(found in transition: was Shimla always so packed?)

After a good night’s rest, we were ready to explore the following day. We had a filling breakfast and we were on the roads of Joshimath, driving to Malari where you see can see the Himalayan mountain range up close. The drive from Joshimath to Malari is beautiful, as you drive up the valley, you are surrounded by towering mountains and dense pine forests. The roads are dusty and barely populated, the wind whistles and echoes through the mountains and (again) you can sense heavy loneliness hanging in the air.

Enroute to Malari

Halfway up our drive to Malari, we realized we hadn’t carried enough water or snacks. We had done the mistake of assuming that we’d find something on the road. For hours, we didn’t come across any shops or establishments and when we had the fortunate luck of finding a shop that was open, they didn’t have water. We had to make do with packet juices we bought which is in no way a good replacement for water.

An important lesson to be learned on the road: it’s okay if you have an extra bottle of water; it’s better than wishing for one when you find yourself parched. I think, after this incident, we always made sure to carry extra bottle. Anywhere we could, we would fill the water bottles we carried, just to be on the safer side.

Malari village receives heavy snowfall during the winters so the inhabitants move out and only return after winter has passed. And during this time, the village is inaccessible to anyone. And when we found out, we weren’t disappointed. I think, while Naveen and I were on the road, we went to places with no expectations. And because of that, we faced very little disappointment. As we got closer to Malari, we spotted snow melting on the side of the road and as we drove further up, the volume of snow increased and Naveen took an executive decision to turn our car around. We were in the middle of nowhere, somewhere up in the mountains and he didn’t want to leave any openings for any kind of accident.

On our drive back to Joshimath, the sun was past its zenith and the colors had changed. The light had softened, everything was basking in a hue of gold. It was wonderful but Naveen and I were hungry.

After breakfast, we had munched on the snacks we had packed when we were leaving earlier in the day and so by the time we reached Joshimath, we were ravenous. We were ready to eat the entire town and more.  Most restaurants/hotels/eateries are shut during the odd hours in the day and there was only restaurant that was open when we reached Joshimath so we reached our rest-house, parked our car and almost sprinted to the one restaurant that was open.

Another life lesson learned: Always carry food that has a long shelf life, like nuts and dry fruits, glucose biscuits, glucose powder, candy, maybe cups of instant noodles (if you think you can find hot water somewhere)

Our last night at Joshimath ended peacefully. Being tired from the day’s drive, we decided to call it an early night. The following day we were off towards Himachal Pradesh. I don’t know why we took the abrupt decision but I think it was because we wanted to play with snow. And we had to get further up the mountain range. We charted our map out; we wanted to drive to Spiti valley and our plan was to leave from Joshimath and head towards Himachal Pradesh, exiting Uttarakhand from Dehradun side.

Dehradun

We reached Dehradun after stopping for a night at Srinagar enroute. We entered Dehradun early in the evening and checked in at a Oyo Hotel on the outskirts of the city. We found Dehradun to be a lot like Bangalore; the city was urbanizing quickly but at the same time, there is an old, nostalgic charm that cannot be missed, trees everywhere, old shops lined up on the side of a main road, big houses with big gardens and a cool breeze in the air. I felt so homesick as we were driving on the roads, everything from the attitude of the place to the people to the weather was making me miss home.

From Dehradun, we crossed over into Himachal Pradesh and drove to Shimla. If Dehradun was charming and quaint and made me nostalgic, Shimla made me miss home for some very different reasons. Even before we could reach Shimla, we were welcomed by its traffic. Shimla’s traffic starts at least five kilometers before entering the city and stays with you for ten kilometers after you have exited the city. It’s a hectic city.

Maybe, once upon a time, Shimla was an attractive destination for tourists, with its colonial times architecture, small winding roads and cool weather. But the kind of traffic we were welcomed with was just hurtful. We had initially booked a hotel with Oyo but there was so much traffic on the road and we kept getting caught in every kind of traffic jam possible, we decided to cancel our booking and get another Oyo outside the city. We entered Shimla city around 4 in the evening; by the time we made to our hotel, it was nearly 8 at night. So, yeah. We didn’t really have a good time at Shimla.

Are people and traffic the main attractions in a city? I mean, everytime I have entered a city on my trip, the only thought that has occurred was to get out of the place.

View from our Shimla room: The outskirts

But, Shimla is beautiful only after you leave it. The city is surrounded by trees and mountains and makes for some amazing views during sunsets and we did enjoy our stay but ONLY and only after we got out of the traffic.

From Shimla, we made our way towards Spiti Valley.


Enroute from Shimla
Our route from Malari via Joshimath to Shimla


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