And thus we started along the path of Ganges upwards of Rishikesh: Sriram, his uncle Mr. Devaru and me. We had stayed in a hotel bang opposite to where we were to take a taxi from. We were told on our vikram auto journey from Haridwar to Rishikesh that this place called Triveni Ghat is where the press/newspaper vehicles start off from anytime after 0300 hrs. This was to be a very comfortable time to leave Rishikesh in order to make it in good time to Uttarkashi for our agency to be contacted for guide, porters, tent, etc. We wanted to rest a little on reaching Uttarkashi before meeting our agency contact Mr. Pitambar and keep the rest of the day free to buy provisions for the trip. The verbal list of things was discussed over and over again for a final cut at Bangalore itself.
So we took a drop at Triveni ghat and on Sriram’s enquiring, we got ourselves a room at a newly built hotel called Ganga Guest House just opposite the (newspaper-)taxi stand. We’d our dinner at Rimpy’s just 4-5 blocks away on recommendation from Amit, the kid at the hotel reception. The food at Rimpy’s was fantastic and the menu had a huge range to pick from. The quantity of food deserves a special mention: the soup bowl was large and almost overflowing while the regular economy north Indian meal had *4* tandoori rotis, a vegetable, dal, some rice & raita. We ate to our heartful, not to mention the stomach and slept off for a few hours in our room.
The fun began the next day at 0330 hrs when we hit the taxi stand enquiring about taxis only getting confused with inputs that varied from “no one’s driving off before 0500 hrs” to “a taxi will come over anytime now and leave as soon as it is full of 10 passengers”. So we waited and got ourselves hopping taxis with our backpacks just to fill 10 passengers in one vehicle that were otherwise spread out in multiple cabs. Before 0500 hrs, we were driven to barricades that block the ghats during the night for safety reasons. On dropping a newspaper, the road was thrown open for our sleepy driver by the police!
The drive was scary, not as much for the curves and the hills but for the sleepy driver who stood up on the brakes whenever he saw a vehicle approaching us. After a while, I learnt that the driver was actually sleeping in bits at the wheel!!! This came as so much as a shock to me that Sriram and I started analyzing whether he was sleepy or the looks were sleepy. Not wanting to risk and on my insisting that the driver was asleep for good fractions of a second on a regular basis, Sriram and I started talking to SUD (sleeping ugly driver). We were not sure what to ask and went on with all sorts of nonsensical questions about the weather, road, blah blah… god-knows-what. At first, SUD was annoyed and nodded at each inquiry. Later, his sleep took a walk and he started talking some. Although assuring enough, we ran out of petty talk soon and SUD continued his sleep again. We tried much in vain, but success was reached only when a person in the backmost seat fell sick and vomited! SUD had to stop and that made him wake up much. Later, we found that he was as bad a driver, or even worse when awake! I wanted to pen this experience in greater detail just to say that although the journey began on a bad risky note, it taught us a valuable lesson of being careful ahead!