11/7/2008 to 11/11/2008 | India , Uttarakhand

Kausani to Jageshwar

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“Five Hundred?” I exclaimed in disbelief.  “No booking, shared jeep.”  I said.

“No shared, only booking to Kausani,” the jeep driver retorted with an expression and mannerisms of a man who knew that the last bus for Kausani had already left and who thought he had caught a “rich” foreigner with no other options.

It was getting dark, I was tired having just gotten off my 3rd leg of bus/jeep connections after hiking the last section of the Pindari Glacier trek earlier that morning.  I was now hoping to get onward transportation up the ridge to Kausani, a resort town famed for its panoramic Himalayan view.  Unfortunately the only guy with a jeep was a thieving bastard, so with no intention of paying the crook of a jeep driver 500 rupees for a 20 rupee trip, I started to enquire about a place to stay.  Apparently no one in there right mind would stay in the town of Ganur when they could easily go another 16 km to Kausani, I was informed the only that the nearest hotel was 5 km away.  I walked out to the edge of town and stood along the road to Kausani in an attempt to hitch my way there.  I met local there who was also trying to get to Kausani, which gave me some reassurance of possible success, but the first three vehicles passed without stopping.  The forth vehicle some 45 minutes later was the jeep driven by the driver who had wanted to charge me 500 rupees for half hour trip up to Kausani.  It was now over flowing with people.   “No shared, huh,” I thought to myself.  The jeep stopped and the local that was waiting with me said something to the driver and hopped on the tailgate.  I threw one of my two bags on top of the jeep and stood beside him on the tailgate.  The driver yelled back something about 300 rupees, knowing the fare should be only about 20 rupees I muttered something about an anatomically impossible sex act he could try.  I checked to make sure I had exact change for 20 rupees so I could just hand him the money when I got off.  We had only gone about five minutes up the road before the overloaded jeep blew a tire.  As I waited with the other passengers beside the road an SUV approached, I waved it down and asked the driver if I could get a ride to Kausani.  The nice man from Delhi agreed and I hopped in along with some others from the jeep to the disdain of the jeep driver, who exchanged some harsh words with the man from Delhi, before we continued up the hill to Kausani.  Maybe there is something to this karma thing I thought to myself, sitting in the comfort of the SUV and thinking of the crooked jeep driver changing his tire and losing five passengers worth of money in the process.

I spent two nights in Kausani enjoying the view and my rather plush room complete with a hot shower, satellite TV, and Himalayan view.  It was a perfect way to recover from a week of trekking. But a day and a half in Kausani was more than enough, as there is not much to do there other than stare out across the valley at the distant towering white wall of mountains that marks the southern end of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary.

While trekking to Pindari glacier I had met an Irishman who had traveled extensively in India, he had raved about Jageshwar a small village adjacent ancient temples surrounded by a sacred old growth forest not far from Almora.  I decided to check the place out.  With the great family run homely Tara Guesthouse, forest trails, a quant village, and beautifully carved age old temples, Jageshwar is an easy place to stay.  It’s the kind of place that stretches a one day visit into three or four.

Three days later I began my journey out of the mountains and back to Delhi.  I had planned on taking a couple days to get down to Delhi with the intention of breaking my journey at Haldwani, but when I reached Haldwani the hotels near the bus stand wanted upwards of 450 rupees for a room, with a bus due to depart for Delhi within a half hour I decided to continue on my way.  Doing the math as I sat on the bus I soon realized I would be arriving in Delhi sometime around 1:00 am, furthermore rather than going to the main bus station near Kashmir gate which would have been most convenient for the tourist ghetto of Paharganj where I was planning to stay, the bus would be going to a place in South Delhi some 12 km from where I wanted to be.  Not wanting to be stuck at the mercy of Delhi’s notoriously greedy auto rickshaw drivers at one in the morning 12 km from where I wanted to be, I began to weigh my options.  I decide the best plan of action would be to get off at some decent size bus station along the way, find a cheap hotel nearby, and catch a bus into Delhi the next morning.  My opportunity came as we passed by the main bus station in Meerut.   Meerut is a dump of a city, place no tourist in there right mind would visit, most famous for being the epicenter of the Indian sepoy mutiny of 1857 (or “first war of independence” as revisionist Indian Historians like to call it).   If I was a sepoy living in Meerut I’d be upset too.  You would think that in a city like this they would be giving away hotel rooms thankful that anyone would actually want to stay the night here.  You would think wrong.  One place wanted 200 rupees for a filthy windowless cell barely big enough for the single bed that occupied it.  I opted for another place that had a slightly cleaner room with an attached bathroom for 300 rupees.  It would have been an ok price for such a room had a ceiling pipe not leaked on to half of the double bed and had there been functioning light in the room, as it was it was vastly over priced.  The swarms of misquotes didn’t help my night’s sleep either.  The next morning I got an early morning bus to ISBT Kashmir Gate, station in Delhi I wanted to go, and by 9:00 am I was resting in a much nicer room for 250 rupees in Paharganj happy to be out of Meerut.

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