It was mid-April and my desire to escape Delhi's sweltering weather was at its peak. After reading about a couple of offbeat places, I narrowed down on travelling to Naggar, a charming Himachali hamlet. In order to reach Naggar, one has to board a Manali-bound bus and get off at a village called Patlikuhal. However, when I went ahead to book my bus tickets, I found most of the Manali buses to be jam-packed. So, I decided to take a bus till Bhuntar and then a local bus from there till Naggar.
Little did I know how this minor decision was to change the entire trajectory of my trip.
Two days later, I took an evening bus from Delhi and reached Bhuntar the next morning. After reaching Bhuntar, I spotted a local bus which was all set to leave.
"Ye bus Naggar jaayegi?" (Will this bus go to Naggar?), I asked the bus conductor.
"Haan, jaldi baitho" (Yes, sit in quickly), he replied in a nonchalant way.
And so, without any qualms I quickly sat down on a window seat and started enjoying the scenic ride.
The bus passed many villages whose names were alien to me. An hour later, after realizing my phone had limited signals, I reached out to my co-passengers for Naggar's whereabouts but they were as clueless as I was. Sometime later, the bus came to a complete halt and all the passengers who didn't get off before also got down.
"Naggar kitni dur hai?" (How far is Naggar?), I asked the bus driver.
"Naggar?" He asked incredulously. "Yeh toh Barshaini hai aur iske aage bus nahi jaayegi. Aap galat bus mein beth gaye hoge" (This is Barshaini and this is the last stop. You probably boarded the wrong bus).
I was angry, scared, and mortified all at once. At the bus conductor, at myself and at my phone. The only saving grace was the picturesque environment around me. And, since I had an hour and a half to kill before catching my return bus to Bhuntar, I started exploring my surroundings.
Except for the gushing sound of Parvati River, Barshaini felt like a very quiet town. I passed by a dam and started hiking upwards from where it was possible to see the entire valley.
I had only started exploring when a woman with dark brown hair and hazel eyes, who appeared to be in her late 40's stopped and asked me if I was heading towards Kalga. Somehow, I ended up narrating my whole story to this complete stranger and the next thing I know, I was walking with her to a village I had no idea about.
She introduced herself as Devorah and told me she was from Israel. By the time we reached Kalga, I had really started enjoying Devorah's company.