I’m thinking that next time I go to Mahendranagar, I’ll do a few things differently. Instead of taking the train to Haldwani, I’ll take it to Rudrapur. It gets in there very early in the morning (before 5am, I think), so I’ll still call the same driver, who lives in Haldwani. A known driver is always best, if available.
If I was taking an unknown driver, I would definitely take a photo of him with his car and send it to a friend and also to the hotel where I would be staying with details of when I would be reaching along with the driver’s name and phone number. They should know to check if they haven’t heard from me by a certain time. Assuming he was a good driver, I’d be sure to call him to pick me up again on the way back.
Instead of staying in Mahendranager (Bhimdatta), I’d opt to go a bit farther. While I didn’t visit there, it appears that the Shuklaphanta Jungle Cottage would be a great improvement over anything right in Mahendranagar.
Returning to India, I might get dropped at Rudrapur and take refuge in a restaurant in one of the good hotels there—Gen X Uday or Radisson Blue maybe. In Haldwani, I go to Candy, the restaurant in Saurabh Hotel, which is comfortable and has free wifi. They don’t mind if I hang out for a few hours, as long as I order something now and then. I always stop here on my way through Haldwani. It’s a pretty nice hotel and has all the necessities—a comfortable restaurant with good food, a safe place to leave my bag, welcoming staff, free wifi and a nice, clean washroom. Prices at Candy are mid-range, but of course there are plenty of cheaper places to hang out if you are on a tight budget.
Incidentally, tickets to and from Kathgodam are more readily available than Haldwani. They are only a few km apart, so it doesn’t make much difference in fare, but maybe 30 minutes difference in time.