Delhi To ShimlaThe maximum and minimum thermometer in Delhi that day stood up at 4 degree and went down to 1.9 degree respectively and I felt that below zero. I was literally shivering down my wits and for consecutive three days I bunked my office. That day I called up my boss...'Sir!' I uttered in a very low-pitched trembling tone and added, '...I...I... think I...', before I tried to request for a leave, my boss from the other side interposed politely and intelligibly, '...this is your third day...Swairik...you won't get any further leave in this month...' The grant poured upon me like blessings that day. It was then 8 in the morning and the newspaper jarred against the window pane and fell on the frigid floor of my Verandah. I was too lazy, rather too incurious to know about the world outside me. I preferred to remain still and insensible under my blanket in which I was trying keeping myself warm since last night. For a week or so in the beginning of January 2013 temperature in Delhi was roving around 2 degree to 4 that led me to shop 4 more new warm garments. Nonetheless on 11th January I updated my facebook status to, 'I can't afford further on buying jackets. Delhi winter is going to wind me up to bankruptcy...' Though it concluded with a smiley but actually I was counting the number of blue and pink notes there in my wallet. The count was that easy that it fetched me a helpless smile and I molded myself back inside the blanket and turned on my lappy. 'What the hell...' My eyes were curved out after seeing the update on facebook, 'Delhi experienced the coldest day after 44 years...', but the most interesting part was that the information concluded with, 'Snowfall continues for consecutive two days in Shimla and Nainital was blessed after 42 years...'. Well it was obvious that after reading the whole article, once again I counted the number of notes in my wallet and also checked my bank balance that time. Something was cooking venturous inside my modest mind and I called up couple of my friends. 'Strange...' I discovered no one was interested to make my flourishing plan demonstrable. At long last, after longing further 24 hours, I decided to hit the national highway number 22 on 15th of January 2013. Before I commenced and acquainted the lonely traveller in me, I googled out the cheapest and the fastest transport from Delhi to Shimla. The search came up with some exciting Shimla tour packages but that wasn't I was looking for as I have been to Shimla earlier. This trip to Shimla was a reprisal and I was seeking to see it differently. Anyways I had the idea that government buses ply to Shimla from Chandigarh on daily basis and that also very cheap. Hence that evening I boarded the Shatabdi Express from New Delhi Railway Station for Chandigarh. Excitement, fear and bountiful emotions were spilling over this journey. With all dedication I stepped in Chandigarh Railway Station waiting room on 15th night. I wondered for a moment, 'why the hell I'm not feeling cold?...' I saw people shivering and clattering their teeth...and I realized then that my warm dedication for this trip to Shimla flipped aside all such drowsiness and chilliness. I was then carrying my blanket of Shimla Reprise. I waited for the following morning to board my bus for Shimla.I was awake the whole night and my specific whim and wishful eyes accompanied me from boarding the bus at 7am to a stopover at Dharampur at around 8.30. I was right on the foot of my sudden venturous plan to acquaint the Queen of Hill Stations in India that was quite unique for me that time. The news 'snowfall in Shimla after 8 years' was reverberating in my mind and my heart was eager to touch the holy ground of bountiful nature. I was alone with my own desires and hence I wasn’t worry about any such responsibilities to handle. That very day for the first time in my life I acquainted the 'lonely traveller' that dwelt inside me. 'He wasn't worried at all and neither was he bored. He was in his desirable dreams that he could see beyond the Dharampur skyline.' I gazed at the mighty heights of the farfetched ranges and for a moment or so I was completely out of the world until...'bhaisaab...bus chutney wali hai... (bro... the bus is going to depart.)'. After crossing Kalka the road looked familiar to me and well maintained. The bus moved on and slowly I felt the altitude changing to more steeper and temperature falling to chillier. People around me were quiet but my mind was filled with quaint emotions those were waiting to step out on the blessing bed of snow. Neither loneliness dwelt on me nor boredom but I was completely occupied with the picturesque views of the mountains and valleys layered by thick deciduous forest. My phone rang. ‘Ah… ‘, it was an unwanted call at that point of time. ‘Hello Sir! …’ I answered. ‘beta Swairik… tu hai kaha aajkal? Do din se dikhai nehi de raha hai. Naukri karna hai ki nehi? (Swairik…where the hell are you? From the last couple of days you are unnoticed. Are you still in this job?)’ those were the unsought words from my boss that came from the other side. ‘Sir… actually I was in a hurry so couldn’t inform you. My paternal grandfather expired three days back and so I’m on my way to home. I don’t know when I will return but approximately after 7 days…’ it was a faithful lie from my side.
