scheduled departure time; we were notified that the flight would briefly be delayed due to low visibility at Dehradun. The short delay turned into a very long delay and 3 hours later, the flight was canceled. This was not happiness. We had a non-refundable reservation at Ananda and just had to get there. On the other hand, Soheil was still recovering from the previous night’s mishap with the “digestives” at Bukhara (see my earlier post) not being well digested. As some of us might know, handling physical discomfort is not most men’s forte.
Rushing to the ticket counter, we were given two options: 1) With the afternoon flight being cancelled as well, we could fly the next day or 2) Hire a car and driver and drive up
Neither one of these options meant happiness to us, but we had to take one. We opted to take the road. How long a drive, you ask??? Well, here’s the good news: the distance is under 250 km or 150 miles -the bad news: because of the road conditions and traffic, the driving takes s about 8-10 hours!!!
I made a quick calculation and cheerfully turned to my husband, “honey, it’s fine. We can be there for the New Year’s Eve festivities”. Needless to say, I did not receive a big smile. As we were talking, Soheil’s sharp ears caught fellow passengers’ conversation standing next to us. It happened that they were booked on the same flight, had reservation at the same hotel and were determined to drive there. We decided to ride together and share the cost. Soon we were able to secure a driver and a minivan (much more comfortable than the Indi car -Indian version of Mini Min0r- we were offered by Kingfisher) by paying in full, in cash and in advance.
Around 2:30pm and after shoving all our respective luggages into the Toyota Innova; we started on our “road odyssey”.
As Maria in the Sound of Music said:
“…when God closes a door, He opens a window.”
We had our travel companions to thank for finding this lovely place with extensive grounds to walk about, lots of flower pots, and most importantly, fairly clean bathrooms. After a quick and delicious vegetarian dinner, we pressed on.
Where is a camera when you need one. I had mine by the bags all the way in the back and Soheil was having a “Kodak Moment” or rather, was the “Kodak Moment”. Still a little under the weather, he was sitting all alone, in the far back seat, hugging the luggages. Feeling a bit cold and wary of a suspicious insect flying around his head; he had found a large woolen scarf and was using it to cover his entire head and face- leaving only his eyes and nose exposed. 😆
It was getting dark and with full bellies and empty bladders, we tried to get some Z’s. Even fear of the killer insect would not keep Soheil up.
As we were chatting and having a fairly good time, we suddenly came to a halt. No, luckily the car didn’t break down. It was just a bad case of traffic jam. Gradually engines were turned off while passengers got out and started a “road party”. They were hanging around, talking, laughing and chewing on sugar canes. At first, all this was somewhat interesting. However, after 1.5 hours, it was starting to be distressing. Thankfully, whatever the cause was, the traffic opened up and we got our sense of humor back.
And then came the FOG…
As the night progressed, so did the fog. It became so thick that we could barely make out the road. Needless to say, it was not happiness. We were all leaning forward with our eyes all wide open, trying to spot any moving or non-moving obstruction ahead. As we started to gain elevation, the fog gradually decreased. But all I could think about was “are we there yet”?
We were now driving uphill on a narrow, winding and pitch black mountain road. From time to time we would spot a dim light in the distance or come across a tiny village.
The road felt lonely and never-ending and as we almost lost any hope of making it to Ananda; we saw the shadow of a large gate. We rubbed our eyes, looked again and then took a deep breath. Yes, we were there. With only half an hour left of 2009, we reached Ananda as planned.
Stay Tuned>>> Rishikesh & Ananda
A great post with lots of pictures is coming up!
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