Saturday, May 6, 2017

When the hills beckon...


When the Shivalik beckons, dare we say nay? When namma Bengaluru was blowing hot and hotter, the hills coaxed us to come visiting, and there was little we could do other than tempting ourselves to be lured. So off we went packing - bags and bums to Shimla.


The route.

There was no direct connection to Shimla, the nearest airport being Chandigarh. From Chandigarh, we drove up the mountains. The toy train was tempting, but it only takes you from Kalka to Shimla. Also, it takes about 5-6 hours by train. Tourists who take that scenic route vouch for the ride but our stay was in Kufri, so we’d be stuck with the pricey, money minting cab drivers in the hills if we chose to travel by train.  Hence the wiser option was to take a cab from Chandigarh and retain the cab for the duration of our stay. 


The climb.

Pine trees stand tall on the mountain slopes, defying gravity and as you go up the winding route, you cannot but escape being drowned in the sheer beauty of the Shivalik. Slowly, colourful houses in pink, green, orange, blue and every other delightful shade start making their appearance and one can only wonder how they manage to balance themselves so precariously on the slopes! 


The best time to visit.

You can visit Shimla any time of the year. 

The place gets covered under snow during December and January, and many people love visiting it during the winter months. There are a lot of activities such as skiing that you can do during the winters. 

Shimla is famous for its apples. If you want to take a tour of the apple orchards and the pomegranate-laden trees, June and July are the best times to visit. The apple trees start flowering by April and May and get fruit laden by June and July. 

And if you just want a place to cool off, summers are great.   


The best place to stay.

Our room
We stayed at Kufri at the Kufri Pacific resorts, which is quite a distance from the main town. But it is an idyllic place to stay, and the temperature is much lower than the rest of Shimla. It is also the center for adventure sports. So, staying here is fun if you don’t mind the ample travelling up and down the hills.

But if you are looking for a central location, Mashobra is ideal because it is surrounded by the other tourist spots and travelling is less stressful.

Shimla town as such is too crowded and I wouldn’t recommend it as an ideal place to stay.


The best things to see and do.






The climb up is via Solan. Mohan Shakti Heritage Museum is on your way up in Solan and is a wonderful place to visit. Your cabbie might have to take a slight detour for about 3 km but it is totally worth your time. Not many people know of this place and hence it is not crowded and allows you to admire the tall statues, the pristine cold marble, the chequered lawn, the landscape and the gardens at leisure!  


Moti, the white one and Tarzan, the brown
Kufri is home to the Himalayan Nature Adventure trek and sports. A 3km trek on horseback takes you to the top of the mountains. You’ll have to book your ride and the activities you wish to undertake before setting off.  

The real adventure is riding on horseback up and down the steep hillside. You aren’t sure if your horse will topple even as it gallops at a steady pace. There were a few mishaps, and we saw a lady fall down. But if you have a good guide, like ours, you are in for luck. Our guide, Satpal expertly ushered his horses, talking to them lovingly while familiarising us with them – Moti, Tarzan and Lovely, on which we rode. He offered us interesting tidbits about the place, about how to balance ourselves on the horse on slopes and luckily, we rode to and fro without any hitch!

The horse takes you to the telescope area, where you’ll see guides offering to show you around the place through their telescopes. I thought it’s more a scam, but look if you want to anyway. For 200/- per person, I thought the prices were too steep and the telescopes did not have the expected zoom. They showed us the Indo-Tibet border, which looked like a row of white coloured houses and nothing to prove that it was indeed the border we were looking at! They showed us the Shimla Vaishno mata temple, Kali mata temple, and the house of Ranchod Das of the 3 idiots fame, besides a few more spots.

That's me, zipping under a cloudy sky!!
A jeep takes you to the adventure spot. You can enjoy Ziplining, Valley crossing, Zorbing, go-karting (in winters), rope bridge, commando net etc. 

For about 2000/- per pack you can enjoy the whole gamut of adventures or even opt for a sharing pack if you wish.

Ziplining was on my to-do list and I did manage to get myself harnessed on the line in spite of the flicker of fear in my heart! But it was totally worth the effort! The adrenalin rush and exhilaration of gliding several hundred feet above the ground is something to be experienced in order to be felt! 



Atop a Yak!



Once you are done with the adventure sports, the jeep drops you back to the horse pick up point, where the yak men await you with their hairy beasts. 
You can take pictures dressed in Himachali attire, complete with a Yak, gun and hat to go with it! 

There was this woman with a basket nesting a python, offering to wrap the reptile around us for a fee! Ugghhh! I wanted to have none of that slimy, slithery, serpent near me!    

