Kasauli, Shimla, Narkanda: A memorable trip

It was a usual Mumbai morning – as always. It was the usual Mumbai traffic jam – as always. It was the usual boring feeling going to office – as always. It was a call from dad – not as always! He proposed a trip to Chandigarh & Narkanda – not as always!! I felt awesome instantly about the idea of a holiday and said YES – as always!!! The D-Day was Friday the 27thMay 2011. It was time to forget all the office work (which is anyway hard to remember!) and take a break from the concrete and robotic Mumbai life… Though our flight to Chandigarh was delayed by an hour, it wasn’t bothering me. I was getting silly pleasure just loitering around the airport and thinking about my colleagues and friends who unlike me, would be banging their heads at the office for the day!!

We landed in Chandigarh on the hottest afternoon I must have experienced in my life. But I was in a holiday trance unfettered by the forces of nature! The feeling of leaving Mumbai behind and the thoughts of visiting a sweet shop ‘Gopals’ had put a permanent smirk on my face! A friend of mine from Ambala, Anshul had highly recommended this place renowned for tasty Chole-bhature, pani-puris and rasmalais and other sweets. Apparently he derived extreme pleasure (to the point of comparing it to moksha) from a particular sweet ‘raskadam’. Unfortunately I wasn’t destined for moksha yet and couldn’t make it there, though I would highly advise anyone visiting Chandigarh to pay homage to ‘Gopals’.

Chandigarh is the first planned urban area in India and it shows! Brought up in the narrow and nonexistent Mumbai roads, the clean and well maintained public places seemed alien. But one thing was common – SHOPPING!! God bless our car driver who took us a local market ‘Shastri bazaar’ which is similar to our Fashion Street or Bandra linking road.

After exploring Chandigarh we headed for Kasuali in the evening. The darkness slowly descended and we couldn’t see much of the stunning landscapes en-route. The weather changed from hot (Mumbai type!) to a little less hot (Lonavala type!) to pleasant (Mahabaleshwar type!) to chilled (Kashmir type!) and finally- super chilled (stuck in the cold storage chamber type, don’t try this though!). Wrapped in a shawl, I was feeling good though as we drove on sharp ghats passing ghostly looking tress. It was one of those moments when the song playing in my headphones perfectly matched the mood: ‘Kitni haseen zindagi hai yeh… Hoton pe jaise kahani hai… Sada yaha kiska theekana hai… Unki rawani me jaana hai.. Baharo me harsu, rang hai bikhera.. Ret ka sehera yeh, ek pal ka mela.. Ek din bikharna yaha.. Dil bhi kahi hai pahado me…thodasa kahi hai kinaro pe… Hmmm hmmm hmmm’

Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh

A view of Kasauli Town

As we were nearing Kasuali, we could see few lights visible from a distance followed by prominent hotel hoardings welcoming tourists warmly. We checked in our hotel ‘Guns and Roses’ with a nice apple juice for welcome served by smiling faces. An old song playing somewhere in the distance ‘‘pyaar se pukaar lo jahaan ho tum…pyaar se pukaar lo jahaan ho tum’ was complimented well by the noisy insects and dimly lit lamps. The hotel suite was nice and cozy with two bedrooms, a sprawling balcony, living room with dining table and a kitchen! The chilly winds of Kasauli compelled us to slip into our warm clothing and the belly was warmed by a tasty butter chicken! Before I realized, I had slipped into a peaceful sleep contended with the day.

Sunrise view at Kasauli

Sunrise view at Kasauli

Kasauli sunrise….I was greeted by a bright morning the next day, although it was just 6.30 am it seemed more like 9! The early morning view of the mighty mountain tops with the golden blue sky was overwhelming. Kasauli is a cantonment town located in Solan district in Himachal Pradesh. The famous and much loved author Ruskin Bond was born here. This is the official Kasauli Story.You feel a sense of calmness and gratitude in this place.

After a hearty breakfast of aloo parathas smeared tangy achaar and bites of juicy melons (highly recommended), we left Kasauli to reach Shimla by noon. Shimla was cold and crowded. May be it had to do with the fact that we had landed up at ‘Mall road’ on a weekend! Roughly that translates into crazy tourists buying everything in sight from chappals to jewellery! I know it gives a different kind of a high shopping on a vacation! I loved Shimla for four particular reasons:

1. Exotic location amidst the mountains and deodar pine forests (although over commercialization is ruining it).

2. Chilly romantic winds. Eating kulfi in the cold climate is super fun!

3. The Alu tikki chaat!!! (2 plates)

4. Shopping 6 shawls and 2 multi colored sweaters.

View from Mall road Shimla

View from Mall road Shimla

The next destination was Narkanda via a halt at Kufri, a tiny hill station. The name Kufri was derived from ‘Kufr’ meaning lake in the local language. It is located 13 kms from Shimla and is the highest point in the surrounding region. We rode up on a horseback through thick forest to reach the Mahasu peak. The valley is full of deodars and pine forests and so dense that you can hardly see the rugged brown colour of the mountains. Only shades of green are visible.