The journey ascended gradually into the mist following the meandering River Beas deep down the valley and my exquisite pleasure was apprehended when I passed the tunnel and crossed the bridge over the river to the other side of the valley. I wasn’t only the demented traveller afterall. On my way I passed by several other travellers including some foreigners who were heading up the Himachal Himalayas on their chartered cabs. Those white ladies… they always distracted me from the beauty of the nature but that day it was different. Just to give my eyes a bit of unholy respect, I took a fugitive glance up on them and thereafter my meekly eyes turned towards the horizon that was marked by the clear blue sky and mighty Himalayan range. All of a sudden my eyes fell upon some patches of white colour layered far on the ridges and dotted with some blocks having slanted terraces. ‘Shit… where the hell I kept my camera?’ Unfortunately my camera was inside my rucksack that was in the dickey. Somehow I captured the scene forever in my eyes and noticed the signboard ahead that showed, ‘Shimla 14kms’. It wasn’t just a feel of excitement but all my laziness, frigidness and dopiness were gone for the rest of the day. It seemed to me a fresh morning after a seraphic sleep. Snowfall in Shimla that was rare to my cognitive content, which I held to be true. The journey levels off at the top of the hill and follows a gradual grade through trendy settlement and it came to a stop at the bus stand.snowfall in shimla ‘Oh…the beauty your vicinity, brings in good heavens, I proclaim the virtues of your ambience. Today you made me rely… upon the beauty that you can gratify.’ I stepped out of the bus on the bed of thick snow that layered on both the side of the street. I wasn’t aware then, ‘neither now’, that ever in my life I could catch this beauty of Shimla and hence I decided then and there to spend the entire morning on the bed of snow. It was approximately 1pm when my stomach reminded me that I am a human being. Thereafter I had no other choice but to look for a shelter. I preferred a dormitory instead of any hotels in Shimla. Afterall my trip from Delhi to Shimla came out on counted bank notes.
After three or four searches, I checked in at The Chail Vilas, which amongst the few Shimla Hotels bears dormitory facilities at Rs. 120 per bed for travellers like me and Rhonda and her friends from Texas, United States of America, with whom I acquainted inside the hotel. They were touring my incredible country since October and after visiting Goa, Kerala, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and New Delhi they were then nestled at Shimla to head for Jalori Pass Trek and thereafter from Manali they were to head for Dharmshala and Dalhousie. After sharing few Anglo-Indo linguistic skills I came to know that they actually opted one of the Shimla tour packages that excludes their trekking destination from Shimla but carried with online hotel booking on hotels in Manali, Dalhousie and Dharmshala. Thereafter I preferred to have lunch with them and bashed upon the treasured Indian Old Monk Rum. ‘Ah… ‘after sipping three neat pegs I tattled, ‘… I – never thought of this that I’ll be having such a pleasant moment on my unconditional trip to Shimla…’ Rhonda poured upon a smile and so her friends and she expressed, ‘… Sway-Wwrick… wua dhon’th hue acchomphany us on trip to shimlahour threkh thu Jah-Lohri Phass… (Swairik… why don’t you accompany us on our trek to Jalori Pass?)’. I thought for a moment and replied, ‘Well… Thanks a lot… but I have only 7 days in hand… ‘, before I completed, she added, ‘…oh! This is a 4 days trek… we will be back by 21st… ‘and her smile fetched me to say, ‘Yes… then not an issue.’ Thereby I started to build castles in the air. ‘I’m going to spend 4 long days with 4 blondes… ‘, It was like an unseen dream coming true that fell upon like 4 diamonds on my trip to Shimla. ‘So what’s the plan?’ I asked. ‘Well… our boyfriends are going to join us tomorrow and they will be here with a guide. The plan is with them.’ My hopes, my newly build dreams and my befalling desires all came to a sudden bump that uttered me to devoice, ‘BOY FRIENDS!!!’
Anyways we headed for a walk in the evening at the mall road that was arrayed with hotels, restaurants and traditional shops. Everything, from riverside pebbles to the colonial aisles, was familiar to me except the snow bed covering both the sides of the valley. After paying a visit at the Christ Church we came back to our hotel by 8 and had our dinner.