And did I mention that we got to enjoy a plate of steaming hot maggi and tea at the end of our trip?
Ah! The happiness of savoring hot food when you are freezing! 



Shimla is famous for the Mall road where you can shop, eat and visit the Hanuman temple at Jakhoo. Two lifts take you up to the Mall road. You’ll have to buy tickets to go up and down in the lift. Enjoy the fresh cherries, and shop for woollen clothes if you like, on the Mall road. There are some good eateries too. There’s an old Christ Church and the Ridge which gives you a lovely view of the hills. Then there’s Johnny’s wax museum, a la Madame Tussauds, on Mall road if you like to see.  

Near the church, you’ll get tempos that’ll take you further up to 8000 ft above sea level, to the famous Jakhoo temple. Here, the world’s tallest - 108feet Hanuman statue towers over in deep orange colour. Legend has it that Lord Hanuman rested here when flying to fetch the Sanjeevani mountain. 

There are plenty of monkeys who will not hesitate to rob you of anything ranging from your dupatta, spectacles, goggles, eatables, bags etc. So be careful.


There are plenty of museums, and the two worth seeing are the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies museum and the Army Heritage museum if Indian history interests you.

You could get a tour of the apple orchards if you visit in the monsoon. But, also be prepared for heavy traffic jams caused by apple laden trucks and slippery roads due to rainfall.
You can also go skiing in the winters, and enjoy other winter sports too.




Chail was on our way back to Chandigarh. So, we visited the Kali mata temple and the world’s highest cricket ground at Chail. I think you can give it a miss, because there’s not much to talk about it. The cricket ground does not resemble a cricket ground and is more like a school playground for the kids of the Army school in the campus. 








Overall, the experience was good. It was a break away from the scorching summer heat. But the winding roads did make me sick. So, if you are averse to the twists and turns of the mountains, take adequate precautions. A light meal and some sour candies should keep your tummy from flipping over.



21 comments:

  1. I'm imagining a climate that will support both apple growing and pomegranate growing. I do live in an apple growing area of the United States, love apples, and would love to see this area just for that reason, especially if you have varieties of apples not usual to us. Alana ramblinwitham.blogspot.com

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    1. We missed seeing the fruit laden trees as we were a month earlier..but it was amazing to see the white blooms on the apple trees and the red blooms on pomegranate just ready to fructify any time.

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  2. At Jhakoo my mom was accosted by baby monkeys and I remember the horse rideback from the adventure park,It was too scary.I adore Shimla .Itrs so pretty at any time of tne year.

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  3. I am sure Shima was amazing for you and visiting the places brought so much fun and also spiritual places. I need to visit the place super soon and imagined while writing a short spooky story last year relying on the net and you tube.

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    1. Hahaha...that's exactly what was on my mind too! scouting for locales to add to my stories.

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  4. Wow! That sounds like a perfect getaway from the heat here in Bangalore. I went to Smila as a 13 year old and I can sure go again :) thanks for writing this. The desire is stronger :)

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  5. That seems like a great vacation. Isn't Shimla overcrowded just like Ooty? I feel so many of our hill stations have become terribly commercial.

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    1. Shimla is very overcrowded and commercialized...you can't even get into a lift without paying for it!

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  6. This sounds like a fun vacation. Ziplining in those hills must be so exciting. Do you have videos? I have never seen a yak in real life. Loved reading this travelogue.

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    1. Yes, I have the videos!! They were on hubby's phone so haven't been able to add them. Thanks for reading.

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  7. You certainly had a wonderful break! I've been meaning to explore the hill stations in the North for the longest time. Bookmarking this for my future, yet-unplanned-trip to Shimla.

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    1. I'd recommend adding Kulu and Manali to the Shimla trip, we realised later that clubbing the three would have been a better idea.

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  8. I haven't gone to Kufri but Shimla was absolutely fun! Did you eat at Cafe Sol there? The food is brilliant there! Finger licking good kinds!

    Now, I too am craving for a vacation now!

    Cheers
    BoisterousBee

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    1. No, I don't recall Cafe Sol, but yes, there were a lot of delightful eateries.

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  9. Shimla is my al time favorite, Planning to take my boys there this december for the snow. Great Pics

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    1. Perhaps the snow might be good...Add Manali to your list, I hear it is much better.

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  10. Shimla is least of my fav Hill stations, thanks to the massive crowds and parking hassles!!! I agree Kufri , Mashobra are better. My fav were Sarahan and Narkanda!!! Awesome height and gorgeous views all around!

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    1. I agree with you..if I had to compare Shimla with others like Munnar, Ooty, Kodai, even Chikmanglur..it is at the bottom! Kufri was much better.

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  11. Looks like a lovely break! Always nice to get away from the humidity and heat.

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