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Lucky Yatra: Shimla, Queen of the Hills, 2018

Shimla is the capital of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, in the Himalayan foothills. Once the summer capital of British India, it remains the terminus of the narrow-gauge Kalka-Shimla Railway, completed in 1903. It's well known as Queen of the Hills.

Why Lucky Yatra?

We called our trip which began from New Delhi to Shimla as "Lucky Yatra" as we accomplished our purpose of seeing the snowfall. In the afternoon of 23 Jan. 2018, the snow began to fall in Shimla in an unexpected situation and continued for the next few days. It refreshed our bad mood due to long travel by bus on the hill road, and a less-sleep night. 

However, it is interesting to recall our entire journey that may be beneficial to the readers who are planning their trip to Shimla. It is noteworthy to mention that I was a group leader during this winter trip. I was responsible for most of this trip arrangement though I kept my co-travellers informed about everything.

We were a group of five people (me, Bong Kong, Ms Kalyan, Mr Sethpolin and Ms Keteya) and it was our first-time visit to Shimla. We also planned to go up to Manali in our trip but it was cancelled due to some reasons that you will read below. Our dream was to see the snowfall.

At around 5 pm, Jan 22, 2018, we gathered up at Tibetan colony where we had special dinner in a Tibetan restaurant. All of us seemed to have food so full and you will see how we would suffer from that while on the moving bus. [For your information, it is high time to visit Shimla in between December and January. It’s during the time that the snow may fall.]

After dinner, as we thought we were getting a bit late for the bus, we rushed to the bus stop with reserved tickets cost Rs. 885 each. We ran while looked for the bus stop because we didn’t know where it was exactly located but we knew it was somewhere at the Tibetan colony. Luckily, we found it at the side of the road in the opposite of the colony. The bus was waiting for us, the last passengers to get on board. It was around 10 pm. Now it seemed we were unlucky. Before the bus moved, suddenly, two to three Indian gays got on the bus; each of them was in a serious face. They approached and forced us to donate as if they were robbers. As we were not interested to donate one of them said something in Hindu that we didn’t understand but apparently he was angry with us. For Indian, it is believed that if you don’t give to gay beggars they will curse you and you will meet unlucky moments in life. However, we don’t really believe it.

About five minutes later, the bus departed to the destination, Shimla. We were happy as well as worried about our journey by bus on Himalaya foothills, the curving road in 361.8 km distance and 7.30 hours duration.

The Bus Moving

As the bus was moving, the passengers tried to sleep. So did we. I seemed asleep for while. After a few hours, when I woke up I heard ‘wak! wak!’ It’s people vomiting as the bus was shaking and moving fast on the curving road. Occasionally, I felt like vomiting too but tried to stop it until I could finally not be able to do so because the passenger behind me was vomiting. Its sound made me unbearable and vomited all the food I had in the evening. It was really a terrible trip. It made us felt scared of travelling by bus again.

As the bus kept moving, we began to see the glittering roofs of Shimla. It was early morning around 6 am, January 23, but it’s still dark due to fog. We were all already so tired. We didn’t book a guest house to stay in advance for we thought we would be able to begin our tour right after we arrived in Shimla. But we couldn’t. What we wanted the most was a place to rest. We were then following one tourist agent to his office. After about haft an hour bargaining, we agreed to take a mini-tour package with limited destinations for one day trip by car and a guest house for a few hours rest. Its charge was Rs. 5,500.

The Morning not in the Mood

It was cold and foggy in the morning on the hills. The agent took us to search for a guest house not far from his office deep down from the road. First, we found one guest house with rooms available but unfortunately, it was not accommodating foreigners. We walked downwards until we got accommodation in one guest house.

Without delay, I got to sleep on the floor under a thick blanket and let my friends slept on the bed. Immediately my back touched the floor I fell asleep tightly. It was very pleasant to sleep. All slept quickly and quietly.

We got up around 10 am and got ready for the tour. We checked out from the guest house and walked up to the road where our driver was called to wait for us. We didn’t have breakfast and we had an empty stomach but we were not in the mood to eat. Everyone still looked so tired.

First, our driver took us to Jakhu Temple situated on the hill cliff. There is big hanuman standing statue. There are many, many small hanumans (monkeys) roaming for food along the stairs to the temple. From there we could see the city down on foothills. As it’s a cold day, some of us enjoyed bonafide. Unfortunately, one of our co-travellers, Mr Sethpolin, was unwell due to exhaustion on the bus from Delhi. He didn’t enjoy the tour and seemingly wanted to go back to Delhi. But, thing changed to be better little later as you will see why.

We continued our tour and reached Green Valley at around 12 noon. It’s a beautiful view of mountain ranges and a ray of sunshine.

Chharabra Village: the Snowfall Begins

It’s time for lunch. We asked our driver to take us to the nearby restaurant. We had lunch in a veg restaurant in Chharabra village at 1:30 pm. As usual, we couldn’t have Indian food much but we had tried to have it. I was praised by my friends for having brought some dry fish for the trip.

After lunch, suddenly, we saw the snowfall. We were very surprised. We were getting so excited to see the real snowfall. We got out of the restaurant and enjoyed the snowfall, first time in life. After having some food and when seeing the snowfall, Mr Sethpolin became well and happy. Everyone cheered up and played with the snowfall. Our dream came true. I think it’s from here that we decided to cancel our onward trip to Manali and booked returning train tickets back to Delhi on January 24. We already scared of the bus!

