Amidst the noise of clinking glasses, knives and spoons tinkling the crockery and the sheer of the frosty winds, we could not stop ourselves moving our feet on the beats of the live band. After a tiring day of sightseeing, all we wanted was to chill to the tunes and have some good food. All three of us are big foodies. And the only place that could satiate our appetite was Cafe Simla Times. The oldest open-air cafe in the town is unmistakably the right place to be on a Saturday night. This place exuded a whimsical vibe complimented by surreal views of the mountains covered with mist and mystery. And as the twilight grew stronger, the crowd gradually became a part of the celebration itself, joining the chorus. Trying to turn their mundane into something magical, something dreamy.
We indeed were a part of the soiree. The soiree of peaks, clouds, beings and music.
This morning, after spending what felt like an eternity in our substitute rented accommodation, we finally shifted to our resort, a couple of kilometres outside the main town. Snow Valley Resort is a multilevel retreat perched right on the edge of the highway, giving an open view of the valley from the rooms. They also have basic utilities such as a functional gymnasium, a restaurant, dedicated bonfire garden and open-air loggias where you can stand and enjoy the lush valley of Shimla. And the best part is its food. We ordered a sumptuous breakfast and left for our shenanigans in the town.
While we were having our breakfast, it was shining outside. But by the time we left for the town, the mist engulfed the whole place and it started pouring. To the melody of “Soul Sister”, we finally reached the Mall Road and parked our car in the biggest multi-level car park of Shimla. The Mall Road is a kilometre long trail that is erected on three levels - The Upper, Middle and Lower levels. The Upper Level of the road opens up to the ridge which is the main feature point of the town. It houses all the executive residences and offices. The main attraction here is the Christ Church that looks spectacularly beautiful in the night enveloped in the shade of gold. The Middle Level of the road is the most happening place in the town that has hotels and countless cafes and shops. A walk in the night here is like wandering in fairyland. The Lower level of the road is the abode of the wooden and handicrafts market.
It can be a bit difficult to traverse through all these levels. So, to make travelling more accessible for pedestrians, all these levels are helmed together by a tourism lift that takes you from the lower level to the upper level in a matter of minutes. Although, we preferred walking through all these levels and soak in the appeal of the rustic and colonial architecture that this town reflects.
Upon reaching on the top of the ridge, we were stunned by the incredible panorama that we saw. Luscious peaks encircled us from nearly every direction. After the rain, the cold was nail-biting. But even that could not stop us from savouring the excellence of these gigantic fabrications of nature.
In nature, nothing is perfect and yet, everything is perfect…
- Alice Walker
Human minds are hardwired to discover symmetry in everything we see around. And perfectionism is synonymous with symmetry. But nature is asymmetrical. Imperfect. Yet, this asymmetry is artistic.
It was silent.
Even that silence spoke.
The winds, birds, those mountains. They spoke loudly. And even in their loudness, no human can ever realise what they speak. We can only listen.
After spending a couple of hours on the ridge, we decided to visit Jakhoo Temple which is located on Jakhoo peak, the highest point of Shimla. We wanted to hike till there but unfortunately, due to the weather situation, we had to skip the hike. There is a ropeway to the temple as well, but even that was not functional on that day. We hired a local taxi to the temple, which was nothing short of an adventure in itself.
Narrow alleyways, numerous crossroads and our driver’s fast and rash drive on steeply inclined roads later, we finally reached the Jakhoo Peak. The drive felt like something straight out of GTA. From our drop point, there was still a 300-400 meter walk to the premises, which was full of monkeys. We were asked to keep all our stuff back in the car, including our spectacles, to avoid monkeys running and snatching them away from us.
This short walk to the premises is accompanied by a vast panorama of Shivalik Ranges. The walkway is covered with aluminium sheets to provide a respite from the jumping monkeys. And the walls are painted with the verses of Hanuman Chalisa in its entirety. After covering the distance, we were greeted by a 108 feet long statue of Lord Hanuman. Legend says that Lord Hanuman took a halt at this place while on his mission to find Sanjeevani Booti to save Lakshaman. As we were on top of the hill, we could feel the mind-numbing chill in the air. Even though we were freezing, but the views provided us with the much-needed warmth.
When we returned back to our taxi, the weather took a drastic turn and it started pouring again. But this time, it was different. The twilight had set in. Temperature dropped. And the tiny drops of rain transformed themselves into white flakes. As these flakes fell on us from the sky, we stood there, immobilised, mesmerised by what we were seeing. The lights refracted through these flakes, coming at us, looked like as if we were in a dream. In the wonderland.
That did not last long. We came back to the Middle Level of the Mall Road soon. Our appetites were calling for us. We scrolled through Google to find a good place to have our dinner. There were so many spots, that we wanted to see all of them. So we decided to go to a cafe crawl. As all these cafes are perched on the same stretch, they were not far away from each other.
From the cosiness of Cafe Sol, healthy selections of Honey Hut, indulgent cuisines of Wake and Bake to a delicious Thukpa from Aunty’s Kitchen, we went through all of it. But our favourite spot was indeed Cafe Simla Times, where we decided to end our cafe crawl and our night. It was now time to enjoy the soiree. The Soiree of Happiness and nature.
I wondered what would be in store for us the next day when we start our drive to Kufri and Narkanda.
To be Continued…
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