If you have not read part 1 of the Hackergram Journey, I would suggest you to do that before reading it. This will give you more of a complete picture so you can understand where I’m coming from.
Breakfast, Lunch and talking with locals
The previious evening when I was put up at Lake Heritage, I went out and got 2-3 Electrals. I had ordered Dal and Rice in the evening but again there was no taste hence didn’t eat much. I forced myself to have at least 5-6 spoonfulls at one level to see if it will stay and also that I needed to have some food in the stomach . While the night was not peaceful, it was much more peaceful than at the Camp. I probably woke up handful of times but each time looking at the lake just filled me with peace. At times, I wished I was all better so could have spend the whole night just seeing the lake. Anyways, somehow the night passed, although not without showing me all the beautiful views of the lake and the different plays of light 🙂 . The amateuer story-writer in me could think of so many stories which were and are waiting to be tapped in such a beautiful place. I kept wondering maybe this is why so many writers of Indian origin and even westerners come to places like these to write. I could understand why Ruskin Bond, a famous Children’s writer chose to make Uttarakhand and Mussorie his base rather than anywhere else. I know of quite a few writers in Hindi, Urdu fiction who wrote on crime, sex, human interest stories and were a craze in North India right from 1960’s till late 1990’s who came from such places and eventually settled in Delhi. Seeing the tranquility of the place and then places like Delhi, it is easy to see the dissonance the writers might have felt which they poured in their writing. I have to say that I felt Bhimtal is a place where one could pen many a fantasy story as its still somewhat of a raw place still.
Anyways, morning came , did my morning routine staff and ignoring Gauri’s suggestion took a bath. While it pained quite a bit at the knee, I felt like a whole different person. Came down to see what they have for breakfast. I didn’t want anything fancy just a toast and eggs or Pohe . Because they had neither at the hotel, was told of a small shop which was 20 meters from the Hotel. Went there, had tea, bread and egg and whole lot of conversation about Bhimtal and surroundings. According to the Gentleman, the local population of Bhimtal alone is approx. 40k according to some survey done couple of years back. I dunno if it would be sane or not to compare the population with Shivaji Nagar, Pune which is around 5-6 sq.km and has around 0.5 million residents and probably another 20-25% roving population due to the high number of schools and colleges that are in and around Shivaji Nagar has and lot of people come to Pune for study or/and work as has been shared time before. Maybe somebody local to Bhimtal, either Sanjay or Karan would probably be able to tell or share more of the same.
As I was feeling better, I interacted a bit with locals and came to know that there had been proposals and even people had drilled part of the mountain to have a factory which the locals protested and with passed a legislation in the local Municipality so such further incursions are not done or can be avoided. While I did see some construction in and around Bhimtal it seemed to be much more in control then what I had seen in Bhagsu, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh and elsewhere. While here they still have enough water, Bhagsu and many other places in Himchal Pradesh where in the summer months they are completely dry. Few years back, I had taken part in the Chota Char Dham Yatra by myself in memory of my grandmother (mother’s side) except for Kedarnath had done all the other three. Had seen first-hand the kind of ecological destruction that Tehri Dam and its sisters were doing on the environment. I even lived in Tehri town which was built a little away but on top of the Dam and had come to know the helplessness of the people living their even before the 2013 flash floods happened. As shared in part 1, it is concerning for all if unchecked development takes place .
For lunch, I wanted to try Rice and Kadhi . While I have made Kadhi at home and my mum makes great Kadhi, the hotel didn’t have it so took another trip to a stall where they made Rice and Kadhi and had that in the Hotel Room. While wasn’t able to finish it fully, was able to finish 3/4th of the portion which made me feel good. It was tasy and filling. A part was also probably being cautious although did make sure to have lot of electral water so that I was constantly being hydrated even if it meant I had to go to the loo few times. Anyways lunch happened, had a lie for sometime, came down and saw that Sanjay and Karan had come to pick me for Kathgodham.
The Journey from Bhimtal to Kathgodam Railway Station.
Kathgodam Railway Station
It is possible that I may have been to Kathgodam Railway Station before but that probably may have been a decade or more and somehow didn’t know/realize to know I was so close to Nainital and other places. Here’s a screenshot taken by a friend Siddharth S. who did the trip the other way from Delhi to Kathgodam or KGM and was able to take the picture from above.
