Characters: 3 Generation of Kaul family [I, Micky, my parents, my wife and son and my younger sibling].
In June we planned a small getaway and we zeroed on Shimla. It was not too far off, I had never visited it before and it had an emotional quotient too. My father had spent few years of his youth in the city and he was revisiting it after 45 years.
World HeritageWe reached Kalka after an overnight train journey from Delhi and boarded the connecting narrow gauge train, Shimla Express which has been declared a world heritage site. Running on only 2 feet wide tracks it took 5-6 hours to cover 97 Kms. Those who make their reservations for these trains need not to worry as generally these trains wait for the arrival of connecting trains at Kalka if it gets delayed.
The train journey was exotic as it passed through nearly 100 tunnels, green mountains slopes and small but beautiful stations enroute. Initially though I must confess, the first few kilometers do test your patience as the weather is hot, the scenic charm is missing and slow pace of the train is erratic but as the tracks climb and so do the train, the weather changes, the surroundings become green and you start to feel the essence of this 120 years old treasure. By the time you reach Shimla you really long for the journey never to end.
The first sight of Shimla honestly was depressing. Densey populated and understandably so because it is a capitol of Himachal Pradesh it has its own set of problems. It is expensive and with no river near the city, it has acute water scarcity.
Surprisingly, even the food joints are few but to my father our overtones of dissatisfaction were totally unsynchronized and uncalled for. He was as happy as a child as he showed us where he lived, his school, his playground [Annandale Ground] and other places of leisure.
Shimla, originally named Simla is located at 7100 ft and was the summer capital off British India from 1864. After Independence it had become the capital of Punjab and later on it became the capital of Himachal Pradesh. With a population of around 2 lakhs it still is one of the least populated capitals of a state in India.
Climbing up to the ridge, visiting the local Lakkad Bazar, small trip to Jakhu temple and just loafing around were some of our activities for the next 2 days. On second day, itching to move out of the city we were off to Tattapani. Just few kilometers and all the traffic vanished in thin air. The greenery was in abundance and the route exhilarating. After a brief stay at Naldhera [famous for its high altitude Golf Course] we followed the river Sutlej all the way to Tattapani which was 55 Kms from Shimla.
We took a hotel, one of the two there, which was right on the banks of Sutlej. With no tourists there we got two rooms for just Rs. 400 [$6] per night each. With the exception of couple of tourists from abroad and occasional visitors who came for having a bath in the hot springs, the place was eternal.
The Science can never understand the mystiques of the nature. One Is astounded by the raging cold waters of the river Sutlej but more so by the fact that if you dig a foot of sand on the banks of the river you get the hot water. The food was excellent and we spent the day having leisurely walks and exploring the solitude of the place.
Next day we were off to a place called Kufri which is 50 Kms from Tattapani. Nothing worthwhile except for some places of interest for kids like zoo and a park. After a brief halt here we were off to Chail. The 20 Kms route was picturesque and through dense forests with occasional sighting of monkeys playing alongside the road.
Chail is a small place away from hustle and bustle. Nestled amidst dense forest at the height of 2250 mts it is much cooler too. In the Evening we visited the Chail palace. It is said that the Maharaja of Patiala was restricted from entering Shimla by Lord Kitchener in 1891 and this incensed the Maharaja so much that he vowed to build the summer retreat for himself and so he built the place [Chail]. The place is also famous for having the highest cricket ground of the world.
After a day’s stay we were back to our daily routine with the fond memories of few very diverse places.