WALKING DOWN THE QUEEN OF HILLS – SHIMLA

Reviving a dying plan at the last minute not only gives you a sudden high but also fills you with exhilarating energy. After a hectic month spent in office, a weekend getaway is what I was seeking the most. Since it was January, we were expecting snow fall and what better an option would be than The Queen of Hills – Shimla.

Named after a Hindu goddess, Shyamala Devi who was an incarnation of Kali, Shimla is situated in the north-West Himalayas, and was once called the summer capital of India.

It gets a little more exciting for a simple hill station like Shimla, when the plan gets finalized just hours before leaving from home. After work hours on Friday, we started from ISBT, Kashmere Gate in an 8:24 PM regular Himachal Tourism Volvo. We had the first-row seats left to us in the bus. Want to experience a real-life Road Rash? – take those seats in a Tourism Bus! The bus driver had no less swag. One hand on the steering, the other had a cigarette and the gears. No wonder that kept us awake throughout.

To avoid the hustle of hopping hotels we decided to book an AIRBNB, realizing our mistake later at 5:00 AM when we got stranded in the dawn. Chayan, the BNB owner was nowhere to be found! From shouting his name like mad-men on the streets, waking up an old man because his mansion looked like our dream stay to shooing away barking street dogs, we did it all but Chayan was untraceable. AIRBNB should do something for last minute maniacs like us!

After spending three hours in the middle of no-where early in the morning, we finally got shelter with a mesmerizing view at Hotel Springfield, Chota Shimla. Witnessing a sun-rise in the lawns after long hours of wait and walking uphill made us value our stay even more.

After freshening up we went out in search of breakfast which was an easy job. Maggi, Aloo-Gobhi Paratha, Spring Rolls, Egg Rolls, Sandwiches, tea and coffee were easily available at a shop just outside the hotel boundary.

Shimla is a hill station best explored on foot, so without wasting anymore time we started walking to The Mall Road, the central point of the city which has always managed to attract tourists visiting this hill station. The long stretch is full of vendors selling everything from yummy burgers and freshly cut fruits to handicrafts and warm clothes. We walked and walked until we found our eyes stuck on a street vendor selling freshly made burgers referring to them as “Hot Dogs”. We got one for 20 bucks and believe me that was the best edible item we could find in the town throughout the day.

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Away from the heat throughout the year and located relatively near to the plains, Shimla sees a lot of tourists on almost every other weekend. We kept walking on the endless stretch of the mall road before stopping for lunch at a restaurant and then headed towards the Hanuman Temple in Jakhoo making our way from the Rani Jhansi Park. We took the rope way for the uphill journey, it’s a 7-10 Minute ride which gives you a complete view of the mall road below and the mountains in the vicinity. Reaching there, you will find an orange hued temple and a massive sculpture of Lord Hanuman outside it. There is a play area for kids to enjoy situated next to the temple. Caution, the hilltop is full of monkeys of all shapes and kinds and one should be careful enough to not have an encounter with one.

After soaking in the spiritual vibes, we sat at the ‘Café Under Tree’ for some refreshments. This place has a beautiful view of the valley and serves delicious North Indian food and milkshakes.

Me being myself was climbing down at a slow pace looking around and also saving myself from slipping down the stairs or just skipping a step. Suddenly, three little monkeys rushed towards me and attacked to get hold of the cap on my head.

One hanging on my back, other on a tree branch above my head and the last one blocking my way from the front. Poor me, got my face scratched in the struggle of shooing them off, my friends came to the rescue on listening to my screams. What a disastrous moment it was! The evening ultimately led us to the Indira Gandhi Medical College for the vaccinations. The hospital has a huge campus and has been operational since 1966. The boys, however, had a time of their lives. It’s not always you get to be outside a girl’s hostel waiting for a friend to get over with washing her face in ice cold water.

The days’ adventure was enough for us to head back to the hotel and unwind ourselves. We got ourselves dinner and played cards until we fell asleep.

The adventure doesn’t seem to end but I must admit that these goof-ups were the actual memories we made and it made a simple hill station like Shimla, one of my best travels till date.

Day 2 was all about heading to the snow and enjoying the chills. We booked a cab for the whole day and left for the Hatu Peak to enjoy the fresh snow trek. My eyes were gleaming with excitement; I had never seen snow before. It was a 2:30 hour drive from Chota Shimla. The feel of the fresh air on my face and wind blowing through my hair made me fall into deep sleep. We stopped by for capturing the valley view before reaching our destination. The last mile up towards the base camp is a one-way narrow road allowing only one car at a time.

The inhabitants have put up stalls on the way up the trek selling hot vegetable Maggi, warm cups of tea and coffee and wafers. These people also provide rubber boots and wooden sticks that help us bear the snow and protect us from cold injuries

The great expanse was covered with the velvety snow, white and fresh, ready for us to walk on it and experience the natures’ touch. We were guided by our taxi driver to come back if and when the weather seems to worsen. We walked up and up on the white roads, hoping not to slip each passing moment and found ourselves a plot of land covered with thick layers of snow, untouched and beautiful. Not a moment passed and we started playing and falling around, feeling the softness of our newly found beds. Then came a moment which I felt was destined only for us, it started snowing when it wasn’t in the forecasts. Small cotton balls started to fall from the sky for us to experience the whole scenario. The snow fall, however, lasted for barely 3-4 minutes as if it was a glimpse for us. The smile on our faces just grew bigger with each passing second.

We continued our trek to the top of the hill to reach the Hatu Peak. I haven’t seen anything more beautiful than what our destination was offering us. We spent some time up there and started our journey back. Reaching down, we went towards an open expanse full of snow where we made our first ever snow man. What an experience it was, so much happiness in one day.

Reaching back to Shimla, we had a scrumptious dinner and started our journey back to Delhi the same night. Even though this trip lasted only for two days and three nights, it gave us memories for a lifetime.

Now, the bus driver, Chayan and those three monkeys are a part of our nostalgic discussions and have become a reason for us to have a hearty laugh. I hope they brought a smile on your face too!

See you soon with another story, till then plan your next trip to Shimla and tell me how it was!

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