As can be seen it looks so beautiful. Vinay, part of the hackergram team provided the tickets for KGM – Delhi Shatabdi Express.
KGM – NDLS Shatabdi Journey (12039)
While entering itself, I knew it was an LHB rake/train which while more comfortable than ICF Rakes are prone to more jerks than ICF Rakes. Unfortunately, this Rake i.e. 12039 has only 2 options, AC Chair Car and Executive Chair Car, no sleeper but as it is short distance doesn’t matter so much. While I have been probably been more than half a dozen times been in LHB Rakes and n number of times in ICF Rakes, I somehow enjoy the ICF Rakes more as they are open and people are usually more friendly . This time though, I was grateful as I wouldn’t have to speak people so much. To add to my surprise, I found that this one also had meals included. On some Shatabdi trains, you have the meals included, while on others you can choose not to. While there was more than enough servings of meals and snacks, I took only some as I didn’t want any nasty incidents to occur till Delhi and from then on to Pune. I would however say, I enjoyed the ice-cream (Amul) which was provided and also took bit of lunch that they provided. IRCTC food was ok, but nothing great to write home about apart from the ice-cream but that probably is the ice-cream manufacturer taking care. While Sanjay and Karan helped me with the luggage to the seat, it started right on time at 15:30 hrs. My neighbour for the remainder of the journey turned out to be a Gunman (Z-Force) who was duty-bound with another of his brethen to some politician who was travelling in A-1 (Executive Chair Car) . The travel itself was pretty straight forward. The route was Kathgodam (KGM) – Haldwani (HDW) – Lal Kuan (LKU) – Rudrapur City (RUPC) – Rampur (RMU) – Moradabad (MB) – Ghaziabad (GZB) and finally NDLS (New Delhi) . While the time was told to be 21:30 at New Delhi, it entered NDLS at 21:45 . I was a bit in a panicky mode at my flight was at 23:30 and although I had been told it should be enough time for the Airport. I didn’t know as it all depended on connectivity. The one thing I should have banked on was to buy some water bottles at KGM itself as my bottle of water had finished pretty early and it was risky to try and get a bottle from any of the intervening Stations .
The Race to DIAL
The above is the New Delhi Railway as it looks from outside at night. I came down from Platform 16 to the side from where I took the picture. I knew I didn’t have much of a time, so took this while on a semi-run. The bad thing about NDLS is that there are no signs anywhere to tell where the Metro is. I knew that there was a metro connection from there till Delhi Aerocity but didn’t know where. I was mis-guided (probably not intentionally) but it took quite an effort to reach the Metro Station. From where I took the photograph, the Metro Entrance is at 45 degrees angle and then you have to go down. Somehow I managed to reach to the Metro Station. buy the token for the train, take the escalator. Time 22:15 . The clock near the Metro showed 10 minutes for the arrival. 5 minutes later, the Metro arrived and I figured that the time it was showing was the time for departure. I reached Delhi Aerocity at 22:45 . At the end while coming up there were tickets to Delhi Terminal T1-C which as I had shared before I thought was a different terminal. I asked a few people and they said it was walkable distance. I walked a bit and asked some more people and learnt that the Airport (T1 and T1 -C ) were one and the same and it still was 4-5 kms. away . They suggested to take a bus or a rick. I asked the Rickshaw guys and sure enough they started quoting some ridiculous figures. I asked the bus guy and he said INR 30/- I bought the ticket and was tensed but soon the bus started. I was on tenterhooks but kept saying ‘it’s alright’ because there was no alternative. I somehow managed to get to the Airport and to the baggage drop and asked if I still was on time. Either seeing the desperation on my face or whatever, she allowed me to do the bag drop, time 23:15 . I didn’t have time to do anything. Fortunately, there was no queues in security and was able to go through. I just managed to reach the Indigo gate when they were making last announcements before closing the boarding. Time 23:20 – 23:25 . As luck would have it, there were 5-6 people who also were late like me. The Indigo Gate attendant/personnel had no choice and asked for a vehicle so we could all get on. Meanwhile, I put my boarding pass and my Government issued ID in my bag for safe-keeping. My boarding pass was 28-E
When I dis-embarked the vehicle at the Airplane, I knew I had to go to the back of the plane and realized I need to show the boarding pass again before . I fished in my backpack, showed the boarding pass, used the Aircraft passenger stairs/boarding ramp with my hands-on baggage. As I was about to put my boarding pass in my backpack in a special envelope I found that my Govt. ID seemed to be missing. While I didn’t want to create a hassle but still had to inform the flight attendant so with great reluctance informed them. It took a few minutes while I tried to have as much water I could as I hadn’t had water for the last 5-6 hours and was stressed. I didn’t know what the flight attendants thought . Soon the skipper came and I showed him the boarding pass . Interestingly, he took a look at my surname and seeing it was Agarwal, assured me nothing was amiss and I should take my seat. I was wondering what would the scene have been if it was something else. Anyways, they tried to fish for the Govt. ID between the Gate and where the vehicle had dropped me and didn’t find it.