‘Good Morning you sleepy dolls… ‘An unfamiliar jolly voice rammed down my ear drums that led open my sleepy eyes wider. ‘Who they are… ‘I kept mulling over and my eyes fell upon those Texas dolls who were looking much happy than they were yesterday with me. Anyways my play time was over and I longed for the adventurous trek. Meanwhile Rhonda introduced me with Mike and other three guys. ‘Hey… Mike… before we head for the trek I would like to visit the temple up in the ridge… and it will be a pleasure if you guys can accompany me.’ So they did. We headed for the trek en route Jakhoo Temple from where we captured a panoramic view of one of the far-famed hill stations in India that was then dressed in white gown. Thereafter we hired a jeep to Narkanda, which was approximately 50 kms up from Shimla.
Off the ramp down the rocky track to Luhri our trek sploshed open with 9 Cheers of beers. Luhri was 32 kms down and wasn’t a one day trek. jalori pass shimlaBut we had to do it and the possibility was that it was a descending track through forests, apple orchards and fields, beautiful panoramic view of Kullu Saraj range. On this trek I discovered that American boyfriends aren’t that possessive like the Indians. The entire trek down to Luhri I was with Rhonda and both of us enjoyed the scenic beauty while we went on with our informal talks. On our way we also acquainted with some mountain bikers who were heading for the same destination. After frequent left and right turns, ups and downs we came to a stopover at Luhri village. The sun was already setting down and we decided to lay our nest for the night at local hut.
We were aware of the following day’s gradual climb to Chowai and hence we started our trek at dawn. We had to cover further 30 kms through the jungle. On this trek up, we decided to pay for a beer break at Anni that healed us with energy, spirit and rejuvenation. After couple of hours at around 11 we resumed our trek up to Chowai. trip to shimlaThat was an interesting stopover. We hardly sited any inhabitation and hence we discovered that this part of the country was far from any pollution and exploitation and here the nature was playing its own game. Somehow or by mistake… two or three families must have lost their way and found to build their nest in this part of the mountain. We just requested once and their hospitality allowed us to find a shelter for the night. ‘This is awesome… I haven’t felt the nature so close ever in my life… Wow… Mike… lets go for a walk… ‘Rhonda expressed and straightaway went for a nature walk in the dark. I was ditched.
The alarm woke us up at 4 in the chilled morning. There wasn’t a sign of bracing mountain breeze instead the frozen ambience took our breath and pulse. We were on our track to Khanag which was approximately 25kms up from Chowai. After that night we made up our mind that ahead in that trek we may not find further shelter and situation may arise without any hope. So we were prepared and trailed up passing through the forest and capturing the beauty of the Himachal Himalayas from an altitude of approximately 2500 mts. The steep climb to Khanag wasn’t that hard for us except Rachel was carried on her boyfriend’s back for couple of hours. We came by two three villages and asked the locals whether there were any shelter at Khanag or not. We got some positive and some doubtful answers but we were prepared for the worst situation. Further 5 hours of trail led us to Khanag and by that time it was already on the edge of twilight.
That was the final morning on 20th and we were up once again on our exhausted legs. jalori passEn route Soja we reached Jalori Pass following the meandering stream that reflected the images of towering snow capped peaks behind the snow bedded valleys. I wasn’t aware of this trekking destination from Shimla and I was really thankful to Rhonda. The panoramic view of the Dhauladhar Range was a spectacular beauty of this trek and the Saryolsar Lake at an altitude of 3300 mts was a remarkable spot at Jalori Pass. We spotted few huts in the shadow of the mountains and even picked out couple of temples close to the village. The pleasant morning slowly started to fade that reminded us our down track to Banjar. After spending an hour more in natural bed of lush greenery with few patches of snow we headed our way down to Banjar for the day.
The beguiling trek with the American folk came to an end on 21st morning when we boarded the jeep to Manali. It was their time to spend their holiday in India and to hit those luxury hotels in Manali, Dharmshala and Dalhousie after grabbing the online hotel booking offers. My time showed me a bus that took me down back to Chandigarh. The Americans abided me a formal see off while I boarded the bus and thereafter I carried back home some unforgettable memories captured in the snowy hue of Shimla.
By Swairik Das
Best SeasonSep - June