Himachal the land of Mountains and snow.
The plan for our journey was roughly made, Gangtok and most of North-Eastern India which we decided earlier got changed due to rough weather and the mighty Himachal was added up then. From Pune, we went to Delhi, which was a smooth journey, though our flight got delayed by 30 minutes. At Delhi we reached at my brother’s place by evening. Damn! the coldness started just as we got out airport itself. The air was calm but too cold to walk without a muffler or without using a jacket. Delhi was cold and we began to imagine the chill of Himachal there itself.
Our flight to Chandigarh was on next day morning. Our dress was completely like an armor. Thermals- shirt- a heavy jacket, stacked on us to wave off the very cold weather of the North. Though Shimla has an airport, no flights were available on the very next day for us. So we took a flight to Chandigarh from where Shimla was just few 6- 7 hours away by road. The road journey proved to be a right decision. The road from Chandigarh to Shimla was full of thrill and literally the roads were swirly. You almost take a U like turn after every 15 minutes.
The road was for two-way traffic and prescribed speed limit of 60 kmph. Quite less for a National highway but apt for these roads. The mountain with thick green lush on one side while deep green valleys on the other side. One will never get bored to watch the same scenario in whole 6 hours journey which was accompanied by this same dramatic beauty of Northern India. At few turns a regular smooth road driver would have crashed his car, but people here were habitual to those sharp turns. After 2 hours of roller coaster alike car ride, we halted at a valley view resto named ‘Haveli.’ And being in that region how can we miss Sarso da Saag- Makai di Rotti, authentic cuisine in any Punjabi restaurant; but when in their area it is much more different and you can say the original one. You’ll also find stalls of Chhole- Kulcha everywhere throughout the road.
One more peculiar and distinct thing about that road journey was, you travel along with the toy train. Yes, small, little toy train that has a regular schedule from Kalka to Shimla. Throughout your road trip, you have to wait at the rail crossing after every 90 minutes. It’s even cool to travel by toy train as you get the glimpse of utmost beautiful Himachal and scenic mountains- the one you find in most of our films. But in my opinion car was the best option. You can stop anywhere you want and enjoy the scenic beauty, unlike the train of-course!
So our journey to the top from Chandigarh to Shimla was soon about to get over and we took a stop to see the sunset. Awesome one and most beautiful I’ve ever seen. For other places the sun was still up high but for Shimla, it was setting. Rather was going beyond the sight, behind the mountains as you can still see and feel the dusky atmosphere. After reaching Shimla, this was the first place I’ve ever seen where people have parking above their homes. Its simple if you have a road side home. You have to park your vehicle on the terrace (parking here) and go down in your rooms. Most hotels here are of this type.
Luckily, place where we stayed was the regular one. Of-course built on a steep, but near to plain ground. Shimla was a place where you don’t need a fan, nor you can think of opening the window. Along with our self designed winter armor, heaters were required. Our rooms had no fans but heaters to keep warmth. That was again a different and unique thing we observed in Shimla.
That day evening was a calm one, had no plans of sight-seeing but just to relax. So we decided to hover around the famous market place of Shimla- The Mall road. Everything you need is available there. All sorts of shops, boutiques, street performers, fruit vendors, even ice cream vendors! I doubt how even they make a sale here. Already at a temperature where you can’t walk bare handed, there who will dare to lick the sweetened and flavored ice!
Mall road has its highest point as a temple of Lord Hanuman. A humongous idol of his stands there. It seems like he’s watching all over the Shimla; as you can actually see the idol from most of the places in the city. Also there is this place The Ridge at the Mall road. A table top are of Shimla and house for various famous restaurants and bars of the city. The ridge is really a place to spend your evening with music and no one to worry around. Simply relax and sit there on a recliner, enjoying the stunning view of the whole city. The city at night looks like lightened border of a valley. Again, its only visible if you are lucky enough to get there when it’s not foggy. I pretty much didn’t understand whether it was fog or clouds! Misty and cold everywhere and that doubt of mine was genuine as we were on one of the highest point there!
After spending some time and having dinner up there itself we started to descend back. Here one more unique thing is the Public Elevator service. To go up on the mall road and come back down to the parking, there were these public elevators with a ticket of Rs.10 per person for a one way trip. We utilized the facility for both our trips and were back to the parking lot. Again driving at night is a challenge in this city. You just can’t speed up above 40, but our driver was skilled one and we were back in our rooms in some 50 minutes.
The outer temperature was nearing 0 degrees and we were cozy in our rooms at 10- 15 degrees. That night we all slept early and our day one was spent very well!
So, for now I leave you guys here and stay tuned to read the next part, which I’ll publish very soon. The next day of our journey to Khufri, sighting of China Border, the gigantic Himalaya and even adventure sports!