Valleys beyond Shimla to Narkanda

Green Valleys beyond Shimla to Narkanda

We moved on to our final destination – Narkanda, a small town situated at the altitude of 2708 meters on the Hindustan Tibet road in the Himachal Pradesh. Narkanda is a skiing resort in winters and is 65 kms away from Shimla. It connects Shimla to Rampur. The road to Narkanda is full of steep ghats with dangerous twists and turns with bad roads. It was dusk by the time we reached Narkanda and it seemed like I had arrived on the sets of the ‘TWILIGHT’ movie. Too bad the sexy vampire wasn’t around. This place is nothing less than PARADISE. It seemed like a beautiful movie dream sequence and was hoping be for vampires and werewolves to pop up from somewhere.

Tethys Resort Narkanda

Tethys Resort at Narkanda

We stayed at the Tethys resort, a very soothing and beautiful place. Its high location at the edge of the hill gave splendid views of the valley below. The rooms are cozy and the highlight was the huge window which opened into the deep valley.The resort was landscaped in beautiful yellow and purple orchids at the entrance. I clicked tons of pictures of all the beautiful flowers. The roses were so bright and are extraordinarily large in size.

Pink roses at Tethys Narkanda

Pink roses at Tethys Narkanda

After having a small evening snack of yummy pakoras I put on my sneakers and hopped on to the road for a small walk. It was 15 degrees and breezy, I clutched on to my pink sweater for a bit of warmth.

Coming back to the hotel, I was so damn hungry that I hogged on the yummy chicken and dal…what a combo… I was so tired that I dozed off right after dinner. The room did not have fans, obviously they were not needed! There was pin drop silence with the drone of night insects outside which made it very haunting and creepy. The next morning I woke up early by 6 (it’s a mystery how we manage to wake up early at such places without even an alarm!) and opened the curtains to check the climate and the window had water drops sliding down….it meant rain!! I realized it wasn’t raining when I opened the window and held my hands out and only felt moisture… They were Dewdrops!!!

Morning dew on window panes at Tethys Resort Narakanda

Morning dew on window panes at Tethys Resort Narakanda

‘Living Droplets of clear blue sky… Placed gently by natures hand.. Just like a painted dish of mother’s pearls… Caught by the gaze of a camera lens.. Bedded lightly on the fur of dead.. Gleamed, rusted, browns and greys’.

After the dreamy morning experience I headed for an awesome breakfast of bhaturas and alu ki sabji (God bless the person who cooked it). It was so damn tasty that I hogged on, seemed as if I had shifted my lunch timings to 8.30 in the morning!!!! Narkanda is a small town with small a hill where you can do your short treks and that’s what I exactly did… short trek to the Hatu peak!! The place is so beautiful and the air was so fresh that I wished I could just transport this little portion of Narkanda to Mumbai and go for walks everyday in the pine forests!!

Tanni Jubbar Lake at Thanedhar, Shimla, Himachal

Tanni Jubbar Lake on way to Thanedhar

A detour around Narkanda goes to Thanedar which is the prime apple belt of Himachal Pradesh. We drove past many apple orchards on our way to another beautiful spot in Thanedar- Tani Jubbar – the small jheel. It is surrounded by tall and short pine trees which reflect in the clear waters to create a beautiful pattern like some painting done by the almighty himself. Did the ritual of clicking loads of pictures till it started drizzling and the valley tuned into heaven!

Temple at Taani Jubbar

Temple at Taani Jubbar

Lunch was tasty chicken masala at the Himalaya dhaba in the local market area of Narkanda. After reaching the hotel I relaxed with a short nap. It refreshed me and I was getting ready for an evening walk again when the rain gods paid a visit and I was confined within the tall windows in the hotel room. Just when the rains stopped and the sky cleared a little I got to see something for which I have no words to describe… A very blurred view of the snow clad Himalayan peaks. I ran out of the hotel in slippers and shorts and realized it the hard way that the temperature outside was 9 degrees!

Snow capped Himalayan peaks at Narkanda

Snow capped Himalayan peaks at Narkanda

My hands and feet actually went numb and I wasn’t sure if I was clicking on the camera! I managed to get a good view – a road of clouds which led straight to the peaks and snow!! It seemed so surreal I didn’t want to blink even once… I went on clicking to get a perfect picture but moments like these can never be captured in images, they are best experienced live… It was the best moment of my trip and something that I will never forget.

Vanilla twilght- Narkanda

Vanilla twilght- Narkanda

The snow-clad Himalayas, the journey came to an end the next day and we left from Narkanda to reach Chandigarh airport and then fly back to dear ol Mumbai! la la la – what a trip it was.

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One Response to Kasauli, Shimla, Narkanda: A memorable trip

  1. Beautiful places with equally beautiful description. I loved the expression “The weather changed from hot (Mumbai type!) to a little less hot (Lonavala type!) to pleasant (Mahabaleshwar type!) to chilled (Kashmir type!) and finally- super chilled (stuck in the cold storage chamber type,”

    PN Subramanian August 1, 2012 at 11:43 am Reply

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