“Why mountains?” you may ask. Like the cliched question every traveler gets to hear at least once in his/her lifetime – “are you a mountain or a beach person?” Frankly, it doesn’t matter. For someone who loves wandering and travelling to newer places, it really doesn’t matter. However, having said that there are some who connect more, either with the mountains, or the beaches.
Personally, for me, there is something about the mountains that is very appealing. Their stoic presence is like a promise. A promise of always being there. An undying spirit that connects with mine. Guess it makes me a mountain person then!
Being born in a city surrounded by the Sahyadri mountain range, trekking up the mighty peaks started early for me. I was able to connect with the mountains at a very early age and I think it has only grown as time passed by. Beaches for me were restricted to the overwhelmingly crowded ones in Mumbai. As a child, I would always think of it as a funfair catering to the entire humanity!
Mountains on the other hand were sentinels of solace and solitude. A place where I could hear my own heartbeats and thoughts. Rocky ridges, soft earthy trails, older-than-time trees with massive boughs and ample shade, butterflies floating by and an unorganized symphony of different birds chirping along every step. It was magic. Still is!
City life gets to you. And with the way we have built our society, one doesn’t get paid to sit and dream! We live by the conformity and strictures put upon us. Each day spent, either fighting for stolen moments of peace or surviving till the weekend. Then there’s that nagging feeling, that there is something more to life than a daily routine, which is again marred by the struggle to exist in a system. A very unhappy feeling! Mountains have helped me realise that problems are surmountable and listening to your heart is OK!
Also read, The Mountains are calling!
Kufri sounded exotic. Sounded cold, brrr! And sounded far! So, when the family started planning a getaway, I was excited. Kufri sits in the state of Himachal Pradesh in India. To get there, you encounter beautiful Shimla! An early morning flight to Chandigarh, further led to one of the most beautiful road trips ever. We drove! The roads leading up to North India were a treat to drive on. Nature takes care of you, with varied vistas for company, so the drive is never really tiring. As you climb, the scenery changes. Cityscapes give way to natural and varied landscapes.
You know you are in Shimla, when all roads are uphill and narrow. The Himalayan Cedars offer ample shade allowing the spatter of sunrays to filter through. The thin mountain air greets you with a nip. Small shops and houses dot the roads with the occasional big structures like the Town Hall and Christ Church, appearing through every alternate turn, as you climb.
After promising myself to come and explore Shimla the next day, we drove on. The roads wound themselves up the mountainous terrain, towards Kufri. The occasional well- dressed Yak, amusing tourists, became a common sight. The landscape displayed not only the Cedars now, but also the Spruce and Pine trees.
Lush mountains with velvety greens, envelope the entire vicinity. Winding roads will test your skill behind the wheel and more regular drivers coming downhill will test your grit. Small openings by the side of the road offered magnificent views of the mountains.
Dusk and the never-ending winding roads finally ushered us into Kufri. The resort was stretched vertically – like any other mountainous real estate in the area. The snowfall from the previous night had attracted a traffic snarl, along with the local make shift tourist guides with their mules.
A complimentary upgrade to a mountain top cottage in the resort, changed the shape of this trip. A hike within the resort upwards saw us make home inside a cute little cottage atop the mountain rooftop of the Kufri Resort. Lights glittered in the distant mountains as we checked in, only promising spectacular views once the sun was up.
Mornings were such! A treat to the eye and nourishment for the soul. Cups of tea were a treat and one wished for a remote, controlling time, with only the pause button. Quick explorations around brought us up close and personal to the simple mountain life. Government contracted workers were busy on the roads, making sure that the melted snow, doesn’t convert into Black Ice. The older folks would collect fallen dried twigs and light up tiny fires by the roadside to keep warm. The quaintness of the life was an experience in itself.
The summer capital of the British Raj in India and the current capital of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla is a well known destination, attracting hordes of tourists. If you live in the National Capital Region (NCR) of India – which mainly comprises of Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida, a long weekend is apt for a drive and stay in these mountains. And if you are just someone who plans to explore India, beyond Rajasthan and the Taj Mahal, this place is as good as it gets. Before the beauty of North India captivates you, this is more like a teaser of what to expect.
A lift ensures you reach up to the Mall Road square which houses the famous Christ Church. Built in neo-gothic style, the city is known for this church. Also, from the square, one can trek up the hills to the Jakhu Temple. The gigantic statue of the monkey god Lord Hanuman majestically overlooks everything from the hills and is visible from afar.
Mall Road is a stroll away. Built for recreation by the British exclusively for themselves; it still houses the small shopping market, a theatre for entertainment, some bakeries for snacks and benches to sit and chit chat. Great for people spotting as you sip on coffee brewed by the local baristas.
A night later we checked out to go explore Kasauli and then drive back to Delhi. Kasauli was like a little education hub, with numerous schools popping out every now and then. Spectacular views of the mountains in golden sunshine was how Kasauli introduced itself.
The cantonment area of Kasauli was clean…I mean there was not even a scrap of paper floating by. Vendors in the market were busy packing fruits and veggies in paper bags, made from old newspapers. Such a welcome sight. No plastic carry bags! Soon, I found myself on the Gilbert Trail. I chanced upon this whilst seeking the house of famed Indian author, Khushwant Singh. Lore has it that he used to come over here to think peacefully and of course to write. Every nook and corner of Kasauli offers a sneak peek of the Himalayas in the distance. Such a treat.
Lunch at a local dhaba was cheaper than the coffee at Starbucks and probably tastier than most places my city life has to offer. Night came with chaos, as a couple of monkeys found themselves exploring the corridors of the hotel we were in. The staff found enough energy to shout and scream rather than relieve the monkeys out of the property. Some excitement!
Short Photo Essay on the vistas Kasauli gifted me with:
The morning drive back to Delhi was with a heavy heart but with a promise to return to the mountains of the soon.
Have you been to India? Tell me your story.