I was told to file a complaint in lost and found once I reached Pune Airport. We probably left Delhi around 23:45 – 23:50 or thereabouts. I had a feeling that there may be some hole in my envelope but didn’t want to investigate then. We still reached Pune on time. I disembarked, freshened myself, drank lots of water, again freshened myself, went to baggage claim, got my other backpack from the baggage claim and opened up the area where I kept my Govt. issued Id . Sure enough, it was right there, lying by its lonesome. I again put the two together, exited the Airport, went to the Parking area, took a rickshaw, called up home and was at home in about 45 odd minutes. There was relief from both sides. Over an early breakfast, mother told me that she also hadn’t been able to sleep for the last 3 days. After breakfast we slept like logs for 8-10 hours. Made lunch and slept again. Pune is and was burning as we are in the middle of summer and the temperature is around 36 – 38 degree celcius in the morning and sometimes humid in the evening. So while I’m now all well and good, it surely was an adventure .
What would I have done differently
If I had some idea, I probably would have taken the flight a day before, either take a room near NDLS or at Paharganj, a place which has lot of beauty in by itself. While I had and have extended family at Delhi, at times it is easier to just be with myself and I have found Paharganj to be a good place. There are many places in Paharganj from fancy to budget hotels and lot of them have beautiful frescos like the one I am sharing below.
While the above Fresco was done by somebody in the bathroom they had in Lake Heritage, I have seen many such mural paintings in many places. Paharganj for one, even South Goa old Portugese homes have lot of these and elsewhere. So
So I would have come to Delhi, stayed the day, meet friends and then taken the early Shatabdi from NDLS to KGM and reached KGM at around 12:30 in the afternoon. The hackergram had thought of this way too but discarded it as other people were arriving at 9:00 – 9:30 in the morning so it would have been impossible to reach NDLS in time. Even my plane had touched down at 5:30 and I was out of the terminal by 0600 hrs. By my own experience it would take anybody at least an hour to get from DIAL to NDLS using the most efficient ways. One thing that is in works and will improve DIAL is a proposed People-mover from Delhi Aerocity to Delhi Airport but that will happen by 2024 as it stands today. Showing a proposed map of the people-mover below.
The link that I am interested in the one in the red going from Aero City Station to T1 . There is also supposed to be a T4 terminal for more International Operations but all of this is supposed to happen by 2024 at latest.
What Steps can the Government take for more tourism in Uttarakhand
While it’s razor edge as Uttarakhand, Kumaon has lot of nature and heritage based tourist attractions. There are number of things that could be improved. For instance, the nearest Airport to Kathgodam is Pantnagar which perhaps could be developed into an Airport which could serve not just Delhi but other places such as Pune, Mumbai etc. but they will have to develop lot of infrastructure for that. I have no clue how big the Airport is and if it could handle something like an A320 or not. The other thing the Government could do is do a double electrified line from Rampur to Kathgodam . Right now it’s a single un-electrified semaphore signal based line. Again, dunno if it is viable, possible or would it endanger forest cover.
Note – Because of Jet Airways troubles as well as Max 737 groundings, the cost of fares shot up. A typical ticket from Pune to Delhi or vice-versa which usually costs around INR 3, 3.5 k/- shot to 7k/- and beyond. If a fifth operator doesn’t come soon, as a dear twitterati recently shared
India is a low ticket-size, high-volume and long term market where companies need a war chest of cash to survive and take on competition. Striking similarities between the ride hailing and the #aviation scene in India. #AvGeek #UberVinamra Longani, Aviation Analyst on Twitter,