I belong to a family whose motto, specifically during long drives is to be as impromptu as it can get. I’ve mentioned our detours to Nainital in a few of my previous posts also, and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that it is one of our most preferred destinations,especially to escape the blistering heat of the capital city.
Since we had been there before and had comfortably gotten ourselves a room without prior booking, we were confident that we would easily get a room this time as well. Not that we didn’t know it was peak season,just that we had fixed our optimistic hope on the zillion hotels in the tiny lake town. And thus, we chose to overlook the golden rule, that one thing which every travel journal/website advises before visiting a hill station during the peak season: To book a hotel in advance.
The day of the journey dawned upon us. With the only glitch (which seemed minor then), of starting a little late and getting stuck in a jam before we could cross the borders of dear Delhi, the excited trio soon hit the highway.
The drive till Nainital was peaceful and uneventful. However, as we inched towards the border of Nainital, our pace had reduced considerably, thanks to the innumerable cars which were heading towards the lake town. The moment we were inside, we were informed by the police that entry to Mall Road, the haven of hotels in Nainital had been restricted. Only cars which had prior booking in the hotels were being allowed to enter.
The huge area for car parking at the end of Mall Road had been declared full and cars were being directed to some other parking area which was on a higher terrain. Reaching there required a tricky piece of driving and also a more powerful car. My father took the plunge on the rocky terrain. The car was up, successfully, but there was a pungent, burning odour which immediately erupted from the car’s insides. Luckily, we found a local who informed us that the clutch plate had charred and should ideally be treated at a service station immediately.
We couldn’t afford to park the car and go looking for a mechanic as the police had already swooped upon our heads to clear the area. It was turning dark and we were visibly troubled. We tried a few hotels in Nainital but even the most mediocre of them didn’t have a single room to spare for the night. The best bet was to drive to the foothill town of Haldwani and spend the night there. Though even this wasn’t a highly optimistic prospect, given that the car’s health was literally on its hinges (as we had been told).But we decided to take the risk.
In India, the route to hill stations, which is highly romantic and picturesque during daylight takes an eerie persona, straight out of a horror film at night. To add to that, you have hardly any lights en-route, which further adds to your agony. It was in these circumstances that we covered the 40km long stretch to Haldwani, in fear, wondering what we would do if the car decided to stop dead in these surroundings. The prayers were answered and not only did we cross the stretch comfortably, but also found a well-maintained budget accommodation in Haldwani which served us delicious food, something much-needed after an exhausting day.
The first thing next morning was to get the car repaired and when we took it to the mechanic there, he told us that it was the brake shoe which had heated up, a minor problem and there was no harm to the clutch plate at all. Need I really say how we felt for the local who had fed the clutch plate story to us?
1) Mechanic: Rs 500
2) Accommodation: Rs 1500
Contributed by Rini Sinha