Himachal Pradesh Journals

Himachal: Nine Days in the Hills

Best of IgoUgo

A May 2008 trip to Himachal Pradesh by phileasfogg

Cherries on a tree at Thanedhar Photo, More Photos
Quote: Even a short break away from Delhi is a relief. And when they’re spent in the mountains of Himachal, nine days can be bliss.
Langur Photo,
Quote:
Our guidebook, Outlook Traveller’s Weekend Breaks from Delhi, says that the 303 km drive from Delhi to Kasauli takes six hours. Bunkum. It takes one hour to just battle our way past the horrendous traffic of Delhi and get on to the famous Grand Trunk Road, now National Highway 1. Once on NH1, things are a little smoother—eight lane highways in India are just about the only roads you can hope to touch 100 km per hour on. Unfortunately, NH1 is being renovated in a big way, with flyovers and toll booths (`Tool plaza’ reads an unfortunately spelt sign) being built.Traffic is maddeningly slow and chaotic. We stop for half an hour to eat a late breakfast at Murthal; to fill petrol at Ambala; to ta...Read More
Himalayan wildflowers Photo, Himachal Pradesh, India
Quote:
The hills are alive with the sound of birdsong. The liquid trills, chirrups and tweets echo through the pines, but the birds—little brats that they are—are nowhere to be seen. The only birds we’re able to see are the jungle crows (utterly commonplace) and a couple of mynahs (there are plenty of them back in Delhi). Tarun is reduced to taking a photograph of a fat yellow-and-brown bumblebee buzzing around a delphinium. We console ourselves with breakfast on the terrace, then sit outside, cursing under our breaths at the ill-mannered children of some fellow residents at Ros Common. The children probably take after their parents though; the parents shriek to each other as they wander round the terrace, a...Read More
On the way to Shimla Photo, Himachal Pradesh, India
Quote:
Kasauli and Ros Common, we decide, are lovely, beautifully relaxing and oh so quiet. Time to move on to Himachal’s capital, Shimla. Both Tarun and I, in our respective childhoods, have visited Shimla, but haven’t been since. It’s common knowledge that Shimla is probably the most crowded and commercial of India’s northern hill stations. No matter; this isn’t peak season, we tell ourselves. And Shimla has some interesting sights. It will be worth it—we hope.Shimla’s 73 km from Kasauli, a three-hour drive at a pace that’s suited to the hill roads of Himachal. We descend from the pine and horse chestnut woods of Kasauli, then go through the foothills, past well-known towns. Dharampur, en route to Kasau...Read More

Day 4: Shimla: Everybody’s a Visitor

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Viceregal Lodge Coat of Arms Photo,
Quote:
The guru heading the convention yesterday has still not taken himself off, and dozens of devotees eager to get a private audience are milling about the hotel. They entertain themselves by singing songs and clapping loudly, so we decide that the sooner we get out of the Peterhoff, the better. After breakfast (a very strenuous affair at the restaurant: the waiter is exceptionally clueless, and just ordering breakfast takes five minutes), we walk down to the Cecil, and from there on to the Mall.We follow the same route as yesterday, up to Gorton Castle Square, and past the Railway Board Building. Further up is the BSNL Building, and then, beyond a row of shops—mainly cafés and souvenir shops—a ...Read More

Day 5: Shimla: The Quieter Side

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Annadale Photo, Shimla, India
Quote:
We wake up in the morning and Tarun orders a cup of tea from Room Service. The waiter who brings it is the same one who took our order for breakfast yesterday. He’s at his dimwitted best again today. All the other waiters, when they bring tea or coffee, bring a pot of grain sugar. This guy’s brought cubes. No problem, really—except that he could’ve been a bit more generous: the pot has three tiny cubes of sugar in it. That’s it."The teapot usually has two cups of tea in it," Tarun explains to the waiter patiently. "If I’m to have two cups of tea, I’d like some more sugar." My husband likes his tea sweet. The waiter looks at him blankly. "I have brought you sugar," he replies. "See. Three cub...Read More
Cherries on a tree at Thanedhar Photo,
Quote:
We’re feeling a little sad that we didn’t get to see the Himachal State Museum, but it can’t be helped, really. The museum opens only at 10, and unless we leave Shimla but 10, we won’t be in Thanedhar in time for lunch—and we’re supposed to have lunch at the Orchard Retreat in Thanedhar. Never mind; we’ll see the museum the next time we come to Shimla.The road to Thanedhar is about 80 km. The first 65 or so km, to the erstwhile ski resort town of Narkanda, is along National Highway 22, a fairly good, wide road (though currently being repaired in parts after recent landslides). The road goes through Kufri, also once an important ski resort; both Kufri and Narkanda have now been eclipsed by Auli, in ...Read More

Day 7: Thanedhar: Fruit and Forests

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Himalayan wildflower Photo, Himachal Pradesh, India
Quote:
By the end of this day, I realise I’d been labouring under a massive delusion all this while. Ever since I first read about Thanedhar, I’ve imagined a place that’s primarily apple country. I’ve thought of this as mile upon mile of terraced land covered with orchards. The truth, I’m glad to say, is quite different. True, there are loads of apple orchards here—acres and acres of them, many covered with anti-hail netting right now, looking like mosquito nets stretched over the trees. But the woods, deep and dense and beautiful, are there too. They tower up into the sky, a hundred shades of green, the forest floor carpeted with a hundred different species of wildflowers, ferns and berries.We begin our ...Read More
Himalayan wildflower Photo, Himachal Pradesh, India
Quote:
We wake up in the morning to a sky that’s washed clean and beautiful—so clean that we can finally see a range of stunning snow-capped peaks way off to the right. The sky’s a lovely blue, the mist only lingering on the far-off peaks. The electricity still isn’t back, so it’s just as well that we’re moving on. Despite that, we’re pretty unhappy to be heading back; Thanedhar’s been a lovely, idyllic little place. We set off at about 10 A.M, but first we take a detour to Kotgarh, home to a historic 1843 church and mission which Rudyard Kipling used as a setting in his story Lispeth, about an orphaned village girl who’s brought up by the priest and falls in love with an Englishman.We end up takin...Read More
Himalayan wildflower Photo, Himachal Pradesh, India
Quote:
We’re headed down from the hills today, and the thought itself is enough to make me glum. I have a fascination for the hills, and a definite soft spot for Himachal. And a week in Himachal is, I realise all over again, just too short.Tarun and I have had a rather restless night in our deluxe log hut at Chail. The Chail Palace itself looks not too bad—some parts of it are positively beautiful, and a visitor at the Orchard Retreat in Thanedhar had mentioned that the Maharani Suite is particularly fine. We seem to have been exceptionally unlucky in our accommodation. The hill on which the log huts stand is haunted by dangerous-looking Rhesus macaques, and Tarun and I move out only once we’ve armed ours...Read More