Day 18: 2nd July, 2011
The actual plan was to ride till Ambala today and then ride to Delhi from there the next day. But, we thought that it might get too close as we have a lot of things to do in Delhi. So, we decided to ride all the way to Delhi today itself. That was a phenomenal 520kms ride. We started riding at 8am in the morning after a very elaborate photo session. Today was Pat’s last day with us. From here he would head off to Dharamshala in Uttarakhand. We all bid goodbye to him and wished him luck. From here, we decided to stick to our own groups/partners. Me and Nam on our bike and Pops were partners. Manju and Somanna were partners. But Manju left Somanna behind and sped away with Ponni. So, Somanna decided to stick with us. All through the ride, we were bumping into each other, but more or less the partners stuck to each other. The ride today was typical highway riding on a hot summery day. It was hot, dusty, crowded roads. We had to take frequent breaks and drink lots of water. Dehydration was a serious risk we faced. But, we all did well. We had breakfast in a Gurudwara in Jalandhar and the next evident break was for lunch at a good restaurant near Ambala. We passed numerous hotter, dustier and crazily crowded towns of Punjab and Haryana and finally reached Delhi at around 8pm. Ponni, Manju and the taxi had already reached Paharganj and had booked a good hotel for all of us to stay in.
As we entered Delhi, the traffic was maddening. It was a challenge staying together. To make things worse, only Namitha had a phone and cash. Pops did not have any cash with him or any way of contacting anybody. The tragedy was that, when we came very close to Paharganj, we stopped at a Petrol pump. The three of us rode off together, but Pops’ bike stopped a little ahead and he saw that we had gone ahead but couldn’t stop us. A little ahead, we looked for him at a circle and couldn’t find him. We thought we had lost him at that circle and went in all directions around the place looking for him. We couldn’t find him and then ensued a series of searches for him. By then Mohan, Vatsala, Manju and Somanna had already left for their friend’s place where they were going to stay. Only Ponni, me and Nam were there who could go looking for Pops. I decided to stay on the road and wait for Pops as I was confident he would search for Paharganj and come there. I asked Nam to go with Ponni back to where we had lost him. We did not have any luck with finding him. We even went to the hotel where we had stayed before the start of the trip and left a message in case he goes there. I thought he might remember Srinath’s number and try to get Namitha’s number from him or something. So I called him and asked him to expect Pops’ call from any unknown number. For almost an hour we did everything we could think of to find Pops. Then, suddenly Pops appeared from behind a fly over where I was waiting. Nam ran to him and we sighed with relief. He was irritated and felt left down and understandably so. Delhi is a crazy city and to be lost in a city like that with no money, no phone and not knowing where to go can drive you mad.
A little later all the others came and checked into the hotel. We dined, chatted and retired for the night.
Day 19: 3rd July, 2011
We had ridden 520 kms the previous day to reach Delhi and we were determined to make Delhi count. There is no better way to celebrate Delhi than to eat great food. Nobody bothered about waking up early today. We woke up on our own clocks and me, Harsha and Bali went to Carol Bagh to return the bikes. Pops joined us as he had to remove the luggage carriers from his bike. This got done much quicker than we had expected. Manju and Somanna went and returned their bikes also and went to the railway station. I finished this and came to the hotel and then took Pops’ bike to the railway station along with Shubra, Varun, Satvik, Ponni and Manju. This took a little longer than we had expected or we would have liked. We were done by around 3pm. We returned to the hotel, by which time Deepti, Bali and Ponni had packed up and were ready to take the taxi to the airport. We bid them bye and promised to catch up sometime in Bangalore. Me, Nam and Harsha took an auto to my favourite Kareem’s restaurant behind Jama Masjid. Somanna and Manju also planned to join us, but dropped out last minute as they wanted to wait for Mohan. It’s a pity they missed what they missed. We belted the lunch of a life time and laced it with 5-6 different variety of the most amazing sweets on that street. Moms and Pops ordered their lunch at the hotel itself. Shubra, Satvik and Varun went to the Haldiram’s restaurant and Chandni Chowk and they loved the food. All of us came back to the hotel room, slept a little, clicked some pictures, gossiped a little, laughed a lot and then packed our bags and checked out. We loaded our bags on 3 cycle rickshaws and headed to the railway station. There was so much luggage that it could fill up a mini truck. But we were adamant that we wouldn’t hire a coolie. Each one of us picked up the entire luggage and it was a scene to watch. It looked like we were going into a battle, fully loaded.
Karnataka Express flagged off the New Delhi Railway Station and that green flag marked the beginning of the end of the Himalayan Sojourn.
Day 20: 4th July, 2011
Me, Nam, Pops, Moms, Shubra and Satvik were together in one compartment. Mohan, Vatsala, Manju and Somanna were together in the same bogie, but in a different place. Varun and Harsh had their berths in two different places. But our compartment was like the head office. Everyone would spend most of the day time here and go back to their respective places to sleep in the night. The 6 berths were accommodating more than 8 people’s luggage and it was a serious mess. There was not place to put your feed down. Helmets were hanging from everywhere. I knew I wouldn’t be able to blog once I return, so I completed almost 75% of this blog on the train. We were trying to recap all the fun we had just had, between having soups, tea, vada pav, bajjis, juices, chocolates, biscuits and the meals.
Day 21: 5th July, 2011
I don’t think anybody was excited to be returning to Bangalore, but me and Namitha were least unhappy.In fact the closer we got to Bangalore, the better we felt about being back home. Srinath sent Satish with the Innova and Varun’s dad had come to receive him. Namitha’s mom and dad had come to the railway station to welcome us. That was indeed a very pleasant surprise. I insisted they come home along with us and that I would drop them in the evening, but they wouldn’t listen. Harsha, Mohan, Vatsala, Manju and Somanna got off in Cant station and went home straight from there. Varun promised to come home for the weekend and we planned to go to watch “Buddha hoga tera baap” along with Pops. The 6 of us filled the innova with our luggage and went to my office. I had to go in and say hi to everybody. I loved the feeling of going back to my office. I assured everybody at office that I would come back the next day and share all the pictures and experiences with them.
We decided to treat us to a befitting welcome back lunch at Maiyas. After a long time we gobbled down delicious South Indian food and we ate like Punjabis.
We dropped Satvik to his house and drove back home. A sight of our house from a distance was enough to invite an ear to ear smile on our faces. We could feel connected again. There was no better way to be welcomed back home than to see the excitement on Marley. Sunandamma had given him a bath and powdered him up and he was looking sweet. His only problem was not being able to decide on which one of us should he jump first…
If you missed out on the previous part of the story, you can read it here: The Himalayan Sojourn 1.0- Part 9- Srinagar & Beyond