Crystal Clear Himalayas from our Room
Our trip came about as a result of our grandson enjoying his mid-term break in Thailand with his parents.We decided to take a ride on the Kalka-Shimla toy train.
The route was laid in 1903 when the British were looking for an easier option to get up to Shimla,their summer capital.The construction is an Engineering delight; the trains operate over 880 bridges,919 turns and 102 tunnels.The slow trundle through the hills and valleys covered with pines,deodars,oaks and blooming rhododendrons was a indeed breathtaking.The project was not without pitfalls for when

Col Barog,a railway engineer,was working on the 1 Km long Tunnel No.33 his calculations went awry.The crew,drilling from both ends could not meet.The tunnel would not be completed and the project was doomed.Barog shot himself,but in his honour the tunnel,completed later, and the station is named after him.Barog station is what an Indian railway station is not. It is clean,uncrowded,totally jostle-free.
The blue woodwork,slated sloping roofs and a forest backdrop enhances the charm.Every station on the route is clean and with vendors selling refreshments in appointed stalls... quietly. Swachata's best example.We stopped at Solan made famous by the MM brewery's Old Monk and then wound our way some more before reaching Shimla.Brrrrr it was cold.
The waiting taxi took us up to Mashobra in 30 minutes and our long journey had ended.
Mashobra town is at an altitude of 7700 feet,10Km north of Shimla.It was an ideal retreat for the ruling Brits,then,who used it as a getaway for picnics and golf.Club Mahindra's property,our refuge for the next few days was previously the "Gables Hotel".Lord Lytton,the Viceroy and GG 1876-80,was a regular visitor along with his family and it was also a favorite house of call with the Simla gentry.

Weariness of long travel took its toll and we got up late the next day and lazed in our room,overlooking the hills that were hazy due to the cloud cover with a hint of rain.It was time for some Aaloo Parathas with Dahi Achaar and were they delicious!Then we went on a walk up the road leading to the nearest hill.School children decked in blazers and ties were hurrying up and down for there were many schools in the vicinity.Picked up some apples and oranges at a grocer,enjoyed a cup of tea while the stall owner was ruing that there would be water shortage soon as there wasn't much snowfall last winter.For lunch we went into a Bojanalay which served home made Tawa di roti,Jeera Aaloo,Dal and Punjabi Khadi.The husband managed the 6 odd tables downstairs ,shouting out the orders to his wife in the kitchen upstairs.The appetizing food and the pleasant climate lead to a great snooze in the afternoon...
Next day was bright and clear and as we got up and looked out of the window we saw the Himalayas in all its glory!.The distance is reckoned as 40 Kms as the crow flies.

Naresh,an avid Trekker took us on a walk along the path used by townsfolk in the hills.This track would eventually lead  to Kufri at a height of 8200 Feet.We walked about 2 Kms amidst Oak,Pine and Fir.It was very cool and serene.As we walked along the winding way we could see fallen Fir...dead trees that would be auctioned for their wood for furniture making. We approached a clearance and Wow!.The view extending to the east was clear and spectacular...layer upon layer of of hills and ridges with a deep wooded valley dotted with shining green farms and red and green roofed houses. Naresh pointed out the President house in the distance, Indian Presidents' holiday home and where Indira Gandhi had discussed the Shimla accord with Bhutto way back in 1972.
The erstwhile King of Nepal also had a grand house built on a crag in another direction.Lot more impressive than the President house.
Naresh pointed out the trees planted here viz., Apricot,Plum and Apples all looking barren now,but for some Apricot flowers in bloom.

We had lunch at Red Chilli, located on the main Shimla road in the proximity of our hotel and relaxed in the afternoon.Music and Himachali dance was held at the Fun Zone of the hotel in the evening and dinner followed.
The weather was pleasant 10-13 C during the day dropping down to 6-3 in the evening and in the morning.

