In Shimla, a dodgy internet cafe virus wiped my SD card, and I lost all the photos from Nainital, Haridwar, Mussoorie and Dehradun that were on it. The ones I was most upset about losing were the ones from my day in Dehradun and the two couchsurfers I’d met.
When I got back to the UK, I used Recuva to recover the data from the SD card. Some of the photos were immediately recoverable in perfect condition, while others were corrupted to differing degrees: some were completely destroyed, while others had bits and pieces still salvageable.
Just before I arrived in India in mid-September, unusually heavy monsoon rains in the state of Uttarakhand led to widespread, destructive flooding which resulted in 5,700 deaths and over 110,000 evacuations.
In the three and a half weeks since I’ve been here, the following events have also happened:
The best aspect of couchsurfing isn’t financial, but social. Free accommodation does help to stretch the travelling budget, but what’s far more valuable, especially for a solo traveller, is the way it makes it easy to meet people in the areas you’re visiting, see their homes, meet their friends and family, and get a feel for their lives. There’s also the bonus of getting their advice on the best places to visit.
Couchsurfing caters specifically to this by allowing people to arrange to meet just for coffee, or food, or for sightseeing, even if they’re not surfing/hosting together.
I liked Nainital, particularly the cooler climate, so much that I decided my next destination after Haridwar would be Mussoorie, another hill station where the British used to retreat from the heat of the Indian plain to the more temperate climate of the Himalayan foothills.
The journey from Haridwar wasn’t too long, and the winding road up into the hills from Dehradun to Mussoorie was beautiful, even through it was shrouded in mist when I first went up it. You could still see the wooded ravines, the rapids and waterfalls of the mountain streams (in one place falling directly onto the road) and great mossy cliffs rising all around and dropping away into the fog.
The journey from Nainital to Haridwar was another long day of riding, though slightly shorter, and generally less eventful than the previous slog. So, instead of talking about the trip, I’ll give some general thoughts on Indian road journeys.
Nainital is a hill station, one of the small towns just a short trip up into the Sivalik foothills of the Himalayas, either founded by the British (like Lansdowne, Mussoorie and Dalhousie) or expanded from a native village (like the Raj’s summer capital, Shimla, and Nainital), and used as an escape from the oppressive heat of the Indian plains. As well as being cool, refreshing, quiet and relaxing, Nainital’s USP is its beautiful setting around a small mountain lake.
I’m not actually staying in Nainital itself. My first Couchsurfing host, Bobby, owns a small organic farm in the valley about 20km south of the town. For the first day, I just relaxed on the farm, recovering from the previous day’s journey, and also visited the nearby town of Haldwani to catch up on emails and the blog. Just a small increase in altitude from the plain made a big difference to the temperature, taking the edge off. The constant noise and bustle was much reduced, too, and the scenery… well, take a look: Continue reading →
Well, I wanted adventure, challenge and the unexpected, and by god I got it. Today is not a day I’m likely to forget for a while.
This person has no idea what’s about to happen to him
It started well, up early, packed and loaded, and setting off from Delhi at about 0730. The bike was a bit tricky to balance at first with everything on, but I got the hang of it quickly. I also learned another lesson: the ruck sack strapped across the back seat provides a handy back rest for long journeys. But only if you don’t put the knobbliest objects right where they jab you in the spine.