My Deoriatal trip happened at a short notice. I knew there was no teaching in the week following Diwali at my workplace as it was off for students. But I was procrastinating about taking the whole week off. Then my institute declared it a holiday for everyone! Now here I was with one week of leave and no plans for travel!
I had just come back from Madhya Pradesh and my back was protesting against my constant short trips. I almost decided to take it easy and not travel anywhere. But my husband really pestered me to take Chhavi out on a trek and Deoriatal happened. He could not join us as he had some work.
The first task was to try and secure a tatkal (current) ticket for Haridwar. Now there are plenty of buses to Rishikesh but with a child it is easier to travel by train. I dutifully tried logging in to IRCTC at 10.00 am a day before so that I could book the tatkal tickets but I had no luck initially. I could not even log on to the site till about 11.00 am. But even at 11.00 am there were 122 seats available in the Dehradoon Shatabdi for the next day. I was able to book two tickets easily. Now we were traveling the day after Diwali and my father told me it would be very difficult to book a local cab as no drivers would be available. I tried my luck with Meru cabs and there was no hitch with the cab.
Soon Chhavi and I were at New Delhi Railway Station, sitting comfortably inside the train. I have been with her to Pushkar before and I knew her penchant for “mummy kaab aayega” (are we there yet). I warned her it was not a question be to be asked this time. She asked me anyway but not her usual 160 times but only 30 times are so. I am be patient 30 times and we had no major fight over it. This time thankfully slept off as well.
We arrived at Haridwar relatively fresh. We took a local bus to Rishikesh which Chhavi called khadbad khadbad bus (rattling bus). It was a run down local bus alright. She went quite wide eyed as we entered but sat quietly by the window for the entire journey. People who know her know what rarity that is!
At the Rishikesh bus station we hired an auto and asked him to take us to the Lakshman Jhula area. He deposited us at Hotel Shivanta (which is on the road and opposite a small police station at Muni ki Reti). They had a big and reasonably clean room for 600 rupees which I took. The auto driver and the hotel boy had a chat and suddenly the hotel boy told me he misquoted the price. The room was really for 1200. I told him I knew of no one who was that absent minded. I would rather walk away than pay the inflated price. The room rate was settled at 600 rupees.
In a while we walked down the Lakshman Jhula lane looking for food. We went in a cheerful looking restaurant called Divine Cafe. It was full of foreigners. By now it was approaching 2.00 pm and I was really hungry. There were only 3 tables going and yet no one from the standing army of waiters was attending us. I actually got up and asked the person at the cash counter why were taking so much time when only three tables were busy? After that I got good and prompt service.
We attacked our food (which was more for the palate of foreign clients) as we were hungry and it was OK, passable roti and kofta. Chhavi wanted a pastry and she got it. It was also just about OK. Stomach full, I was looking forward to sleep.
I was happy that the room at Hotel Shivanta had a table and chairs. I put on Doreamon for Chhavi and gave her strict instructions to do her drawing only on the table. Then I dozed off. Chhavi was quite excited with a toy she picked up from roadside. She kept jumping from the bed to the table and in the process kept kicking me. I still dozed off.
Then in the evening we went to the Lakshman Jhula and got lost! After we reached back to your hotel area we went for an early dinner. Both Chhavi and I didn’t eat well. Then it was time for cartoons and sleep.
The next day we were headed to Sari Village via Rudraprayag. We were getting up at 5.00 am or so.
When Chhavi and I stopped at Rishikesh (our way to Deoriatal) we decided to roam around Lakshman Jhula in the evening. We were staying close by so it was supposed to be a pleasant walk. While going down it was actually a pleasant walk. I was carrying all my camera gear so I was relying on Chhavi to walk. I cannot carry her anymore for even slightly long distances anyway. She also knows this and co-operates with me. Going down was not a problem at all. I was stuck at how empty Rishikesh felt! Usually crossing Lakshman Jhula is a task, there are so many people on it. On this evening in November it was almost empty. We reached the Jhula within no time and got down to the bank.
The day was fading fast so we had to get out before it became completely dark. A few rafts were still coming to the shore near the Lakshman Jhula and Chhavi told me in no uncertain terms that the next time she is going to sit in one of those and not a boat. I have made a note of it for the summer. Anyway chatting together we started walking up. She complained once or twice as we were walking uphill now. I told her she is a big girl now, I can’t lift her up. I noticed a tempo stand while walking down and I thought maybe I will take a tempo to the hotel.
My sense of direction is so bad that I can get lost even in a telephone booth if it has two exits. So after walking for a while I thought the tempo stand should be near by. However, it was nowhere in sight. I decided to ask for directions. I took Hotel Divine as the landmark. People told me there are two of them and I got them mixed up! So the people told me the correct direction to the other Divine Hotel. Thinking of it to be the correct one I started walking. By now the girl was not giving me any trouble, she probably realized I need to concentrate on finding the hotel. She kept walking without any protest.
When I reached the other Divine Hotel I realized it was the wrong one. I decided to turn back. A woman sitting in a small shop asked me why was I turning back. I told her I was looking for the other hotel. She directed me to the correct route. Only it came out a little ahead of our hotel and by now I had lost my orientation completely. I first asked a policeman for the way and he pointed out in the general direction. I thought the hotel should be the other way. Still, I walked and within a few meters I asked a shop owner for the way to my hotel. He came out and pointed out the hotel which was right in front of my eyes!
Both Chhavi and I were happy. For me all the anxiety was about Chhavi being too tired. The route was populated and I was not worried about us in any other way. But when we sat down for dinner Chhavi told me that I got her lost and I should not get her lost. Even when we reached Deoriatal she was quite concerned if Sohan Singh ji was going to be with us or not, because mum would get her lost.
The incident would have not properly registered with me if it was not for her protests! I can now imagine how frightening it must have been for her to think that we were lost. I have learnt my lesson and I am going to be doubly sure about my route when I am with her! Maybe because of her I will develop some sense of direction in the end!
Birds (and other animals) are master of camouflage. While walking on the roads of Rishikesh, early one morning I thought there was something irregular within the pattern of the tree. After zooming from a distance I could see the Jungle Owlet clearly. I also knew from that distance it would not make for a good photo.
There were three of us walking together and no one believed me when I told them there was a bird on the branches! But they were willing to walk closer with me to humor me. They could walk quietly as well.
A Far Away View
After spotting a bird with my 75-300 there is only way to get a decent picture. You try to go as close to the bird clicking continuously, because you never know when the bird will fly away.
A Jungle Owlet
The result of going closer and ruthless cropping is this view of the jungle owlet. The bird did get annoyed with me pretty fast and flew further away making sure there was a steep fall right below where it perched. There was no way to get a better shot so I had to be happy with this one in the end! Bird also know when I do not have a camera in my hand. They then happily come close to me and tease me with their proximity.
On this day, sometime after taking this picture I realized with a start that my cell phone was missing. Now there is a problem with using expensive cell phones. You do not want to lose them and buy a replacement. So I almost ran all the way back to see if I had left it in my tent itself. Luckily for me that was the case! So in the end I got a bird, Jungle Owlet, in the bush within my camera and I found my cell phone too!