Trip to Uttarkhand – Part 5 (Bus ride till Pipalkoti onway to Badrinath)

 

Day 5: 1st Aug 2012 : Last night I was so tired that I wanted to take a day’s complete rest, but my partner convinced me that I should join him to Badrinath trip. I reluctantly said yes, and we woke up early in the morning, went to Gaurikund and had bath, still my legs where paining, in fact I was limping. The hot water warmed me up. Came back to the room, had tea at the stall below. In Uttarakhand everything regarding transport happens in daylight, there is no night travel, in fact it is illegal. And regarding public transportation the last bus leaves to distance places(like Haridwar, Badrinath) at 9:00 am!!! So, we where in the first bus which was leaving for Badrinath, which was at 6:00am. I brought my tickets, was sceptical whether the bus will fill up before I buy the tickets.
The bus travel was most social phase of the whole Uttarakhand trip, it was a small bus 20-seater kind of. I along with my Lonavala friend, there where the Russian duo (mother and son), then there where 3 Bengali family (8 persons), then there was a family of 3 from UP or Bihar, then there was a guy from Bihar who was handicap (polio), and others whom I don’t recall clearly. All of us had only one thing in common, we all have had visited Kedarnath temple yesterday.I ended up being together with this group of people for next day and half.
The bus started at around 6:00 am, I was seated next to one of the Bengali person, who introduced me as some bigshot working in Doordarshan in Kolkata.He was travelling along with his wife and son. My partner was seated in the front row of the bus, this was due to difference in the time we brought tickets. The Bengali where lot of talkative, they talked among themself mostly. For an hour or so everything for quite, then I started talking snaps of the scenery outside. The route is a picturesque one, it

Town of Gopeshwar, nestled inbetween himalayas

Town of Gopeshwar, nestled inbetween himalayas

goes from Gaurikund-Kund-Ukimath-Chopta-Gopeshwar-Pipalkoti-Joshimath and finally Badrinath.
I started talking with the person seated next to me, showed his my photographs of yesterday, also told me about my plans of my tour, inquired about him, etc. He was impressed with my plans.
The bus took its first halt at Chopta for breakfast, it was difficult for me as I wanted to visit Tunganath and Chandrashila and I

Chopta Hill Station along with the bus we travelled

Chopta Hill Station along with the bus we travelled

was right at its base town. Still, my legs where in no shape to climb, so took some snaps in Chopta, had breakfast and boarded the bus. The bus-driver and cleaner where from Uttarakhand. The atmosphere inside the bus was very much picnic like. The bus continued its journey through the wooded forested area and reached the beautiful town of Gopeshwar. Our next stop was Chamoli which is the capital of the district by same name. Gopeshwar and Chamoli are two cities where you can see maximum genetic diversity as far as India is concerned. As we entered Chamoli city, we where informed by the bus-attendent that there is landslide ahead and the road has been cordoned off by the traffic police.
Here is where the fun started, the group of Bengali people started arguing with the police officers that as the road block is far away from Chamoli(20+ km) they should allow the vehicle to go till that spot. The police denied, the Bengalis started threatening, then they even called the head of the traffic police department and got permission to move our bus. So, our journey started once more. The next major town was Pipalkoti, here the bus attendant and driver wanted all of us to get down for lunch, but the Bengali group protested, they started shouting that already lot of time has been wasted and they want to reach Badrinath, ASAP. This really pissed off the driver and attendant, but they obliged to their request and kept bus moving. After say 10+ km from Pipalkoti there was a huge landslide and there was a long queue of vehicles. Now, the Bengali have turned from hero’s to villans in matter of couple of hours. It was 2.30 pm.
As I was lymping, I had no intention to leave the bus and walk till the landslide. There was nothing to eat, though everyone had some or the other personal items, so it was not that bad. After waiting for couple of hours, the bus driver and attendant got impatient and said that they will refund the money of the remaining journey and we have to leave the bus, he was willing to drop us to Pipalkoti. The Bengali erupted in a vengeance, they all started shouting at him, telling that they had paid till Badrinath and they have no business of stopping their journey in-between. They even threatened them they will complaint to police, have there registration cancelled, etc. Rest of the passengers from the bus where quite, no one was talking to either of the parties. In the mean time I decided to test my legs and went till the point where landslide has occurred, they Border Road Organization was working, but the landslide was huge and it was raining stones continuously, so the work had to be halted

Landslide at Piplakoti

Landslide at Piplakoti

every now and then. In the meantime I met the Bihari couple whom, I met while climbing towards Kedarnath temple, in fact they recognized me and called me and we just talked in general. I was happy to see them. I had tea and was feeling hungry, also I ran out of water.
It was now turning dark. Most of the buses in queue have turned back and ours and a few remained. It was decided by the Bengali that we will go back to Pipalkoti and give a shot tomorrow morning and if the landslide scenario persists we will abandoned the bus. So we all went back to Pipalkoti and decided to book room for all the passengers. The friend of mine from Lonavala had a bargain deal with the manager of a hotel, and he finalized, but the Bengali rejected, they wanted still cheaper room. So we all again sat in bus and drove into Pipalkot market, this time they where driving bus in pitch darkness. In Uttarakhand the roads are closed after sunset, so not only was it illegal but dangerous, as one slip and you could go downhill. This thing of finding a cheaper room pissed me off. But I went with the crowd. So we

Landslide Pipalkoti

Landslide Pipalkoti

finally got a room in Pipalkoti, was bargained in such a way that we had to leave it early morning 6:00am. So we finally all settled and I was sharing my room with one of the Bengali couple who happened to visit Amaranath Cave, before coming to Kedarnath. The rooms where average at its best and they were cheaper than my friends deal by Rs 25 per head!!!
I had my dinner as soon as we checked in the hotel. Went back to the room, had some chat with the couple and then went to sleep. It was long and eventful day.

The  room rent was Rs 65 shared, and the food cost for the day was Rs 200.

© Pilankar

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