From Rampur I wanted to go to Chandigarh, which was closer to Delhi. I reached the bus station and had to deal with the question: Direct bus to Chandigarh, which might leave in 1.5 hours (it came from somewhere else) or play it safe and first go to Shimla and from there take the next bus. I decided on the second option. The bus had its difficulties. There was a lot of hill climbing and sometimes the driver just couldn’t get hold of 1st gear on the hill and would jiggle and poke the gear lever. It was a bit of an exhausting ride, but it ended at some point. A toilet, something to eat – and there was the next bus to Chandigarh. It was faster. On the way there, I had already driven up in the dark, now I was driving down in the light and I could see how well the road was built, but how it was restricted by numerous landslides. Next to me was a mother with a small child. The toddler sat very silently on her lap for a long time, then slid down and up again, but everything was very much within bounds – and he hardly spoke. I then wondered how it is that, for example, in buses, the children here are much quieter and more patient than I assume German children are. No idea. And in the midst of my reflections, the mother apologised that her son was “very naughty” with his movements. That’s what we quickly say to children here when they are a bit more active.There are also children who I find “naughty”, but not so many. Mostly male turds from nouveau riche parents. Hahaha.
The nice mother gave me instructions where I should be let out to get to my hotel. There is an Ola taxi service in Chandigarh, which is very helpful. I was then standing on a dark country road and the taxi I had called arrived – and was a stroke of luck. The driver spoke little English, but enquired more precisely what I wanted at the address given, it was not a good area. I had pre-booked the accommodation at booking.com, a tad more expensive, but very cosy looking and with 3 good reviews. We then thought it would be a good idea to call there directly for exact location (the address was only vaguely given (street without number -> actually strange….), but with a marker on the map). And then it got really strange: a completely different person without accommodation from another place answered the phone at the number given. There was no response to a message. It had never occurred to me before that there were fakes on booking.com and I didn’t understand the meaning behind it – but this was indeed one!
Conscious of our duty, we drove to the address on the map and asked around. No one knew of a hotel and it looked like this:
I had a lengthy awkward phone call with booking.com. The lady reached an owner who said he would call me back in 30 min. She would then also check with me again. Neither happened, of course. The driver was very sorry about all this and felt responsible for me and we then looked for a price acceptable alternative – and found one. I guess without commission – the driver was really very sweet and in the end charged an absolutely correct non-expensive price. And we were on the road for quite a long time. So I was unlucky and lucky in one – as I have been many times before.
The new hotel manager was a bit funny – he kept assuring me that I was very safe in his hotel and not to be afraid. I kept assuring him back that I wasn’t afraid. Later, I thought again about fear and whether I’m actually deluding myself and do have some. I guess I divide it into two categories: I call it fear when my heart really goes into my pants, like on the bus ride with the steep slopes and during flight turbulence, and when I get afraid of heights in some situations and sometimes cling to something with trembling legs. Then there are apprehensions that I imagine something unpleasant like landing alone at night in ugly surroundings and not finding help, getting stressed with missed transport connections, not being able to make myself understood, getting injured in the mountains, losing mobile phone/money/documents (no, stealing and robbery are not in my thoughts) and stuff like that. But that only happens in my head and so far not so in reality.
So back to Chandigarh. I had been there before for sightseeing and once I had visited friend Dolma there when she was a student. Chandigarh is a very pleasant city with spacious streets and grounds, lots of greenery and less air pollution. I had two things planned this time: 1. Decathlon shopping (they are also well positioned in India and even a bit cheaper than in Germany) and 2. meeting an ex-Kamerakidz from Zanskar who is studying here. I also found out that you can also call a “motorbike taxi” via Ola, which I also wanted to try out very much.
After Decathlon, the motorbike taxi didn’t work out, but an autorickshaw drove me. I did some shopping and there was rather nothing to tell about it. In the afternoon, a new attempt with Ola motorbike taxi: one was found, it moved in my direction, but shortly before arrival it disappeared again. The next one did not move from the spot. It’s not really easy with this taxi app and sometimes you have to wait quite a while until someone actually stops in front of you. This is not only the case in Chandigarh but also in Delhi and not only with this taxi app only but also with others. But the prices are really cheap and you are registered. So I took a car taxi to the meeting point. The driver had a small tablet in his car where he listened to Punjabi music on Youtube. Could I turn on a German video? After 2 suggestions (Nana Mouskouri and Hubert von Goisern) he was not so enthusiastic and switched back to Punjabi.
In a café I met Lobsang Stobdan – he had been in my photography class for 2 years. A funny active rather small boy, but he avoided talking to me. English-speaking shyness. He was 13 or 14 then – and now he was 24 and not really recognisable. He had grown up a lot, was studying economics, talked and asked a lot of questions, and had good intentions of becoming successful in business in Zanskar. The studied Zanskaris I had met so far tended to look for their professional future outside Zanskar. They don’t want to live the hard life at home any more – and there are only a few jobs. But now there are roads and thus good chances that life at home will become more attractive.
For the return journey to the accommodation, I tried a motorbike taxi again. At first it seemed as if none would be found. An elderly gentleman came up to us and asked if there were any problems and then started to tell us that he had been in Germany in 1961 and had noticed how america-unfriendly it was there, after all, the Americans had also reduced Germany to rubble – it would have looked like it does now in the Gaza Strip. Then came the news that a motorbike had been found and the gentleman shuffled off again.
The motorbike taxi had a helmet for me, so I rode with him through the night and found it really great because it was easier to weave through the heavy traffic.
The next morning, the experiences continued. I was staying just outside Chandigarh on the way to Delhi and it was not quite clear to me how I would get to a bus to Delhi, whether I would have to go back to the city or how or what. The safety-conscious hotel manager said I could go to a place here and pick up a bus there. However, it was difficult again with the taxis – and so he took me and my luggage on his little moped and drove me to a place on the road where there were various people and also a few cars. I could either stop a bus – or take a shared taxi. For less than 10 euros. I thought it would be much quicker and easier to get to Delhi – but far from it. It was a bad decision. First, a long wait for other passengers. When I wanted to change to the bus, the car was full in no time, they discussed back and forth, but then we finally started.
I sat in the front, which was not nice because the driver unfortunately gave off a strong smell of armpit sweat. When someone got off in the back, I changed seat. Then we stopped at a dubious stand that sold toll tags for the road and the driver couldn’t just buy one but made out here and there and it took time and I was grumpy and eventually it went on. Some passengers had ridden quite short distances, which meant that the driver now wanted to collect new ones and always drove slowly in towns alongside the fast road and shouted out his destination, but no one really was attracted and so we continued to lose time. At lunch the announcement was 20 min, but when we gathered at the car one passenger was missing – he had decided to order food much too late and so was not ready yet. Waiting. Eventually we did arrive in Delhi, but it had taken much much longer and was of course more expensive than the bus and I drew the lesson that shared taxis were not always a good idea. Especially not when there are also buses.
In Delhi, I found a rickshaw driver through Ola and we went to my cousin’s house, but he was already halfway out. I went to the hairdresser etc. – and let’s see what else awaits me for the last 2.5 days in Delhi!