On the way to Joshimath
Somewhere between Chamoli and Pipalkoti.
Dennis came to the station to see us off. Just before the train left, Sanjeev came running. He also had not slept much. The quorum was now full and we set off towards Haridwar.
Unfamiliar landscapes rolled by and we slept off, tired from the previous days toils. Of course, we couldn't sleep very peacefully since in Shatabdi, they keep on giving you food until you are tired of eating.
By 11:30 AM we were in Haridwar. Since the stop was only for 2 minutes, we had to unload our luggages fast. Thankfully, we managed without any hiccups.
We now encountered the next big question. What next ? Until now, we had reservations in flight, train etc. and everything went like clockwork. Kannan had kept on asking what do we do when we get to Haridwar, and I had always answered, in a slightly enigmatic manner, "We will cross the bridge when we come to it" (a la Jim Corbett). Now we were at the bridge.
We had two choices, bus or jeep. Hiring the jeep would be costly, but would be less problematic as the luggage we had to tote was immense. (It was then that a nagging doubt started in my mind, "Were we over-prepared ?". This doubt remained for two days and then went off. By then, we knew that we were over-prepared !!!! ).
Everybody voted for the jeep. We checked out some Ambassador Taxis, some Tata Sumos and finally hired a Toyota Qualis. The driver was Govind Vaishnav. He promised that we would get to Joshimath by 9:30 PM the same day. We were very happy. I had planned the journey from Haridwar to Joshimath as two days. We would be saving a day like this.
We packed half the thing on top of the Qualis and the other half under the back seat. At 12:30 PM we set off from Haridwar.
Govind Vaishnav was a very decent chap. He explained the scenery while driving. He pointed out to us, the Mansa Devi temple, the Chandi Devi temple, Har-ki-Pauri snan ghat, the Govind National Park etc. on the way.
We stopped for lunch at a certain hotel called Sanjha Chulha Restaurant, about 15 km after we started the journey. This was before reaching Rishikesh. This restaurant spoiled all our plans. By the time we finished our lunch we had spent about 2 hours here.
Now we knew that we wouldn't be able to reach Joshimath the same day. In the ghat sections, which we were going to encounter soon after Rishikesh, the Police would bring down the barricades by 8:00 PM in the night, as night driving is very dangerous in these roads. The plan was to reach as far as possible by 8:00 PM and then stop for the night.
We were able to reach Nandaprayag by 8:30 PM. There we found the barricades down. We took rooms at a certain Devbhumi Rest House and stayed the night.