The next morning, I was awakened at a few minutes past four by the noise of loud banging on the door. True to their word, the negis had woken me up to ensure that I’d get ready in time for us to go down to Reckong Peo. Fitting four adults in a maruti 800 is no easy task; fitting them in with a mid-sized bag and a portable ventilator machine is even tougher. Still, we four – Mrs and Mr Negi, his cousin (who would drive) and self – all did what Indians do best – Adjust.
Quarter past five, Reckong Peo bus stand was just waking up when I got a parting shot of the three of them.
Absolutely nothing to do till six in the morning as the ticket window was not open and Mr B was also not around. So I spent time photographing the all important pillars on which timetable of buses that arrive and depart from Reckong Peo. It may help some who are planning to go that way, ride the roads in the care of state road transport drivers. This time table may vary when you’re actually there but essentially it should give you some idea of connections that are available from Reckong Peo. HRTC website doesn’t publish this. Since it was in Hindi, I figured I should translate the major ones. If the bus is deluxe, it is mentioned.
Reckong Peo to Chandigarh (deluxe bus) – 6:15 am daily
Reckong Peo to Haridwar – 6:15 am daily.
Kaza – Shimla (deluxe bus) 7:00 pm daily.
Reckong peo to Kaza – 7:30 am daily.
Kalpa to Shimla – 7:40 am daily.
Kalpa to Delhi – 11:30 am daily.
Reckong Peo to Dharamshala – 3:30 pm daily.
Kalpa to Chandigarh – 3:30 pm daily.
Mr B did come in at six am at and allotted a good seat to me – the bus was less than half full so it was no trouble for him. This is a photo of the interior of the long distance bus to Reckong Peo, called a 2×2 deluxe. Positively luxurious compared to what I had been riding all these days – except the little fans are of ornamental value. We left on schedule at quarter past six in the morning.
I don’t have much to report about the journey back. I recall that it was comfortable except for a gradual rise in temperature (we were no longer on the high altitudes of Kalpa and getting progressively lower – Rampur would be as low as 1100 meters). Simla was eight hours away. A few highlights I photographed are shared and the ones I could not, are etched deeper in memory.
A small group of ITBP personnel boarded the bus from Karcham – they were to travel till Jeori (to go to their main camp at Sarahan). Believe it or not, one of them got motion sickness! I gave him a cardamom and they were quite friendly towards me from that point onwards.
On the left, after we crossed Karchham, there was a small landslide – and this was dry season. Thank God I didn’t plan to travel here during the rains.
We stopped at a most interesting temple, called ‘Taranda Devi’- it is before we reached Rampur. I was told by the ITBP personnel that long back when the road had to be extended to Kinnaur (from Rampur side), frequent landslides killed many laborers in this area. A few villagers came down from the nearby village of ‘Taranda’ and told those in-charge of the project that the patron goddess (Chandrika devi) has decreed that she must be established by this spot – at a bend in the road – and so she was, and the road built till Peo (in 1965). After that, all buses, jeeps and even private vehicles stop here briefly to pay obeisance – donations are not necessary as the Indian Army maintains the temple. Devotees donate brass bells – and going by the looks of the temple, they have kept up their devotion over the years.
Through the way to Rampur, there was sunlight filtering through clouds that passed overhead creating shadows most interesting on the mountains. The mountains themselves were varying hues of green with alternate layers of brown fading into the infinite pale blue beyond. Near a place where we stopped for breakfast, I got a couple nice shots. For some reason, it reminded me of paintings I had seen.
The sky is grey /
The hills are green /
Sutlej barely seen.
In the busy, busy dhaba it was humongous alu parathas for breakfast – largest I had eaten on this trip. Service was quick and dining solo would certainly prove no problem at this joint as any available space was filled with the next customer, at the owner’s discretion.
We were at Rampur by 10:30 and my hopes were raised that we might reach Shimla earlier than I had planned to. A local diversion of traffic at Rampur proved effective in dashing these high hopes. It was a local festival and the NH-22 that runs through the town was blocked for out of station traffic. We had to backtrack, cross the river via a bridge and crossed Rampur, but on the other side of Sutlej, losing a full hour in the exercise. The heat inside the bus lessened a bit thanks to a drizzle outside. A view from the other side of the river shows how it bends near Rampur – beauty was never the selling point of this town.
The scenery continued to get progressively greener as we moved along. By the time we were close to Narkanda, the clouds were enticed enough by trees to release their catch brought from a far away ocean. It turned to a steady downpour and we all closed our windows. Nets cover many apple trees at the same time – reminiscent of little children hiding under a sheet playing hide and seek. “” It is to protect them from fierce wind in the mountains and also direct rain that damages the buds” – my seat neighbor informed me. Ah!
At narkanda, an excellent purchase was made of locally grown cherries. A box was just sixty rupees and so fresh. Sorry no photo – please take my word for a change.
The bus’s speed and the steady rain precluded any chances I had of getting good photos but this one would probably convey how green the slopes of Narkanda are – lovely woods indeed – scope for another, more relaxed visit in future perhaps.
Shortly before Shimla, I had to make a decision whether to continue in this bus (it goes to Chandigarh, all the way) and then a beep beep sound in my mobile phone ended the dilemma. My father has given me the best surprise ever – booked a ticket on the Shivalik Deluxe! My cellphone was probably not working very well earlier as the booking was done the previous day. What a treat! Back in 2012 I had tried a few times to plan for Simla alone but in the summers I always found that train booked solid, I thought it’d be a nice experience, having read so much about others’ experiences online including here.
Getting to Shimla station proved an uphill task (pun intended). The bus dropped me off on the outskirts, and after failing repeatedly for nearly a half hour to flag a taxi, I boarded a local mini-bus so laden with school children, it put the spiti bound bus to shame. It dropped me off near the new bus stand and from there it was a very long walk dragging the bag to the railway station. I arrived at half past four in the afternoon – at the ‘Heritage’ building of Shimla Railway Station that entreats visitors to keep it neat and tidy.