Being from a typical Bengali family, we have always been part of trips twice every year. But, the last year of my college was different. The continuous practicals, assignments, projects, classes and research papers didn’t let me take even a breath of relief. So, as soon as my graduation got over, my cousins and I started planning for a long trip to one of our favourite locations, the Himachal.
Very quickly we went through the dates and the number of days we would coin the trip around. Both my elder brother and sister took leave from their respective offices and in the time of two weeks, our plan and bags were ready. We planned for a trip of eleven days and ten nights during which we would mainly cover four towns around Himachal Pradesh. We boarded the Kalka Mail from Old Delhi railway station which would take us to the small and beautiful town of Kalka at the foothills of the Himalayas.
This was followed by another beautiful toy train journey, which by the way, I would recommend to each and every person to go to Shimla. The Shivalik deluxe express is a narrow-gauge toy train running from Kalka to Shimla and is a must for tourists. As we reached Kalka at around 4:30 in the morning, the Shivalik Express was waiting for the passengers at the exact opposite platform. It starts exactly at 5-30 a.m. and reaches Shimla at 10-15 a.m. On the way, the train stops at just one station, called Barog for about 15-minutes.
The Shivalik Express has toilets in every compartment and also provides breakfast according to the classifications of veg and non-veg. As the morning sun slowly rises, we start seeing and enjoying the scenic beauty all around. The train takes turns amongst hills and valleys and finally, we do notice the beautiful town of Shimla from quite a distance. There are around a hundred and two tunnels on the way which we cross which add to the overall feeling.
As we reached Shimla, one of our favourite places(we’ve been there like six to seven times, but still remain fascinated by it), we go to our hotel and after having a warm bath, we rushed outside to enjoy the cool breeze and the warm sun (ironical, huh ?!). The mall road is one of the most famous tourist locations in Shimla and is located a level below the Ridge. Vehicles are not generally allowed on this road and it has a number of local stores, showrooms, shops, restaurants and cafes. Along with that there’s also a Himachal emporium that offers handicraft products of Himachal Pradesh like locally designed woolen clothes, branded clothes, pottery items, wooden products, and jewellery. We had a hearty brunch of momo’s and moved forward with our plan for the day. The day was kept for all sightseeing in and around the city itself.
The Christ Church right at one end of the mall road, followed by the Kali bari Temple and the Shree hanuman mandir at the Jakhoo hills were some of the places which held on to our attention. We also took the ropeway ride from top of the Jakhoo hills which comes down all the way from top of the hill to the mall road. The evenings were more fun. We shopped a lot, as you know, going for trips necessarily means buying a dozen gifts for your family and friends, which becomes more problematic if you are from a joint family. (OOPS.!) Finally with all the shopping done and dusted, we returned to our hostel, ate till our hearts and stomach was fun and closed our eyes for the day.
The next day was supposed to be great fun because we are going to trek to a small location called Narkanda. We woke up in the morning and the great customer service of the hotel brought us breakfast right in front of our beds. Once we were done with the tasty breakfast we got up into our travel car and Rahul (naam toh suna hi hoga xD), our driver drove for an hour and a half and finally we reached the base of Narkanda. Then on our trekking started. We quickly wore our trekking shoes and started climbing it. We had our guide with us. The way to Narkanda hill top was an immensely beautiful one, covered with snow and snow filled trees all along the way.
Once we reached the top, the feeling of joy and being able to see that beauty overpowered us and we all were numb for a moment or two. We had planned for some fun snow games in Narkanda and we started with it. The whole feeling of being able to be amongst pure nature and my cousins removed all the worry, tension and frustration from our minds and we were truly ready to go forward with our remaining part of the trip. We climbed down back to the base and had a hot bowl of maggi, yes, I know which is cliché but maggi takes up a totally different taste and magic to it in the hill stations. We came back to our hotel tired and drained out of all our energy and slept off a little early that night.
The next day we had to cover a long distance of one hundred and sixty two(162) kilometres to a small village called Sarahan. Most of our day was covered in the car ride seeing the beautiful mountains and valleys and occasionally stopping for a cup of tea or food. By the time we reached Sarahan, it was almost evening as we also topped for our lunch midway. Our hotel in Sarahan overlooked one of the most famous locations and tourist stops of Sarahan which is the Shri Bhima Kali Ji Temple which is dedicated to the mother goddess Bhimakali, the presiding deity of the rulers of the former Bushahr State.
The temple is situated about 180 km from Shimla and it is as holy as 51 Shakti Peethas. We had a simple cooked north Indian dinner that day made especially for us by the village people working in the hotel. The next day we had to cover a distance of around eighty five kilometres to another small town called Sangla. It is one of the most beautiful which I have ever seen or come across. Once we reached there, we felt as if we had come amidst the mountains itself. It is perhaps the most charming valley in the whole of Kinnaur district and is a perfect getaway for all those who have been fed up by the hustle and bustle of the city life and want to spend some time among the calm of nature.
Surrounded by strapping and snow-covered mountains and trees, the village and the valley is set apart by the look of the Himalayas all around and the feeling that we are at the lap of the Himalayas. We reached there in the evening when it was already getting dark. Not having much of an open, we chose the best rooms of the hotel which had an adjoining terrace and slept off for the night. The next morning we had our small trip to Chitkul. So, after having our breakfast we left for an excursion to Chitkul which is the last village of the Indo-Tibetan border. The village is situated among the great Himalayan mountains and also has a stream flowing by. We went and saw the whole village emptied because of the heavy snowfall this year. The whole village was covered with snow and let me tell you, walking on pure snow has a different magical feeling.
Everywhere we looked, there were only two colours given by nature, the blue of the sky and the white of the snow. We had a plate full of spicy momo’s at a small stall just beside the river and enjoyed the food and the view both. It was like a detoxing of our eyes as well. Suddenly as we were clicking pictures and enjoying ourselves, it started snowing. Though I wanted to play the song “Do you wanna make a snowman ?”, our guide told us to start moving back to Sangla as driving and going back in the fresh snow can be dangerous. It took us like an hour and a half to reach back to our hotel after enduring a very scary and adventurous jeep ride and a car ride. It was still snowing when we slept that night. The next morning when we woke up, we opened the door to our room and we were overwhelmed and surprised to see the view in front of our eyes. It was almost unreal.
The whole village was white, all the houses were covered with snow and to tell about our terrace, it was fully covered by snow which had accumulated for over a height of five feets. The feeling, the view, everything was insane. We were supposed to move out from Sangla that day but because of the heavy snowfall the roads were blocked so we had to stay back for the day at the hostel itself. Many tourists would say that a day got wasted in the plan but that day was one of the best days of the whole trip. We helped the hotel people in cleaning out the whole snow from the terrace half the day and then enjoyed the weather and the new shining sun that morning as we had our favourite food and listened to our favourite music.
The next day we travelled back to Shimla to spend the whole day there. That day we just ate food, listened to music, danced in the streets sometimes and had a lot of fun. Well, people can say that a trip with your family might get boring but for me my family is the reason I love travelling and going to new paces now. They have always let me and my cousins follow our travelling ideas and this trip was a testament of the same. We again plan to go somewhere as soon as the Covid situation comes back into control. So, I would like to end by just saying that travelling is a real lesson, we learn to expect the unexpected just like in life and throughout the journey we may meet so many people who inspire us and show us how life can be led in a simple and happy way.
Hasta la Vista, as of today!