Delhi to Shimla is 360kms which is an 8hour drive, we started off at 10am from Delhi, our driver was furious at us for being late by almost 2hours but we couldn’t help it as we were still getting accustomed to the chill weathers. The traffic in Delhi was more menacing than Bengaluru eating into our already delayed schedule but soon enough we were zooming off on the grand trunk road __ built by Sher Shah Suri. Plush yellow mustard fields stretched on both sides of the road, the golden yellow that was evident even amidst the fog, my hands itched for some still photography but one look from our hyper angry driver we were reduced to high school students refreshing history lessons recollecting who fought against whom in which battle as we passed places like Panipat, Kurukshethra. The drive was picturesque but there aren’t any good hotels on this stretch, a good hotel on highways here mean a fast moving dhaba with considerable number of tourists/drivers thronging around there however we ended up eating in a lousy hotel where we were probably the first customers in many days as pat came the Kali dal, Sarso Ka Saag and jat came the Panneer masala followed by a sleepy Alu gobi all in great hurry before reaching its boiling point but we devoured hungrily at 3pm as our driver wouldn’t stop before he covered a certain distance. These dishes are omnipresent through out Himachal Pradesh and Punjab as they are the only dishes that will be served wherever you go no matter what! you will end up eating the same thing over and again and again till you kneel down, surrender and salute that humble Anna Saaru(rasam) as the greatest thing ever invented on earth(applies to South Indians).
At the foothills in Panchkula we stopped to meet a friend, as if the late lunch was not enough we also had snacks and tea at the friends’ place and began the ascend on the ghats.
Now there are some privileged category travelers whom nobody can ever deny a window seat who can spew like a Dracula bringing the bile out even in a flight then what speak of the low-life ghats!!
We stopped at least 10 times averaging at 2 pukes per head breaking at every 30minutes that drove our already angry driver nuts. We finally reached Shimla at 9pm, the temperature was freezing at zero degrees.
Our hotel Silverine was close to the mall road, getting into this hotel is like falling into a gorge, our Innova just managed to descend the precarious slope. The dinner was good and the room was cozy and comfortable, the room heaters worked fine without any power cuts by the grace of Shyamala Devi, Shimla gets its name after this deity
The next day we started off at 8.30am and headed to Kufri, a picturesque hill which is 13km away from Shimla and stands at 9000ft, kufr means lake in the local language. The drive to Kufri was beautiful, deodar trees embedded in snow clad paths led our way
Lying in the south-western ranges of Himalayas Shimla is a seismic zone at an altitude of 7,864 feet, the highest point is Jakhoo hills at 8051 ft. Shimla was ruled by Gurkha kings before the British annexed it during the 1819 Gurkha War. The soldiers from Gurkha army were later inducted into the British army under the name Gurkha rifles.
Shimla, the queen of hills as referred to by the British is today reduced to an overcrowded chaotic tourist place with insane number of shacks spilling everywhere ruining the serenity and beauty of the hill which was and perhaps still is an inspirational home to many accomplished writers.
On reaching Kufri base camp we were puzzled to see a sea of tourists waiting to get hold of their snow gears and mules. Tourism here is at the mercy of unions of mule owners who have monopolized the Kufri hills. There is no other path where you can climb the snow clad hill directly, you cant even get a glimpse of the snow clad mountain without getting onto this path, you have to mandatorily take this 14km narrow slippery uneven stretch covered in the slush of melted snow and mule poop. Even if you tried walking you might be rammed down by the to and fro movement of the mules in that narrow slippery path which might give you a free ice cold mud therapeutic bath so its like choosing between the devil and the deep sea, either you mount the mule for a scary ride or get ready for a slushy sauna.
I didn’t dare to take my camera out here, one fall or splash and the lens would be in deep shit quite literally. After a bumpy 20 minutes ride we could see the carpets of snow spread across far and wide,
At first I was grossly disappointed on seeing the mad rush of people and vendors rendering the whole place dirty, the path was buzzing like a mini market place with vendors selling woolens, skiing rides, tube rides, maggi and tea. Almost every other slope and every other stretch is occupied for rides and commercial activities leaving nature lovers scanning for a more picturesque and serene place. I was horrified to see a horror house located at 9000ft,
even more horrifying was this sight of people queuing up for a shooting spree
A range of glass bottles are arranged and people take to this shooting sport ascertaining their aiming skills unmindful of the sharp pieces of broken glass strewn into the snow, people also dump plastic bottles, snack peels casually without a second thought about mother nature. Kufri is indeed in a sorry state as the entire village sits here selling whatever comes to their mind. If only the HP state tourism board looks into this grossly neglected over commercialized place.
Furry yaks stand like in a Madame Tussads museum posing with lunatic tourists like me who mount it as if it was the Everest.
We also tried skiing only to be bumped and stopped by numerous other tourists as there is no dedicated skiing track, the white snow is brown with slush here, for people wanting to casually wander around amidst nature this is no place.
However there is Sulabh toilet complex adjacent to the skiing place.
On climbing a little further is the Mahasu peak, where a temple is situated, from here you can get a good view of the beautiful vistas
Although Sikkim is more beautiful than Shimla I must say the deodar trees here add to the magic
My 7year old son was blue with a numb feet by now as the thermal socks were all wet, we poured a hot mug of water on his feet and quickly changed his socks from the woolen guys whose presence made some sense than the shooting sport.
We had some maggi and tea for lunch, it is the only thing available here after which he recovered and we continued playing in the snow again.
After spending some five hours here we rushed back to the mule stand only to find our mule boy missing and that he would not come back till he found a new customer, we were stranded for 2hours waiting for the pick up in spite of hundreds of other mules standing idle there who refused to ferry us back also since we had paid for both to and fro we had no choice.
The whole process of ascending and descending Kufri is too primitive and pathetic. The beautiful hill is scraped off of its beauty by complete commercialization and utter mismanagement with no regard for nature.
Improving the access and upkeep of the Kufri hill is the need of the hour else tourists will certainly look away from Kufri.
The evening was freezing cold at -1, we later strolled around in the mall road.
We were in Shimla for 2nights and only one day hence completely missed out on other places like Heritage walk, Tattapani sulphur springs, Jakhoo hill and Chail village. Ideally you should stay for 3days and 3nights if you want to see around Shimla leisurely.
On the whole we chilled out in Shimla quite literally.