The morning of June 26th dawned grey and bleak and wet in Mumbai. It was a Monday and normally, I would have had a touch of Monday morning blues. But on that day I woke up feeling very happy and I bounded out of bed for I would soon be on a flight heading out of Mumbai for a short holiday in the hills. It was a break that I was looking forward to after weeks of chasing deadlines and more deadlines at work.
The countdown to this holiday in the hills had begun in early May when I accepted an invitation from Rokeby Manor at Landour in Uttarakhand to stay with them and explore the area. I had the travel details all planned out — fly to New Delhi from Mumbai, take the overnight Nanda Devi Express from New Delhi to Dehradun, and then make the short road trip to Landour from there. On my return journey, I would spend a couple of days with my friends in Dehradun, before taking the Shatabdi to New Delhi and then a flight to Mumbai.
Yes, I had it all planned out. I applied for leave from work, booked the necessary air and rail tickets, and informed Rokeby Manor of my itinerary so that they could make the necessary arrangements of picking me up and dropping me to Dehradun. All I had to do now was to wait (rather impatiently like a kid) for the holiday to begin.
And the holiday began with the cab ride to the airport. It normally takes an hour and a half to the airport from my residence, but being particular about arriving early, I left home a full three hours before the check in counter closed at 12.15 pm for the flight at 1.00 pm. I didn’t know when I set out that morning that Murphy’s Law was at work for me, in the sense that “everything that can possibly go wrong, will go wrong”.
It began with me missing my flight to New Delhi.
27/6/16: Mumbai to Delhi
Technically, I didn’t miss my flight. Thanks to the most horrendous traffic jam, that began half way onto my journey to the airport from my residence, I arrived there at 12.23 pm, 8 minutes after the check in counters had closed. No amount of pleading or citing traffic jam or throwing a tantrum worked. I wasn’t the only one who had missed my flight that day, and I must say that it wasn’t a pretty sight with all the shouting and swearing.
There was no question of cancelling the trip and returning home, so I bought a ticket for the next flight at 4.30 pm and settled down with a book and some coffee at a seat where I got a good view of planes taking off and landing as well. That is, when it was not raining and the view outside was not obscured.
Soon it was time to board my flight and when I arrived at the boarding gate, Murphy’s Law was still hard at work. The airline representatives were there but with an announcement that the flight would be delayed due to a technical issue. We waited and waited some more and by 5 pm there was chaos. There were people on my flight who had connecting flights to take from Delhi, there were children travelling alone, and a family travelling for a funeral, and many more who just had to reach on time. you get the picture, right?
I was feeling a bit dazed with another unexpected delay and just went and sat in one corner. For the first time that day, I wondered if this was a sign that the trip was not meant to be and maybe I should just return home. But since my train from New Delhi for Dehradun was only around midnight, I could afford to wait and see how it played out.
The wait continued and at around 5.45 boarding commenced in fits and starts. By that I mean we got into the buses that would take us to the plane, only to have the bus travel some distance and halt. And move again and halt. By the time we boarded the aircraft and took off, it was almost 6.30 pm; we landed in New Delhi at 8.30 pm.
27-28/6/16: Delhi to Dehradun
The fantastic Airport Express took me straight to New Delhi Railway Station where I headed to the rather fancy IRCTC Executive Lounge. After freshening up and an overpriced dinner at the Lounge, I headed to board my train to Dehradun with enough time to spare. I was travelling 1st AC and was disappointed to find a not too clean compartment, peeling floors, poor lighting, and bed linen whose cleanliness and freshness was suspect. I was too tired to complain and just got into my berth and went off to sleep, hoping that I had seen the last of Mr. Murphy.
Maybe I didn’t hope or wish hard enough for he came back, though this time he acted differently.
