I did not consider it necessary to start very early from Shimla since it was less than 300 km to Mussoorie. Even the scheduled start was delayed as my car was blocked by a few cars that was parked in front blocking the exit. I tried with some of the taxi drivers there, but to no avail. I went to the station where an employee told me that the car would have the owner’s number on the car! I went back to the parking lot and tried the numbers on the car. No one picked up and frustration was beginning to build up.
That delay at the start point set the tone for the rest of the day! The distance to Mussoorie that looked doable in less than 6 hours finally took more than double that time. The initial stretch of 98 km from Shimla to Hatkoti took more than 6 hours! Nonexistent roads, apple season traffic and male chauvinism on the landslide affected roads exaggerated the problems. The traffic got held up for nearly an hour each at three places and in some places the roads were so narrow that trucks would not pass each other without scrapping the sides! The heat did not help matters either. Drivers gesticulating and almost poking another in the eye were common scenes. However, through all the madness I could also see a few altruistic souls working to calm tempers and try their best to get traffic moving.
It took another three hours to negotiate 110 km from Hatkoti to Chakratha. The final stretch to Mussoorie was nearly 120 km. Driving virtually alone on severely winding roads without any warnings in misty and pitch dark conditions from Chakratha to Mussoorie heightened the adventure. But some places were so lonely and without any sign boards I wondered if I was on the correct route. It was eerie at many places. By the time I reached near the Mall road in Mussoorie I was wanting to hit the sack in quick time. The railway rest house was in a hotel in Mussoorie, located on the Mall Road. I found entry to the road barred with chains and the security personnel manning the barrier said that cars would be permitted to enter only after 10 pm. Any amount of reasoning with them about the tiring journey I had had that day would not move them to grant me an exemption. I waited for a miracle and it happened. I saw them letting a car go by and challenged them. So they said that I could pay the entry fee without a voucher and go through! They could have told me this in the first place and saved me some time.
I reached the hotel and had to wait for more than half hour to be allotted a room. It is after I had entered details in the register that I was told that the room charges were to be paid in Dehra Dun station prior to occupation! I was at my wits end. The day started with a delay and was due to end with further delay! Many phone calls later I was given the permission to pay the next day. I ordered food as soon as I entered the room as I was ravenously hungry! But sleep did not come easily. I pondered about the days I was in Mussoorie as a probationer in the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration. Unarguably the most enjoyable days in service were those days; days of innocent fun and fun loving friends. The Mall Road used to be a weekend haunt for harmless “Romeo walks” and Chinese food. I also wondered about the road from Uttarakhand to Nepal. I have never been or driven on this stretch before. A new adventure beckoned.