Section 1 A Trip Planned at the 11th hour
The car stopped at Toll Collection Point at Kalka Parwanoo Bypass. As we rolled down the windows the first whiff of Hill air came to greet us. It was a welcome relief from the scorching heat of the plains and the reason why we had been there. It might sound that we have been planning or this for long, but less than 48 hours back we had no idea that we would be in this trip. We were all in Gurgaon and Delhi. By we , I mean my parents, my brother, sister in law and niece who is 10; my wife and son, who just celebrated his first birthday. We had not been to any trips as my son was too young for travelling and we were never sure that we would get the right food and accommodation to take care of him. But more than any other reason, was the work schedule – which would mean getting the same time off or all of us was the biggest of all challenge. However as things turned out that week, by Wednesday evening, it seemed that I can take the Friday off and so could my brother after attending to some business in the first hour of Friday morning. With us deciding on the timings the next big challenge was to find the right sort of accommodation in such short notice.
We turned up to IndianHomeStays.org to find us a venue with the details and the purpose of our trip. Having used their service before we were sure that what we get would really work out for us, but the apprehension we had in our minds that we might be told that there were no options left. It was a last minute call from us and with the temperature soaring to the mid forties people from the plains were swarming up the hills. The most worried amongst us was probably my niece, who had her summer vacation started and with all her friends having gone out of station was really feeling bored and alone. So it was a big relief when we got a call back on Thursday that the Maple Resort on the way to Chail did have the 3 rooms we needed so desperately. Soon we got the confirmation email fromIndianHomeStays.org. Arranging the transportation was comparatively a much easier task and that’s how we started off next day around noon from Gurgaon.
Having avoided the rush hours, traffic was smooth. The driver was on his first trip towards Shimla – so he was constantly worried about the tax collection points and the consequence of paying a Rs. 25000/- fine if he missed it. He was not only stopping every now and then but would keep us worried as well. After paying the Tax around 10 Km after Ambala – we started enjoying the trip. Apart from that the road journey in the plains was uneventful.
The Kalka Pinjore Parwanoo expressway’s got us rather quickly into the hills. On reaching Kandaghat we took off from the Shimla highway to the road which leads to Chail. Compared to the highway it was a just a 2 lane state highway and we kept on moving up the hill under the moonlit sky. By this time the long journey was taking a toll on my son who was getting restless. After all he is not used to getting cramped at a small space for such a long time.
Ever since we passed Kalka we got calls providing directions from the resort Reception desk. They would call us to check for dinner menu as well and informing us how long would it take us to reach the Resort. I must say in the dark and empty roads the calls from the resort was really reassuring. After another three quarters of an hour since passing Kandaghat, and many a turn in the hilly road we could finally see the lit up pine trees and terrace of the resort from a distance, signaling the end of the journey and the prospect of a good nights sleep after a long day in the roads.
Section 2 The Arrival at Maples Resort Chail
The checkin process was quite swift and we were led in to our rooms. We were allocated three rooms on the same level which was what we needed as a family. I had seen the pictures of the resort in IndianHomeStays.org website. In reality the rooms were quite spacious. Even the bathrooms were quite big and double the size of the ones that comes along with the business hotels. There was a balcony with each room. The rooms seems to have been built quite recently and interiors decorated quite tastefully. The best thing about them were there were plenty of space for my son to crawl around without the risk of hurting himself.
As soon as we checked in we were told that dinner was ready to be served. We wanted it to be delivered in our rooms – a request which was complied to in no time at all.IndianHomeStays.org had informed the resort in advance about the kids who would be travelling with us and the kind of food we would be expecting. The box of Cerelac came back from the trip unopened us as my son took a liking the rice dal and vegetables served by the resort. It’s not only the kids who enjoyed the meal, but even for the adults we enjoyed the food, Punjabi Dhaba style without the heat and oiliness. Normally my experience with vegetables in the hills has not been very good, so I prefer non-vegetarian dishes when in the hills. However, the freshness of the vegetables and the taste of the dishes made an exception this time. We had only vegetarian dishes in all the meals we had during the stay.
After dinner, it was time to get to bed . It was a welcome change to sleep in the natural cool air of the hills, at a pleasant 24 degrees without having to bother about adjusting the air conditioner like back in Gurgaon. Well this was the reason why we were there in the first place and looked like the purpose of our visit was getting fulfilled.
Section 3 The Morning view
Morning started with a cup of tea bag tea which the resort had thoughtfully provided in the room along with an electric kettle. The morning cup of tea was enriched by the freshness of the air and an unrestricted view of pine hills from the balcony adjoining the room. The sun’s rays kissing the top of one hill after another and sweeping the shadows of the hills across the depth of the valleys. The heat wave from the plains could not reach high up in the hills, but the dry spell meant the trees were as eagerly waiting for the monsoon as the ones down in the plain. The wind made a rustling noise as it blew through the pine leaves and the mossy undergrowth had taken a tinge of brown. During a conversation with someone having quite deep local knowledge, I came to know that it was also the season for hill fire. These are normally triggered by a carelessly thrown away butt of cigarette and once it starts the fire could last over days. The terrain makes its impossible for human to douse the fire. So it continues unabated, engulfs all the vegetation on its path blown by the wind till it reaches a barren stretch which it can not cross. There is not much one can do about containing the fire, so the best hope is to spread the awareness amongst people about handling the agents which could trigger such catastrophes.
As the sun come over the hill, the strong rays of the sun prodded us to go in for breakfast. Breakfast was delayed as the bus carrying the fresh supplies had not turned up in time. We were not in any kind of hurry – so we sat around in the deck area of the restaurant soaking in the idyllic surrounding of the Himachal hills.
Section 4 As the day passes by
After a hearty breakfast my parents decided to look around the place and went off for Chail town around 9 Km from the resort. Having seen Chail a couple of times already, I gave in to the temptation of having another few hours doing nothing. I took a nap and when I got up around one o’clock, I found that my niece and son had finished of their lunch and my parents were on their way back having visited couple of temples in Chail as well as the Cricket Ground which is the highest cricket stadium in the world according to Guinness book of world records.
By the time we had lunch it was too late to go to Shimla. But having spent most of the day doing nothing, now I wanted to make up for the lost time. We took the road towards Shimla without any specific destination in mind and to roam about till daylight lasts. The road from Chail to Kandhaghat had very less traffic and the some of the bus stops on the hill raod had mentioned the count of the local population. It was amazing to find that the population count in some of the places were as low as 29. At sunset it was time for us to take an u-turn and head back for the resort.
One of the highlights of the resort was its recreational areas. Not only did it have a big lawn complete with a kid playing area, but it has a big recreation room with table tennis board, chess, carrom as well as gym equipments. Now I wish if we had planned for a longer stay, we would have enjoyed more. I had a good time teaching my niece how to hit a table tennis shot. She had a good time playing my my son in the lawn – and o did the rest of the family in their own way.
Section 5 Sunday Morning – time to return
Sunday morning was the time for us to come back to Delhi. We wanted to start early so as to be back at home by the evening. We drove down the winding hill roads, crossing hill after hill. Soon we were in the highway coming from Shimla and towards Delhi. Crossed Solang bustling with people doing their Sunday shopping. The Parwanoo Pinjore Kalka bypass was any driver’s delight. One could just come on a trip for the sheer driving pleasure of this stretch – which at least I have not experienced anywhere in India. As we crossed the expressway toll gate we were back in the plains with renewed energy and sweet memories of this short but highly enjoyable weekend gateaway.