The first thing any traveler does after getting the New Year’s calendar is chalking out the long weekends and managing sick leaves strategically. So did I. The destination for my first getaway was nothing less than a heaven on earth. Btw, you guessed it right- Srinagar it was.
I had started preparing an itinerary and dreaming about Gondola rides and all. Have I spoken too early? As the D-day was approaching, the weather report was getting worse. Every day it seemed like- would it be a yes or a no from Srinagar? We were confused like one side lover. What happened was exactly like a sad love story which ended even before starting 🙁 Argh! I felt thrashed and helpless.
A good Traveler has no fixed plans, and is no intent on arriving. ~Lao Tzu
I always keep such quotes handy to redeem myself out of any unseen situations 😀
Ohh, I forgot to introduce you to my travel buddies-
The groundwork for plan B
The group on WhatsApp “A trip to Srinagar” renamed to “How about plan B?” We(Preenika and I) regained our enthusiasm and started looking for other options.
Bansal brothers seemed disinterested by then. Wait! gals know the trick to convince guys. Yeah! Preenika did little naatak and with Abhimanyu on our side, we already had the majority. Plan B options were Shimla, Kufri, Mussoorie, Dhanaulti, and Manali. After looking at the weather condition, we decided to opt for the nearest place to avoid one more cancellation. Yippee!! Shimla and Kufri in rains, that would definitely gonna be fun 🙂
The plan was : Delhi →Chandigarh→Srinagar→Sonmarg→Uri→Chandigarh →Delhi
it changed to : Delhi →Chandigarh→Kasuali→Shimla →Kufri →Chandigarh →Delhi
Chandigarh to Kasauli
We started off from Chandigarh at around 4 pm, with the same enthusiasm(well, almost!). Again some bad omen! We got stuck in a very bad traffic jam near the timber trail and again a decision needs to be taken, either to follow the path or come back and start tomorrow. We decided to go back but after reaching the Kalka road, Abhimanyu started lecturing “we are here to enjoy the journey not just the destination, let’s not take this jam thing seriously and keep going ahead”.
A pause of 30 seconds!
Gals seemed happier now and Piyush took U-turn for Shimla without any further discussion. Abhimanyu, you are really an amazing persuader, I must say! Onkesh was still thinking that we made a bad decision. Hold on your thought onto it until we go to the next segment 😛
The jam was not yet clear and it was already 7 pm. We had hardly covered 50 km; still, a long way to go. We calculated and decided that we’ll stay at Kasauli tonight as it would be too dark and tiring to drive to Shimla.
We found this place Hotel Shivalik on the outskirts of Kasauli and as I got down out of the car, the first thing I noticed was the tinkling of chimes, hanged at the entrance of the hotel. The music created by the clang of wind chimes made the atmosphere so wonderful.
Few rounds of Uno, Dumb charades along with music from the house of Marley, a freaking day couldn’t end better than this.
Kasauli to Shimla
We left Kasauli at around 10’o clock in the morning and decided to stop at Giani da Dhaba for breakfast, a great stopover for Dhaba food on the Shimla highway. We ordered the MUSTS out there- Paranthas with a cup of hot tea and pickles. Vegetarian yumminess! and the good news for non-vegetarians is that the place is mainly known for non-vegetarian delicacies.
The greenery on the way made me anticipate more and more. It was time to slow down a bit, stop and appreciate the raw beauty of Himachal.
Piyush drove for another one and a half hour until we reached Shimla. We checked in at our hotel, The Landmark. It was a decent place and was located near the famous Mall Road.
Once the Summer Capital of the British India and now the capital of Himachal Pradesh, it is a Queen of hill stations, Shimla . The place still has the touch of British architecture and designs at certain places!
Chilly winds greeted us as we got out of the hotel. I was forced to take out my woolen jacket, gloves, and a muffler. The weather was shivery yet salubrious!
The place was swarming with tourists from all around. The quintessential attraction here was a beautiful church, a fine display of neo-Gothic architecture. There were three statues on the ridge; that of Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, and Dr. Y.S. Parmar, the first chief minister of Himachal Pradesh. The mall road seemed like a haven for shopaholics and also offered a rich view of the city’s heritage. Buildings from the time of the British rule in India have been preserved and converted into government offices.
I glanced upward briefly. Then I saw it. Giant statue of Lord Hanuman. It would definitely gonna let your eyes bug out of head for a second.