Kufri: the Snow Point, Horse Riding Adventure

Our next destination of the day was Kufri, the snow point, located 20 km from the state capital Shimla on the National Highway No.22. We arrived there at 2:30 pm. There, snow was falling just like raining. But we needed to go to the snow point by horsing. So each of us took one horse for Rs. 400.

It’s my first time to ride the horse. It’s also an adventure on the back of the horse to the snow point in Kufri. The road was rough and people rode the horse up and down the narrow path. I heard Ms Keteya and others shouting as the horse was running. At the same time, snow began to fall heavier making the road white up. Everyone was feeling the chill.
From left: Bunthorn, Kong, Keteya, Kalyan and Sethpolin, Kufri, Shimla, H.M., 23 Jan. 2018

Finally, we reached the peak of snowfall after about 30 minutes adventurous ride. Many people mostly the locals were already there. The entire ground surface and the trees were whitewashed by snow. It’s like heaven on earth. It's so freezing. Some visitors were enjoying taking selfies while others were sitting around a bonfire under the tent. We had about haft an hour there before we got back to the car parking. Riding the horseback became okay. We didn’t scare like when we rode it to the snow point. We learned it fast.

The Road Blockage

By the time we got back to the car, the road back to Shimla had already been blocked by heavy snowfalls. The snowy road made the car tyres slippery and thus dangerous. It’s a real adventure indeed. Many cars were stuck on the roadside while some fell from the road. Everyone fell asleep but I stayed awake praying to Buddha for safe, and alive return. And yeah, it took about 9 hours to arrive back in Shimla and we were alive. It’s near about 12 midnight.

But we hadn’t had dinner yet and had no place to sleep. However, while on the way back, I asked my driver to call someone to prepare dinner for us and book a guest house to stay for a night. But the thing was not as smooth as it should be. We arrived at the tourist office and I had to make a final payment for the tour. I left my friends in the car and I stepped up to the office. The problem was that I had no cash. I could only pay via online wallet PayTM but the agent initially was not okay with that. With no choice, he accepted the payment via Paytm. It took much time in the office while my friends were waiting down on road in the chilled night.

Our adventure didn’t end yet even after midnight. We had to climb the hill to the hotel. We didn’t really know what would happen to us if the agent took us to where we couldn’t return. The hotel was situated on topmost of the city.

Luckily enough, we got to the hotel. Hotel receptionist took our passports and took us to the good rooms. He brought us dinner we had ordered. We went to bed immediately after a little dinner we could have. Nevertheless, it’s a sleep-well night.

A Very Good Morning

After all, we had a fresh and very good morning. We checked out of the hotel at around 11 am. Our beautiful day began; it's January 24. When we got out of the hotel, we saw the very beautiful view of Shimla filled up with snow looking like ‘Queen of the Hills’ welcoming us. We never missed taking photographs.

There’s no Uber or Ola over there at that time. We walked to the city landmark Mall Road with google map guide. However, it’s good to walk so that we could see the city substantially. Near about an hour, we reached Mall Road. It’s lively and everything was clean. It looked like somewhere else in Europe.
Mall Road, Shimla, H.M., 24 Jan. 2018

There was a rehearsal of the army for the upcoming Republic Day, January 26. It’s so nice to see it. On the cliff, there is the statue of Indira Gandhi, India’s first powerful female prime minister. There is also Christ Church at Mall Road.

As our stomach calling for lunch, we walked down to KFC with the help of google map. We reached there at around 2 pm and had a good lunch, KFC.

After lunch, we were roaming around on the way towards Shimla Railway Station. Down the road, we stopped at Army Memorial Statue at 4 pm for some clicks. We also bought some fruits from the street seller. However, we met unexpected bad luck on the way to the station. Shockingly, a brave monkey, the city famous robber, tried to snatch my fruits. With help from the security police, I could protect my fruits. We won!

Shimla Railway Station: We're Going Back, Happy Ending

fascinating toy train ride (for illustration purpose only)

As we walked slowly forwards, we arrived at the railway station for a train to Delhi via Kalka scheduled at 5:51 pm. It's worthy to mention that Kalka-Shimla railway was listed in a world heritage site of mountain railways India in July 2008. The trains running on this route on the narrow gauge are often called toy trains as they are smaller than normal trains in India. The railway was built between 1898 and 1903 to connect Shimla, the summer capital of India during the British Raj, with the rest of the Indian rail system.

Travelling by train from Shimla to Kalka added another pleasant flavour to our journey back to Delhi. It is known for dramatic views of the hills and surrounding villages. We were really allured and bewitched by the sight of white snow covered the trees and the hills.

We boarded the train at the scheduled time. The train has spacious sitting benches. Free snack was provided to the passengers soon after the train left the platform. We were delighted to have a chance to travel by train from Shimla. It ran crossing high, curvy bridges and entering tunnels. As we returned Delhi we ended our successfully accomplished trip here. It's a happy ending journey.

We were fully satisfied with our trip. It's adventurous, delighted and exceptionally excited to see the first snowfall as planned that refreshed our bad mood.

Thanks for reading our long story and watching our video clip.
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