We would see family of monkeys in the backyard foraging and some would even climb up the walls and try and enter the rooms by tapping furiously on the closed windows.Did I miss Aryaan at such times.Then there were the pink faced school girls in uniforms sporting their maroon sweaters and equally pink faced boys smartly attired in their Navy blazers ..walking down to their school some 200 feet below us.So the next morning after another round of fresh Parathas...it was a variation of Aaloo,Aloo piyaz,Gobi or Muli,we set out to walk to the school and its environs.The gradient was manageable up to a point and soon we were at the school where at a large clearing a class was in progress.We sat down at an embankment some 25 yds away and watched. It was amazing.How lucky these students were! 
There was no rest in the afternoon today as Bhadrakali temple,2 Kms away was beckoning.We undertook the trek in the company of Anu,a club Mahindra employee from the Funzone who jogs every morning to this temple and back.
We left the town behind quickly and were walking through the hill side with some great views.       
Stepped colourful houses were a delight to watch as those that are surrounded by Fir and Pine. On the way Anu pointed out to a peak of a hill 9000 feet high carrying a Devi temple at the apex.   

The temple is ancient but renovated very tastefully in wood, carved to perfection.
The temple priest attends once a week;all other days and times one is free to open the doors,pray and leave.Very clean and quiet.We sat there enjoying the silence but for the bark of Sheru the dog who was enjoying his time with a couple of monkeys on the tree. Sheru followed us most of the way back.                                                                         
We signed up for a tour to a nearby Organic farm the next day.

We were 10 adults and a child and were taken to a small village where our farmer host Sharma was waiting with folded hands.They are Bramins left over from an regime of kings whose temple they were managing. When the king migrated he  offered land and homes to these families. Some still survive like the Sharma family who literally laid the red carpet for us..The 2-3 Hrs we spent with them was not only educative but an afternoon well spent in the cool of a small farm surrounded by hills,discussing organic farm practice,cash crops and fruits they grow.
Sharma told us...Organic farming is a method of crop and livestock production that chooses not to use pesticides, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and growth hormones.It relies on fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure,green manure and biological pest control.It places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation,the practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequence. It is done so that the soil is not used for only one set of nutrients. It helps in reducing soil erosion and increases soil fertility and crop yield.
There was tea and home made snacks followed by a delicious lunch after the tour,where a local delicacy,Sidu was the show stopper.To compare... this looks like a Momo in shape ,a liittle larger,but made out of wheat and delicious veggie stuffing inside.It was served with Desi Ghee,Dal,and a special green chutney made of green peas,green chilies, groundnuts and chopped paneer other than Dania and Pudhina. The simple preperation and fresh taste of it all took us to another level and we asked for more servings.

Among the myriad hamlets of HP is Naldehra,a town tucked just a little while away from our hotel,serene and green.
Ravi,our soft spoken taxi driver,took us on this drive and set us down next to a guy who pushed a visiting card at my face and said he would organise a horse ride for us through the heavily wooded hills blah..blah..There were a spattering of tourists on horse backs and we too joined the ride past the HP tourism cottages and began climbing the rickety pathway holding on to the camera tightly.There was a photo session at a clearing known to have hosted Bollywood for their song and dance,over the years.Path was full of ridges as we moved on looking at the old Tibet road skirting the hills yonder and going towards China.Then came the highlight of the gallop.
The golf course came into existence in early 1900 at the recommendation of  the Viceroy Lord Curzon.He was so enchanted by the place that he gave his daughter "Naldehra" as her second name.Today it is a 18 hole course  and is at par with many renowned ones in India.It is verdant and the setting is beautiful with the backdrop of hills as everywhere here..
Coming down the slope was managed well by the horse-keeper though at times we had the jeebies in our stomach.To our right we saw a deep valley with terraced farms and beyond that the hazy outline of Shimla.

It was a good day's outing and not much later we were back on the road to Mashobra but not before enjoying a plate of Rajma with Jeera rice in a nearby eatery.
Every trip has to come to an end and ours sadly did,early next morning,and the prospect of getting back to the plains after the cool/cold of Mashobra was daunting.

There is always another trip another time.

Bye....Take Care


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