My trip to Amritsar & Shimla Part 2

9th July 2019


This post is a continuation of the journey I started in previous post. If you haven’t already, please read Part 1 first

Day 2 (cntd)

As I stepped out the car at what appeared to be a deserted place, I saw a couple of kids dart by. Following their trajectory revealed an adult, who appeared to be a farmer and related to the kids. I wondered what they were doing there. I had imagined this place to have some sort of security, being a border station, but it was literally empty. We entered and traversed the whole length of the platform accompanied by the chirps of nearby birds. The storm clouds had dissipated, replaced by pleasant breeze, slight drizzle and cloudy ambience. It was utter perfection - I couldn’t have hoped for a better way to spend my afternoon. Unfortunately, the drizzle soon turned heavy and we had to take our leave. This little deserted station had became the best memory of my trip so far.

Next stop - Waga border. This is where a flag lowering ceremony is held every evening. We reached here around 4:30 pm; and the storm clouds that had supposedly “dissipated” earlier revealed themselves in the form of violent winds and heavy down-pour. I thought the ceremony might be canceled. We stayed in the parking lot for another 45 min probably, then decided to make our way inside, despite the rains. As if on cue, the storm mellowed and the climate slowly returned to its afternoon glory by the time we reached the “stadium”. Initially, Shubham and I got in with the herd and found ourselves standing in the middle of crowd on the edge between the upper section and lower section of the seats. We couldn’t call Aakash or Rishab, maybe the reception was low or there was signal jamming ongoing, either way we stood there amidst the masses. Suddenly Aakash called us from the side beckoning us; apparently he had been searching for us this whole time. We followed him, finding Rishab at the main entrance.

waga_border

Then we headed inside through the VIP entrance - thanks to Rishab. We swaggered in, got some seats and waited for the show to start; something else started instead - rain rain come again… All the VIPs did an exodus back to the covered part of the stadium. We, on the other hand, took this opportunity to move ahead. We sat right behind the foreigner’s gallery. Quite the luck we had that day. Eventually, the thing started and went on. I wasn’t much interested in it, thought it was all an elaborate pissing contest to be honest. Aakash and Rishab enjoyed from the bottom of their hearts, never seen them so excited; Shubham seemed in his own world. It all lasted some 1 hour or so.

waga_border_1

We got back to the parking lot, got in our car and stayed there for another hour… Yes, you read that right, we were in the parking lot for more time than the ceremony itself, not by choice though - there was a traffic jam. I have been in my share of jams, mind you, but I have never been stuck in a damn parking lot. My headache had returned in full force, and Shubham later said he too was ill since morning. Him and I were laying about in the backseat, Aakash was in the drivers seat (not driving though) and Rishab shotgun. We managed to get out after a few bumps and Aakash asked me to take the wheel as he was feeling out of sorts after all the traffic and congestion. While I wasn’t my best self myself, I made the decision to drive for a while so he can recover and go the rest of the way.

Well, he did. While I went driving on for another hour, he was gorging on whatever snacks his fingers could touch. Eventually it was nightfall and I was done for - my headache had reached apex levels. I stopped past a toll, got in the backseat, put a cap over my face, and was half-sleep before we hit the road.

I’m not really sure when/why I woke up… Maybe it was the hard-hitting sandstorms, or perhaps the continuous thunder & lightning dance going on across the fields. Honestly, I think I missed a lot of awesome scenes. We had another 50 km to go. I was feeling slightly better, but decided to nap anyway. Everyone in the car insisted I take some medicine; Shubham had taken one earlier and was feeling much better. I was averse to popping tablets, who did god-knows-what for god-knows-how-long. For me it was like a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I declined the medication and continued my nap. So the next time I woke, we were in Ludhiana and I was ready to turn in.

The rooms in Ludhiana were much better, instead of an AC there was a cooler. Even the space was bigger. I immediately jumped on the bed and pulled the covers on. The others went for dinner. I had a feeling that I would finally get some proper sleep. Next morning as I woke up, I knew I had.

Day 3

Our journey ahead would take us from Ludhiana to Shimla. However, there was Chandigarh in between, and we had a couple of spots to see. Oh by the way, we left early (around 7 am) and decided to have our breakfast in Chandigarh. Big mistake.

welcome_to_chandigarh

Our first stop was “Rose Garden”, also apparently there was a café nearby. Soon we reached the place. We traversed all around (outside of) the garden hoping to sight the café. We found a handcart selling “Bombay Gola” and a hut selling cold drinks. We went in the garden then, hoping the place would be inside. Thankfully, the garden was more or less flat land and it was easy for us to see there was no café inside. After about half hour of wandering about inside, we decided to take our leave. We were very hungry. I suggested let us search for a restaurant directly on the map; someone (I don’t recall who) decided to put in the location of some famous lake nearby. His logic was that since the lake was so popular, there were bound to be some food places nearby. Big Mistake #2.

