Road Trip To Kasauli
I drove to Kasauli last June towards the end of the month. I get the urge to head to the hills every other year, if not every year. I think this is what happens if you have grown up in the Himalayan region, like I did in the lovely valley of Dehradun. The mountains never leave you, even though you have long left them.
So I left my home, in an eastern suburb of the city of Delhi in the early hours of a June morning in the North-West Direction. As we were only in the third week of June, the monsoon was a little way off, one could hope for a peaceful and uneventful journey. Driving in the hills during the monsoon can be a pretty harrowing experience what with landslides being quite common.
Accompanying me were my wife and teenage son. Like me my wife grew up in the hills, albeit in a different part of the country and shares my love for the mountains. My son who was born in the plains and has always lived there, doesn’t go dotty about the mountains like his silly parents. However we live in hope and pray that one day in a sudden burst of inspiration he will be inspired to fall in love with hills too. After all he owes that to his genes. Therefore we insist that he always accompany us on our hill travels.
Our beginning wasn’t an auspicious one as I lost my way while heading out of Delhi. In spite of my wife suggesting that I use Google maps to navigate, I insisted on using my own brain, as I was sure that I knew the way out of Delhi into Haryana and Punjab quite well. Well, it seemed I hadn’t reckoned with a slew of new roads and flyovers which had sprung up on the way that led out of the city, since I had last driven in that direction
The upshot was that I somehow ended up getting stuck in a massive jam just outside the Azadpur Vegetable Market, a place which I wasn’t even supposed to approach. After a frustrating one hour wait, by which time it was dawn, the traffic began moving and I started making good progress on the excellent NH 44 highway. By the time we reached the iconic Murthal dhaba, where we made the customary stop for breakfast, it had started to rain quite heavily.
The breakfast at Murthal was quite refreshing and he early morning air felt invigorating. Though Murthal is not that far from Delhi, the air felt so much cleaner. It rained consistently all the way till the hills and made driving a rather slow affair on the otherwise excellent highway. Just when I began to get a little concerned about driving up the hills in rain, the sky cleared up and the sun shone.
As I started going up-hill towards the town of Kalka, passing by the famous Pinjore Gardens along the excellent new roads that have been constructed in the area, my spirits began to lift. Returning to the hills always does that to me-I feel like the prodigal son returning home to the roots. The news roads are excellent, though you do have to fork out toll charges every now and then.
I was making good time and soon we were in the roadside hill settlement of Dharampur, just 9 kilometers short of Kasauli famous for its many eateries. I was quite looking forward to some tea and parnathas at one of the popular joints, but to my dismay realized that the quaint Dharampur of old was already history. A new state of the art highway was being built all the way to Shimla that would substantially cut down driving time and that meant that most of the shops and eateries lining the road had to be demolished.
Seeing a major road being constructed in the mountains is a very depressing sight and it pained me no end to see the large numbers of felled pine trees and the bared hill slopes shining a strange shade of pink. There were loose stones, slate and grey slushy mud coming down to one side of the road which had been cordoned off with tape. Not a very pretty sight, especially that of one of the iconic tunnels of the heritage Kalka-Shimla railway line being right next to some frenetic road building going on.
I wish that the new road gets built sooner than later, so that peace can return to that stretch of the hills. I also wish that they replace the trees they cut by planting a number larger than they cut. Thankfully we soon got off the road to Shimla and took the detour to Kasauli and found peace. The drive was fantastic with a slight mountain mist rolling in and the narrow mountain road cutting through forested slopes was a sight for sore eyes. On the way we came across a sign indicating that the well know Lawrence School-Sanawar, the alma-mater of many of the country’s elite was close by.
As we got closer to Kasauli the road seemed to get really small, but with practically no traffic, that wasn’t a problem. It did get a little lonely and deserted on stretches, but I knew that we were safe in these parts. Along the way we would pass some lovely houses, some of which were hotels and guesthouses and a few private residences
How I envied the people who lived there. We had nearly reached Kasauli when I decided to stop and ask somebody for directions to the hotel I had booked. I was told that I needed to turn back and drive a couple of kilometers to reach Kimughat where my hotel was. We checked in, refreshed ourselves had lunch and then left for Kasauli in our car and reached there in about ten minutes.
After parking the car on the Mall Road, we proceeded to walk the entire stretch. The Kasauli Mall Road is among the smallest, if not the smallest Mall Road of the ones that adorn our hill stations. Being a cantonment town Kasauli, has mercifully escaped some of the garish real estate development that has so marred the other hill stations.
Kasauli is a quiet place where you can relax, unwind and forget the pressures of the world. You can walk past its many quaint pathways and little roads that pass in front of lovely homes where many of our gallant soldiers spend their retirement years. We made it a point to eat bun samosa and jalebi to die for at one of the several little eateries that are frequented by tourists and locals alike.
Our son insisted that we visit the iconic Daily Needs, which has served as a tuck shop for generations of Sanavar school students. There was ample nostalgia in the place courtesy the old world look of the store, its unique ham centric menus and the black and white pictures of children of celebrities that have studied there- Sanjay Dutt, Omar Abdullah and Pooja Bedi among others. They looked so young and innocent in those pictures, very different from what they look like now.
We returned to our hotel where we had a light dinner and crashed for the night-dead tired. The next morning we headed for Kasauli again after a hearty breakfast. We had decided before we had proceeded on our Kasauli trip that we would not visit any of the places frequented by tourists, but would generally walk around, take in the views and the fresh and cool mountain air.
That is what we did and had a wonderful time just walking around, shopping , stopping for something to eat, sitting on a bench looking at the mountain ranges that extend in front of your eyes and providing massive relief to your body from the stresses of big city living. We returned to our hotel satiated and happy. In the evening we went to the roof-top restaurant for dinner and found it to be a young and lively place complete with strobe lights and pulsating music. Imagine that in Kasauli! But it felt good.
We had come on a short trip and left back for Delhi, but not before we stocked up on some mountain fresh veggies, cherries and some hybrid stone fruit that was oh so delicious. On the way back we got caught in pelting rain, this time in the mountains, and had to stop the car for an hour or so waiting for the rain to stop. I drove with extreme care and caution for the time we were up in the hills, as we could see small landslides forming on the slopes and on one occasion a few small stones rolled down on to the road, perilously close to the car.
One felt relieved to finally make it back to plain road and get to drive down the straight as an arrow NH 44. We reached home late in the evening, extremely tired but with great memories to cherish.
Originally published at https://traveltalesraconteur.blogspot.com.