The Planning – March 17
On March 17 at 9 pm, my colleague and roommate, Sumit Chatterjee asked me in Bengali “Dada cholun Shimla ghure asi, Ek trip to banta hai” which means “Lets go to Shimla as one trip is due“. And hence out of the blue, the seed of something special was sown. By 10 pm we had planned the trip and were joined by the third member of the gang, Keshav Gupta. We were ready for the voyage to Shimla.
Kalka – March 27
We took off at 5.15 pm from New Delhi Station to Kalka by boarding the “New Delhi-Kalka Shatabdi Express“. Shimla can be reached from Delhi by bus and train, but the UNESCO heritage toy-train ride from Kalka to Shimla is a must experience.
We reached Kalka at 9.15 pm and ate our dinner at “Krishna Cafe“. The nearby market place had lots of food joint and shops which were shut down after 10.30 pm. With nothing to do, we spent the rest of the night inside the first class waiting hall at Kalka station.
Shimla – Morning of March 28
We boarded the “Kalka Shimla NG Passenger“. The journey began in the wee hours of the morning at 4 am. The journey was a breathtaking experience and a must for everyone. The rich forests, the lofty mountain peaks, the tunnels, the mountainous settlements and the people you meet, were all stuffs of dream. We went pass Dharampur, Barog, Solan and finally reached Shimla at 9.20 am. The breath of fresh air and the chilly wind brought the kid out of me which had got lost in the rush of daily life.
Since it was an off – season, rooms were readily available. We were guided by a commoner to a nearby hotel “Amba” near the “Shimla Kalibari“. The walk on top off the hill was tedious and left me running out of breath. In Shimla you can either stay in a hotel and separately book car for sightseeing or take a combo package. At around 11.15 am, went to the place called Kufri.
Kufri and Jakhu Temple – Afternoon of March 28
Kufri is roughly 14 kms from Shimla and reached at 12.15 pm. The place was filled with people of all ages who were excited and scared for their horse ride and shrieking in sheer delight at the sight of snow. Many including me had seen snow for the first time in their life. We booked our horses and struggled to sit on it. The journey to the top was a 40 minutes bumpy ride. Once we reached the top, the place was buzzing with excitement and happiness. We took a snap riding on the back of a “Yak” and then changed to some traditional “Pahaadi” attire. Clicking pictures in that look with the Himalayas in the backdrop was a surreal moment. Then we took a telescopic view of the “Himalayas, Apple Gardens, Kailash Parbat and the India-China border“. On top of the hill was a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. Apart from this, there was adventure activities which included karting, Burma bridge, free fall to name a few.
We came back and then went to the Kufri zoo which had leopards, bear, deer and a wide variety of birds. On our way back to Shimla, we halted at the “Green Valley” which was a scenic view of the uninhabited and dense covering of green trees. We then went to the “Jakhu temple” which has the world tallest Lord Hanuman statue at 108 ft. It was a peaceful environment and on the eve of Ram Navami, worshippers had flocked the area.
Shimla The Mall – Rest of March 28
We returned to our hotel, took a little rest and then were ready with our winter attire to explore “The Mall“. It was filled with people and shops. It was the heart and life of Shimla. It had eateries, shops, heritage buildings and crowd. It is where you can try various flavours of food. You can try the local Himachal food, Chinese and Tibetan food at joints like “China Town, Dimsum,Aunty ka Dhaba“, conventional food at the “Shere Punjab, Indian Coffee House, Silver Oak,Quilla, Devicos,The Plaza and Wake & Bake” and the usual “KFC, Dominos, Baskin Robbins and Pizza Hut“.
We were tired and went back to our hotel and crashed to our beds in a flick of a hand.
Shimla The City – March 29
We checked out of our hotel at 11 am in the morning. We went straight to the “Shimla Kalibari” which is a temple dedicated to the Goddess Kali. It had a beautiful view of the whole city from atop the hill. We then went to explore the local markets and local food. It started raining and the petrichor after the rain was divine. It was the moment of sheer magic and divine intervention. We started from the “Lower Bazaar” and wandered upto the “Middle Bazaar (The Mall)“. We went to the “Gaiety theatre” which is a Victorian Gothic style theater and where the song “Main nikla gaddi leke from Gadar” was shot. We were told about the brief history of the theater.
From there we went to the top to a place called “The Ridge“. It had the most awe inspiring view of the whole hill station. We went to the “Christ Church and Lakkar Bazaar“. We then had our lunch and started descending downwards towards the station. On our way down, we saw the “St Michael’s Cathedral, Police Headquarters and the Viceroy’s Lodge or the Indian Institute of Advance Studies” We then reached the Shimla station at around 5 pm. We boarded the “Shivalik Express” which departed at 5.40 pm and reached Kalka at 10.20 pm. We then took the “Howrah Kalka Mail” to return back to Delhi.
It was time to say adieu to a city which had brought life and happiness to me, which had awaken the little kid who was dead amidst the daily working life and which had given goosebumps and a rejuvenated purpose to my soul. In short the trip to Shimla was an awakening of the inner soul and mesmerizing memories which are to be cherished for my entire life.