The lake itself was nice. I was reminded of our “Jewel of Navi Mumbai” - only bigger and cleaner. We sat here for a while and moved on. Btw, yeah, Chandigarh is too damn clean. The roads are like square mazes. Shubham cursed the greenery about, saying they should’ve at least put a tea stall somewhere; the place seemed deserted, no houses, no people. Only the cars around us reminded we were not alone. Note that only the main city is such. We soon found out that when we entered the old city. Exact opposite.

Shimla was not too far now, so we decided to have “brunch” in Shimla itself; it was way past the time for breakfast. Aakash had the wheel. Shimla was supposedly a very hard place to drive in, with steep slopes and tight curves. To quote Aakash, driving here was like “driving in Lonavla, if you do it 20-30 times up and down continuously” (Lonvala is a hill station near our homes). Our moms were quite stressed out about us going there on our own, having heard dark stories of the dangerous roads and violent accidents. We had a discussion all the way back in Amritsar on hiring a driver to take us to Shimla. But we decided against it for several reasons. First, we were just touching Shimla and coming back. The roads are quite dangerous, true, but the magnitude of danger increases as you go up from Shimla to Manali or Leh side. We weren’t going up there so it wasn’t as dangerous. Second, we were on a budget. Hiring a driving and managing his expenses would cut deep in our wallets. Third, there wasn’t much space in the car for 5 people. The 4 of us sat comfortably but adding another person would required all 3 sitting behind to squeeze together. KUV isn’t that big of a car and all of us are quite “healthy” to use Shubham’s term. Comfort is a must for long drives.

In any case, we reached safely. Found our hotel - it was about 2 floors underground (which wasn’t really, as I would soon find out). We had a saying going about that every time we go to a new hotel, we get an upgrade. This was uncannily true. While our first was a cramped hell, this one seemed like a Royal Suite (relatively). Shubham even joked that we could play cricket in the bathroom - yeah, it was that big. But there was no ac, or cooler or even a fan. Apparently there was no needs as it was cold enough. Also, I noticed the windows. They opened up to an awesome view like we were on the top of a hill. And we were.

shimla_hotel

I mentally smacked myself of thinking we were underground. The building was stacked up against the mountain like a bug on a rock. Many structures in Shimla as similar. This was less of a hotel and more of a homestay. The owner was quite friendly as well. He suggested we go to Mall Road first, we said we were hungry, he said then we should go to Mall Road. Apparently the place had everything. We parked our car in some super structure that had “underground” parking levels. Then we took a couple of elevators one after other (yes, multiple) to reach to the top of this famous Mall Road. There was a cricket match going on at the time, I think between Ind & Pak for World Cup. A crowd had gathered outside a shop to watch it on a flickering tv screen. I am not a fan of the game (I like playing it, not watching it), but I understand some people like to watch it. I was slightly irritated though, by Aakash and Rishab constantly having their heads in their phone looking for score. You’re on a damn trip with your friends far from home and all you do it stare at your phone. I don’t understand the fanaticism behind the cricket. I said the same to those two and they kept their score-activity down to peeking at their phones every few minutes (for a while).

mall_road

In any case, we found a place to have lunch. We were past the “brunch” time as well. I wanted to taste the non-veg offerings here and we ordered couple of chicken dishes and rotis. It was… bland. Everything was watered down. There was barely any gravy. Chicken was chewy. And everything was expensive. But we were starving, and we ate like there was no tomorrow. I soon realized I’d might never like the food up North. None of us did. Rishab is a vegetarian by religion, so while we had lunch, he went out to have some Oreo and tea. I still wonder how that guy survives. He barely eats anything.

Eventually, we finished our lunch. Wandered about the place. There is a church on top, and an international convention was being held. Aakash and Rishab went about shopping. Shubham followed them. I decided to wander about on my own. I found several good spots where I could see a large portion of the city. I antagonized a monkey (unintentionally), and got a good photo to show for it.

monkey

I covered the entire width of the top of Mall Road. It was a good walk. However, my cell battery was reaching critical levels, so I called Shubham to regroup. Apparently, they were still shopping. I went back and we descended. They missed several beautiful places and barely touched the top of Mall Road due to their shopping sprees, but I doubt they cared. Either way, we had spent several hours here and it was getting dark. We got back to our rooms. Freshened up and went out for dinner. Rishab was the one who ate this time, helped along by Shubham. Later we might have played cards, but someone (ahem, Rishab) said they’d bring them and forgot. So we just slept. Tomorrow whole day was meant for exploring Shimla.

shimla_night

continued on Part 3, coming soon