As I work full time (in academics) I have to be really stingy with my leaves. I look at the holiday schedule of my institute and try to plan my trips around it. It is March now and I am really struggling with my leave balance. It will get renewed in April so a few days more! All my CLs are over and I am using my ELs like there is no tomorrow. But then as they say- tomorrow never comes!
I picked up Narkanda because I could reach there the same day. I am no fan of driving, so I rely on public transport to get to my destination. I took the Kalka Shatabdi and then a bus to Shimla. It is a pain to take the early morning Shatabdi from Delhi but at least once I am inside the train, the journey is comfortable.
The plan was to take another bus from Shimla to Narkanda. However, as I was traveling on a private bus from Kalka to Shimla, it would stop at every nook and corner. Then it was also Mahashivratri and that meant traffic jams. For the distance of 88 Kilometers on good roads the bus took 4 hours. It was around 4.00 pm when I reached Shimla. Because of taking Avomine for my nausea on mountain roads, I arrived in a very poor shape. There is a new bus stand at Shimla which is spread over two stories. When I inquired about a bus to Narkanda they told me the next bus was at 6.00 pm. That would mean I would arrive at dark in a new place, alone. I was not willing to do that. There is a taxi stand at the ISBT Shimla. They called up friends and asked if the road was open for Narkanda. That was the first inkling I had that the weather may have snow in store for me! It is at times like these I feel it is a good decision that I have not quit my job. But when I have to say no sponsored trips (and now to a foreign one as well) because of leaves I go back to square one and I want to quit my job. I guess this debate will continue till eternity in my head!
The taxi ride to Narkanda was uneventful and I reached there at 6.15 pm. I had no time to have lunch anywhere so one of my first requests at the HPTDC hotel was for tea and anything to eat. They offered pakoras and I took it with glee. They told me to sit in the room near the heater and they would serve it right there.
The path to the hotel was full of snow, so was Narkanda. During my entire stay it would snow intermittently. Because of snow the return journey became even more eventful! The day before I was to leave they started talking about roads getting blocked! I had no wish to get stuck at Narkanda. We debated if I should get down a day earlier and stay at another HPTDC hotel closer to Shimla. In the end I decided not to go early. When I open my eyes on the day of departure the entire place looked grey. And it was snowing.
When I went for breakfast they told me no buses were running at the moment but they would let me know when they started. At about 10.00 am they told me buses were going now. When I walked to the bus stand, it was still snowing. The wind come and try to put some snow into my clothes. It was not a good feeling. Eventually a bus came which was supposed to go to Kalpa, in the opposite direction. But there were no passengers for it. No buses were coming to Narkanda from Kalpa side. So, the bus drivers consulted their bosses and eventually decided to go back to Shimla. It was 11.30 am by then. I had a 5.45 Shatabdi to catch from Kalka. I reached Shimla at 3.00 pm and I knew I had to take a taxi again or I would miss the train.
The taxi ride was once again a pleasant one. The driver (who owned the taxi) name was Anil Sharma and if you are looking for an Innova at Shimla you can call him at 09816171013. We stopped at Jabli at the Isher Sweet Shop. It is a really good place to stop for snacks. It is crowded all the time. Then we stopped just before Kalka to have a cup of tea as we still had time for the train. Anil was a safe driver and not too fazed that I was traveling alone.
When I was waiting at the bus stop in snow, I heard a local say- this is why we call it Narak Kanda (Narak is hell in Hindi) and not Narkanda. But for a vacation it does not feel like narak at all, in fact quite the opposite.