Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Adventures in Travel

We are back in Mussoorie! The monsoon is still going on, but the ferns on the trees are beginning to turn brown, a sure sign that it will end. They had 8 inches of rain in 24 hours last weekend before we arrived.

Our flights to London and then to Delhi went smoothly -- we even arrived in Delhi an hour early. We both slept reasonably well during the overnight flights and recovered from most of our jet lag fairly quickly. Arrival at the new Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal in Delhi was quite amazing -- we passed through immigration and baggage very quickly, no long lines at all (this is definitely a change for the better).

After a couple of days adjusting in Delhi (and enjoying the sunshine Friday and Saturday, buying umbrellas on Sunday), we boarded the Monday morning Shatabdi train for Dehra Dun. We had breakfast on the train and I listened to an audio book. While we were sitting in the Saharanpur station (about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way to Dehra Dun) a shrill siren went off several times and there was a jabbering of announcements. I assumed it was related to the next departure and didn't pay much attention. Soon Dan came back into the car and said that the train was cancelled because the tracks and road were washed out ahead. Suddenly there were several hundred people stranded in Saharanpur.

The word going around was that there were no buses or taxis that could get through. It appeared that our options were to find a hotel and try the next day or head back to Delhi. We went into the station where Dan spoke to the stationmaster. He said he thought taxis could get through via Hardwar, the long way around. So we went outside where I stood by the luggage while Dan went off in a cycle rickshaw to find a taxi stand. The driver took him across town to a private travel company, where he was able to book a taxi and he arrived back at the station about a half-hour later.

The driver looked quite young and the taxi was the usual small Indian car (a Tata Indica--a bit more beat-up than this image). We stuffed our luggage and ourselves into the car, with Dan in front and me in the back with the bags that wouldn't fit into the small trunk. We headed off for Hardwar. Our driver turned out to be excellent -- speedy but very careful. We went through many spots where the road was badly potholed and nearly washed out. The driver frequently called other drivers to find out the conditions ahead of us. We got through every place without a hitch. There was quite a bit of traffic on the road, but no trucks or buses. We left Saharanpur about 11:00 AM and arrived in Dehra Doon about 3:15 PM without a stop. We went directly to the train station where the Mussoorie taxi stand is located and found a taxi to take us the rest of the way.

We made a quick stop in Dehra Dun to eat a little something at Nirula's (ice cream, of course) and headed up the hill in an ancient Ambassador. The engine knocked continually and it ground along in second gear most of the way. The driver was also ancient and we wondered for a while if either one would make it all the way to Woodstock. But he obviously knew his way around and we arrived at the school gate just before 6:00. The keys to our apartment were waiting for us there and we drove on around the next bend and down a short way to Fern Oaks. This is the home of our old friend Saroj, who has a small apartment beneath her home. The school has been renting it for guest quarters for a while. We unpacked our bags and decided we had to go for a walk after sitting all day. We walked out Tehri Road and stopped in to see our friends Karen and Asha in their home at Suncliff. Then we headed home and gratefully fell into bed.

Tuesday we found out that a WS alumnus was on the train with us. Max '67 and his wife Sally went to a hotel where they met a couple from Dehra Dun who were travelling by car. They were offered a ride with them. At the washout they had to walk down a ravine and up the other side where another car was waiting to take them the rest of the way. I can't imagine how we would have managed our luggage if we'd done it that way.

Below are a few pictures I took along the way from the train and the car.

Flooded fields through the train window

Some potholes on the road

Flooding along side of road

More potholes; you can see that some have had gravel and stones put in to attempt to fill them

More flooding in a wooded area

Flooding on the road; notice the car being pushed out of the water

The common egrets were enjoying themselves with all the water along the way

A view of the Ganges at Hardwar; running high and dangerous


  1. What a tale . . . makes me tired just thinking about it. It is great to see your blog back in action. Thanks for the info on the two cars, both look quite nice (in pictures). If the roads you took were not paved, I can see that washouts would be a big problem. Does one shot show Dan helping to push a car on the road?

  2. Evan - Thanks for your comments. The roads were all paved and much of the way were very good. But the heaviness of the rains and their ability to wash away everything in sight is almost unimaginable unless you see it. That isn't Dan pushing, but it is his left arm showing out the front window of our car in the photo.


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