I could not get sleep after 4.30 AM. And I had so much time to kill before taking the 9.15 AM bus to Reckong Peo. Then an idea formed in my head. Why not get ready early and try my luck on the road to get me to the ISBT for an earlier bus? The inner voice goaded me on and I left the guest house before 5.30 AM. It’s about 6 kms to the ISBT. Technically I stood no chance of walking to it. I waved frantically at all passing vehicles. In the dark no one cared. I started wondering if it was a good idea to do this at all. Nevertheless I labored on. Many more vehicles swerved and drove on. With loud prayers on my lips I kept walking and flailing my arms. Just when I thought that I should park myself on a kerb till the buses started a Maruti Alto stopped. Fortunately, the passengers in it were also bound for the ISBT. I reached the ISBT in time for the 6.15 AM service to Peo.
Just as the bus took its appointed place in the stand I clambered on and tried to accommodate the back pack in the luggage rack. It would not fit and the driver insisted that it should be carted on top of the bus. I pleaded with him for the first seat on the bus, next to him. He agreed and I could put the luggage comfortably next to me. The only inconvenience was that the leg space was restricted. It was a small price to pay. I will have to find ingenious ways of relieving the pressure on the knees.
I need not have worried about it for there were numerous stoppages en route. Though it is a long distance service it also served short segment passengers. There were many stoppages for tea, food and meals. All these, in their own way, contributed to frequent leg stretches. Even then, the 11 hour ride took its toll on the knees. The Rampur HRTC bus stand should surely rank among the best locations for a bus stand in the country. Overlooking the Sutlej river and with tall mountains on the other side, the bus stand is a picture post card beauty. Apart from the advantage of parking the luggage close to me the seat also offered me lovely views of the State on the way – mountains, rivers, trees and above all, ever smiling people. Without exception the road condition was badAll through the route it was warm till the bus reached Reckong Peo. Somewhere along the way I dozed a bit. The driver immediately woke me and told me that I should shift to a seat at the back in case I wanted to continue with my sleep. He told me that he would get distracted if I slept in the seat next to him. Thus, for the rest of the journey I had my eyes wide open. I got down at the Peo bus stand and called my contact in Peo. He soon appeared with a couple of other guys and escorted me into a car. We drove to about 13 kms to Kalpa, where my accommodation was arranged in the Circuit House. As we drove into the compound of the CH I was treated to the most fabulous views of the snow clad mountains. One among them is the Kinner Kailash and I told myself that I had enough time in Kalpa to discern the various mountains in the range. Though there was some confusion about my booking in the CH it was soon cleared up and I was comfortably lodged in a suite room. At the time I was the only occupant in the CH. Sharma, the caretaker, made an excellent cup of tea to start the proceedings in the CH. Later, he made me a simple fare of dal, vegetable curry and rice for dinner. I do not know if I was thankful that there was no TV in the room or even in the lounge. But I did not miss it.