As sun is shining almost ruthlessly on us these days, the other day I was trying to divert my mind to another extreme experience - of bitter cold. Yeah, I know, it wasn’t Arctic or similar such, but going by the range that I have seen in my lifespan, those few nights do qualify to be in this category.
It was during the winters of 2013 that we decided to explore Shimla for the first time. Yeah, that’s right, although born and brought up in Chandigarh, I had never been to Shimla in almost four decades of my existence. Travel was not considered an important part of lifestyle when we were growing up and many factors contributed towards that mindset, but that’s for some other time and for some other platform.
While I was planning the trip, I was advised by more than one to stay away from “proper Shimla” to beat the crowd. After some deliberation we finalised on ‘The Chalets’ resort at Naldehra which is around 25 km further away from Shimla.
We reached there by evening after taking a relaxed break on the way. At the resort, we had a duplex cottage to ourselves which overlooked snow capped mountains. When we reached there, the last rays of sun were dancing merrily on silvery peaks making them glisten and sparkle with shimmering beauty. The sight was absolutely postcard-worthy.
Though we knew that it would get cold once the sun signs off for the day but brrr….we had not expected this much temperature difference that the sunset would bring. It got seriously C.O.L.D. The open barbecue was a respite only till the time the hot nibblers stayed in the mouth. The winds at the hill top were taking the chill factor to a whole new level. We decided to rather stay inside the cottage. Having a fireplace in the cottage was a big boon. We lit it up and huddled close to it to thaw ourselves from the bone-chilling outdoors.
We had planned to dedicate the following day to Kufri which is 19.8 km from Naldehra. When we saw the overcast sky early in the morning, we silently thanked our stars and hoped to see some snowfall. The heavens above were quite kind(or not?) to us that day as it started snowing soon after we began our drive towards Kufri, first just tiny bits of cottony flakes and soon enough it was snowing heavily. Apparently, falling of snow works almost like a human magnet, as people thronged the place from what seemed like the whole world. After facing many traffic snarls on the way, we finally reached Kufri. We hired snow boots at the destination to walk down to a place which offers snow-sport activities. Since Kufri was overcrowded (clearly an understatement) that day, the snow was fast turning into slush making the trek pretty slippery and difficult. As we began waddling clumsily in our snow boots through slushy snow, we heard a thud, someone had slipped and had fallen flat on the ground. Hardly had we resumed our business of walking, that we heard another similar thud and this continued quite intermittently. Suddenly a big thump, it was me this time and no, falling on snow(hardly) does not feel like you are landing on a cushiony floor. It hurts, and it hurts even more when it is cold and wet.
Anyway, braving all hurdles we finally reached the place which was the cynosure of the whole cavalcade. The place offered yak rides(in fact, more of sitting on a stationary yak) and skiing - both these activities were having a hard time even justifying being at the namesake stage. With such crowd, how much can one ski or ride a yak anyway. But like regular tourists, we refused to get fazed by such disillusionments. We did not miss the opportunity to put the kids on both the rides, nor did we lose any time capturing the moment in the camera as evidence for posterity ;)
Highlight of the day - hot maggi as we waited almost endlessly in one of the serpentine queues.
Even bigger highlight of the day - spotting the vehicle that was supposed to take us back to our cottage.
Third day had शिमला का नाम (Shimla’s name) written on it. Shimla’s famous mall road was beckoning us and with excitement in our hearts, we began our drive towards it. Walking down the mall road while enjoying the Himalayan backdrop is the main attraction of the place although backdrop was barely visible that day as the road was almost packed like sardines. We did the typical touristy stuff there - window shopped, bought some souvenirs, purchased a couple of Kullu shawls, found some spots on the ridge to capture in the camera with/without us in the frame, spent some good amount of time deciding on the prefect place to eat at, had an appetising lunch followed by hot coffee and walked some more on the mall road before calling it a day.
That day we finally “covered” Shimla and ticked it off our list. We were ready to go home the following day.
Some suggestions if you care:
1) For the first timers, if you want to 'cover’ Shimla then it’s better to stay in Shimla and not off it as coming to Shimla will take away a couple of hours or more depending on how many people think like you and plan the Shimla visit with you ;)
2) Planning to go to Kufri for snow sports? I would ask, is it absolutely necessary? If yes, then pick a day when you can hope to ski, not bump into other people (there, I said it)
3) “The Chalets” resort is a beautiful place to spend your vacation in but it can be enjoyed best if you just stay put in the resort and enjoy their delectable food services while your eyes feast on humbling Himalayas. Dinner layout had some typical pahari dishes like - madra, mahni, kadhi, palda and some meetha bhath, which were an absolute delight for the taste buds.