The King of the North … Part I (Shimla & Kufri)

It was just a matter of time before we travelled the far lands again. My last trip with the guys was to Nepal way back in Jan 2013, and even though this time it was just Ian, Lawrie and me, we had a jam packed itinerary (all thanks to Ian, who also warned us that we would need to wake up at 7am everyday :P). We covered a lot! Shimal, Kufri, Kasol, Tosh, Manali, Solang Valley, Dharamshala, Mcleodganj, Dalhousie and Amritsar (should I even mention that we did all this during the Winter of Feb 2017, when other mere mortals stay indoors). So, if you’re planning a fun trip to any of these places, you’ll find some useful information here, if not – just relax and enjoy the pictures!

As usual, I picked up Ian from the Bazaar Road junction (I was mesmerized that all he had was this really small green knapsack – how the hell was he fitting all his stuff in there, whereas I had with me a 28” suitcase that weighed 15kgs!). We met up with Lawzz at Mumbai Airport, and waited to board our flight to Delhi. Lawrie had already prebooked a cab from Delhi to take us to Shimla (costing 4300/-) so we were sorted in that regard. I had convinced Lawrie to bring along his Nikon 5300 too, so we started clicking random pictures at the airport. Quite surprisingly for someone who spent close to 50k on a DSLR, Mr. Dias has absolutely no bloody idea on how to click non-blurry pictures, that is until we realised that there was an ‘auto’ mode on the cam J Ahh trust Nikon to install an idiot-proof mode to save the day! Here are some of the pics we had (PS: the guy with the curly hair is Ian, I was quite intrigued how so many girl friends – see that space in-between girl & friend, that my friends is the friendzone – of mine wanted to know his name).

 

Anyway, we boarded our Delhi flight and touched down at ~2am, and being a bit chilly, we layered up (of course, nothing compared to what you’ll read though in subsequent articles). As luck would have it, our cab wasn’t anywhere around – so Lawrie called up the rental agency and they started speaking in Punjabi!! Haha quite funny how they rambled on and on for two whole minutes while us poor souls are staring dumbfounded at each other! Finally after what seemed like ages (and spending ~Rs 110 on a sandwich at the airport just to satisfy our hunger pangs) we managed to find the cab; located unbelievably far away. Mr Singh as we fondly called him (this has nothing to do with the fact that none of us remember his actual name) was unique – and not only fell asleep while driving multiple times, but also blazed through (at 80kmph) fog so thick, it looked like we were sailing on clouds. Thank God and our luck stars that we were still in one piece when we stopped for breakfast at a local dhaba in the chilling cold at 4.30am! We invited Mr. Singh to join in on the meals or so we thought – Lawrie called out to a random stranger (whom he thought was Mr. Singh) to come join us, and I was like, “Dude, why the hell you calling that guy, he aint the driver” to which Lawrie laughs, “Oh shit – at least that guy must think we’re friendly people asking him to come join us!” Lol!

Finally we managed to reach Shimla, all in one piece and then proceeded to find a place to stay. Ian had the bright idea of not pre-booking hotels beforehand – while this might seem counterintuitive since we didn’t have a fixed place to stay in, it worked out well on this trip, especially since we went during the off-season, non-peak time. We managed to book the Dharamshala (cost Rs 600/- for 3 people per day). I would definitely advise this, especially if you’re a group of guys/gals who only care about a place to stay in (the bathroom was decent here), the only drawback was that this was the 5th or 6th place we went to (the others were charging us ~1000/- for 3 of us) and spent a decent amount of time searching for it, ~2.5hrs, which isn’t fun when you’re lugging a heavy suitcase along.

 

After resting, we hit the town, and I would definitely recommend visiting Shimla (even though you’ll be the odd one out among all the honeymooning couples. Side note: I was quite impressed by how good-looking the vast majority of Shimla girls were – young, fair, slim, light eyes and rosy cheeks. I didn’t notice one overweight person!). Remember there is a lift at the base of Mall Road too (if you don’t wish to walk) that takes you to the top section where there are some great hotels, restaurants and the bazaar. Don’t forget to visit Sher-e-Punjab (everyone recommends this place), Christchurch – the views are breath-taking, Nathuram’s (their Jelabi Doodh is very filling for 60/- though I didn’t find it great). There is a cool market area that you have to walk through to get to Nathuram’s though most of the shopping is for woollen clothes or women’s accessories; sadly nothing much for guys (YAY! Money saved). There is also Embassy Ice Creams, which has been around for a number of years, which we went to only because it was rated highly on TripAdvisor, but honestly, we didn’t think it was that great – a bit of a rip-off!

The next day we took the bus to Kufri- we had to go from the old bus stand (since that’s where we were staying) and take a bus to the Lakkar Bazaar Bus Stand (see the map above) and then board another bus from there that took us to Kufri – bus ticket to Kufri was ~Rs 77/- for 3 of us… quite cheap! The bus drops us off somewhere (around 40 minutes journey from I.S.B.T) and then we took a taxi to Kufri for Rs. 100/-. Kufri is really beautiful this time of the year, as you can see from the below images. Don’t forget to have the omelette and Maggi noodles from the roadside vendors. To get to the top, you have to hire a horse & gumboots (it’s a state run association, so that’s Rs 500/- for the ghoda and Rs 100/- for the boots, no bargaining).

The horses are needed since the way up is extremely mucky, slippery and filled with stones and bitch-crazy runaway horses that’ll scare the pants off you. Our bright friend Ian, wanted to be miserly and save money and proudly said that he would walk up the treacherous slope alongside the horses, luckily his seconds got the better of him and he decided to NEVER WALK ALONE (I think that any L’pool supporter only ever walks alone) and quietly got on a horse (which he named White Lightening—yeesh!) For those who have never been on a horse before, be warned – this is difficult, you will feel as if you’re about to either- fall off the horse, or fall with the horse down the steep edge of the mountain (the horses literally have just an inch of space separating them and the mountain edge slope.. one wrong step and you’ll be making the quickest exist Kufri has ever seen).

When you reach the top, there isn’t too much to do, apart from clicking the views – apparently you can view the China border through telescopes – bunch of bullshit, I reckon though. The highlight was the adventure sports that are available close to that area. We paid 500/- for 6 activities, and man were those fun. Check out the below zip line video. I remember when Lawrie got on that zip line, there was such a big crowd gathered around – I think they placed bets on whether the line would break too!  🙂

One of the highlights was a bamboo walkway suspended between 2 trees (~100ft above the ground, I guess). The best part is that once you reach the halfway point of the bamboo walkway, you have to drop (Yep, drop) between the 2 rungs of the bamboos and then freefall (yep, freefall) ~40ft into a “safety” net below. Shit, if you never knew what it means to have your heart in your mouth, just wait for that initial second, and you’ll realise! But, being the crazy-ass fool that I am, I went for another “drop into a net”, climbing up rope net in true guerrilla-style and then again letting go only to be free fall all the way down – I think this was even scarier than the bamboo walla drop. At least, my back was still intact and I didn’t have any broken bones.

The next day, we got up early to head to Kasol