One could pay to take a ride on a fancy horse. Salesperson (even before asking if I was interested in a day tour) showed me photos and offered to put on traditional clothing and get my own photograph taken. Onkesh gave him a pat and said with a wink “Sir, this is probably our 5th or 6th visit. Try to allure first-time visitors 😛
We enjoyed the city view from the ridge and also the ice cream with hot Gulam Jamun(where there was no gulab and jamun). Don’t kill me for this PJ, this was just the temporary effects of being with Abhi and Onki.
The sunset from the ridge looked beautiful until the powerful light of the day calmly surrendered before the duskiness of night.
Another awesome thing about Shimla was the sidewalks. We took a walk along the busy strip of clothing shops, bookstores, and restaurants. Out of the top 10 restaurants in Shimla, we chose this place Baljees.
The restaurant had an extensive menu which offered Indian and Italian cuisine. We ordered talumein soup, Malai kofta and kadhai paneer with bread. The sight and smell of food were inviting and equally tempting.
A walk on the hills after dinner just made me fall in love with the place all over again.
Shimla to Kufri
We got up early and had a light breakfast. Soon after, we packed our bags, boarded the cab and left for Kufri. We listened and sang along to Bollywood classics all the way up. It was a 22 km driver which took us around 1 hour 20 minutes. Mountain breeze coming in through the window got us in the mood and the breathtaking view made me feel relaxed behind the wheels!
Kufri is located at a height of 2,745 metres and has 3 major attractions to offer- The Mahasu Peak, Indira Tourist Park and Himalayan Nature Park zoo. The place is known for snow experience in Winter.
One can choose to trek or take a pony route to reach Mahasu Peak. We put our snow gear on and took pony ride to reach the peak. The ride was scary and muddy. At times, I almost felt like falling off the pony all the way down to the valley. Ahh, fortunately, we landed safely over the snow.
It was really a delightful sight to see the whole place covered in snow and people doing skiing and tube rides.
The first thing we did was a tube fall and it was ultimate fun. When it was Piyush’s turn, we(Onkesh, Preenika and I) were trying to capture his tube ride but who knows during the process of videoing, we had come on the way to his ride. What happened after this was hilarious 😀 Although we tried our best to move away but I(why me?) got dragged safely over the tube with him. Later on, Piyush attempted the same (explicitly this time) with Abhimanyu. Here is the proof 😛
Soon after, we got engaged in some old-fashioned fun including ugly snow fights, sliding over snow holding hand in hand and putting snow into each other’s clothes(everything is fair in friendly wars). We definitely burn off some pent-up energy that day 😛
After those ugly fights, it was time to strike a pose and get clicked with hills at the backdrop.
We didn’t even realize that we were making memories. We just knew we were having fun! A snapshot of happy moments-
We stopped for a while at this beautiful valley region on our way back to Shimla. The greenery and beauty of the place were mesmerizing. There was no proper place to stand there. Onkesh and I took a minute to soak in the environment and clicked few pictures while the others were too tired to get out of the car 😛
Looking down at the twinkling city lights was an experience in itself. It seemed like the valley stayed awake even late into the night to adieu us.
FACTS AND TIPS ABOUT THE PLACE
Best Time: All through the year except monsoon months(mid-July to mid-August) due to landslides and heavy traffic jams. To experience snowfall, one can plan between mid-December to January.
Sightseeing: Travel by either your vehicle or hire a cab. Otherwise, you would end up spending more money on local cabs than you would on one cab for the entire trip.
Sightseeing near Shimla: Prospect Hill and Kamna Devi (6kms), Chadwick Falls (7kms), Mashobra (12kms), Kufri (16kms from Shimla), Chail (45kms), Tattapani (51kms), are few places for the tourists to visit. Narkanda (65kms) and Tattapani are great places to enjoy skiing and other winter sports.
Lodging Information: Major Hotel chains have come up with their establishments in the city such as Clarks Hotel, Snow valley resort, The Oberoi Cecil and Hotel willow banks, etc. One can choose from a luxurious suite to a deluxe room or a budget room. It is advisable that booking of Resorts should be done well in advance during the peak seasons.
This impromptu plan to the Himachal was the perfect redemption for the cancellation of Srinagar’s trip. The main motive behind this trip was SNOW and we found plenty of it in Kufri which lead to ample of PHUN.
Hill stations can never fail to amaze me with their charm. The cold weather, warm clothes, the vapor that comes from the mouth when we speak, memorable walks… Ahh, that beautiful feeling!
Shimla is definitely a perfect weekend getaway for Chandigarians that almost need no pre-planning. Just put your bags in the car and start for this amazing excursion. So be it family, friends, that special someone, or all alone, Shimla has something for everyone 🙂
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