Adventure meets peace

Adventure meets peace

Delhi’s weather in March is a breeze, literally and metaphorically. There is that slight nip in the air, and the sky gets clouded momentarily, bringing down unseasonal yet welcome showers — signs the winter is bidding goodbye.

However, its conniving pleasantness also effectively holes up the impending harshness of its horrid summers. March, hence, is the season for road trips.

Almost rubbing shoulders with the foothills of mountains, Delhi is flanked by the hills of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, and the Himalayas are at an arm’s reach. Or say, a few hours’ drive, the only gripe is the drive that extends outside the well-laid highways of Delhi and into the hinterlands of UP’s non-existent road infrastructure.

A Delhi-Nainital road trip was never in the scheme of things, but when I had a few spare days and when Delhi’s weather turned drippy like a sick child’s runny nose, I decided to hop on a ride with Adamya, a friend.


He wanted company, a riding partner, while I sought adventure. Our interests boded well. It was his first long-distance mountain ride after he purchased the Bullet 500, and he naturally thought a pillion rider would provide moral support in the event of a breakdown.

His greater fear, though, I discovered later, was the dreaded man-eater tigress, Mysterious Queen, which was prowling around the sugarcane fields in the villages around the Corbett Reserve Area. On the off-chance of an encounter, he did not want to be alone. She had already devoured about a dozen humans.


Contemplation


Suddenly, his mundane question about what I prefer during my travels — the journey or destination — made much sense. I told him it was the journey, because it is filled with experiences, stories and people.


We left Delhi around afternoon and reached Ghaziabad, beating Delhi’s weekday traffic. After filling up on aloo-pyaaz paratha in a nameless dhaba off Ghaziabad, we rode into the midday sun.

A Google-map-suggested diversion took us from Moradabad through Tanda, which was awful, to say the least. There were potholes the size of lunar craters, filled with slush from the recent rains, instead of roads. The bike moaned and brought us to NH47. We decided to give our battered bodies and rattling bones rest and stayed the night in Bazpur.


But it was ‘update time’ and Adamya called his mother with the latest. “You should see Prathap now, he looks like a raccoon.” I slipped into the bathroom to inspect my face in the mirror and found myself staring at a face resembling a raccoon’s — caked in layers of grime, except the area of the skin hidden under the sunglasses. We slept like babies that night.

The next day, we started from Bazpur and rode through hordes of wheat fields, and as we gained elevation, terrace fields, grazing cattle and river deltas came into view. Before reaching Naini, we ate a hearty plate of Maggie and bread omelette for breakfast.

Shapely lake

With tiny alleys overflowing with shops, roads congested with four wheelers and shops announcing paraphernalia from hill products to high-end clothing, Naini has all the makings of a hill station. I sat on a bench by the tear-drop-shaped lake, basking in the sunlight, while Adamya went hunting for a room.

That being a weekday, it wasn’t difficult to find one. We found a place that also offered a view of the lake. After a while, we hired a pedal boat and went into Naini. The sun  peaked and cormorants dove into the water for fish.

Soon enough, it was time for the ultimate Naini attraction — the cable car. We bought our tickets and hopped on to one. The driver, an elderly gentleman, operated our car. When it reached the destination, he let the vehicle ram into the pillar next to the platform. Not so much because he wanted to, but there was no other way to ensure precision while landing.


On the way back, I got bunched up with a few women whose banter bordered on morbidity, mocking the safety of the car. “What if this thing snaps and tumbles down?” one asked. As a manner of addressing their husbands, another one answered, “Saalon bachch jaoge.” (You’ll be saved, fellas). Perfect, I thought, this trip had so far been all about threats and humiliations.

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