30/6/16: Dehradun to Delhi
The friends I was supposed to stay with in Dehradun had to go away for a family function, which meant that I had to change my travel plans. I decided to head to Delhi instead of staying in some hotel in Dehradun, and cancelled my original booking and made fresh booking. Since my train was scheduled to arrive in New Delhi Railway Station around 10.30 pm, I wanted a hotel that was close by. Zostel Delhi was recommended, I liked what I saw on the website, and booked a luxury room there. All set, I thought.
It rained the night before my departure from Landour and there were reports of landslides on the road to Dehradun. The good people at Rokeby Manor suggested that I leave a little early to avoid any delays to which I agreed. I was at the station a couple of hours before the train’s departure, but the missed flight was still a fresh memory and I didn’t mind. Even though, it was an uneventful train journey, the train still got delayed. When the train arrived at New Delhi Railway Station, it was midnight.
30/6-2/7/16: The Zostel Delhi Stay
All horror stories of Delhi and its crime against women came to the fore as I took the Pahadganj exit to walk the short distance to Zostel. The directions were confusing — one set said opposite the railway station, when it is actually a 7-8 minute walk away. The people at Zostel guided me and I made it there safely.
Registration formalities later, I was shown to my room which was a huge disappointment and was nothing like the bright and clean rooms that the website shows. Instead, what I got was a dingy room with a musty smell, no ventilation, a non-functioning AC, and a bathroom that was less than satisfactory. Thanks to the non-functioning AC, I got a room change which was marginally better, but also musty from lack of ventilation. Besides, there was a mat outside the bathroom door that had probably never been cleaned. All in all there was a general lack of cleanliness around the place.
In the morning, I decided to have breakfast at Zostel itself, which is served in the basement. An L-shaped room, one arm has the food laid out and the other has tables. The entire room was aired by just one wall-mounted table fan and was quite stuffy. Why the AC wasn’t operational remained a mystery.
I had woken up with a sore throat and a cold, and by evening was feeling feverish. When I returned to Zostel, I was asked to shift back to my original room since the AC was now functional to which I obliged. Next morning, the sore throat and cold had progressed to low-grade fever and I was feeling quite miserable. I decided that a hot shower would be advisable, but there was no hot water and I ended up having a cold shower. I had checked about hot water availability with the Zostel employee who had helped with the room switch on the night I arrived, and he had said that it was available between 6 to 11 am.
When I took this matter to the reception, I was told that I had been given wrong information. Since it was summer, no hot water was being provided at Zostel and if I had wanted hot water, I should have requested for it. When I said that there was no notice put up regarding this, there was no response or answer — just insincere apologies.
I was supposed to check out on the morning of June 3rd, but decided to check out that day itself. I had had enough of the lack of hygiene, poor ventilation, and general air of ‘we don’t really care” at Zostel. I took up the offer of a dear friend to go stay with her in Gurgaon. Best decision I took.
3/7/16: Delhi to Mumbai
Hot khichadi, ginger tea, relaxed conversations, and a comfortable night later, I was back at the airport, this time to take a return flight home to Mumbai. As I was to find out, Mr. Murphy had a parting shot for me.
The flight to Mumbai was delayed by half an hour to begin with. And what is usually a 2 hour flying time to Mumbai from Delhi took 3 hours that day due to bad weather. The seat belt sign was on for practically the full journey. The plane tossed and dropped and shuddered. To say it was a bumpy ride is a bit of an understatement.
I don’t think I was so glad to land in Mumbai and feel solid ground beneath my feet. The drive back home from the airport was almost like an anticlimax for we reached in a little over an hour.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
This will go down as, perhaps, the worst of my travel memories. I mean, I have had minor issues and hiccups while travelling, but never a whole series of them like this. I hope never to experience any of these or worse ever. I was quite tempted to name this post “A series of unfortunate events”, which, though apt, seemed a bit over the top.
Now that the worst part of the trip regarding my holiday in the hills is written and out-of-the-way, time to get cracking on the best part of the trip — my stay at Rokeby Manor and lovely Landour. Coming up next week right here on the blog. 🙂
PS: What is your worst holiday travel memory? Do share.