On the Kufri-Mashobra Trail – 2

Woke up on Independence Day 2008 in Kufri. We’d decided to leave after breakfast so we got dressed quickly and descended to the restaurant. There was a lot of activity going on as the resort was being decorated for the evening celebrations. We chose a place by the window overlooking the valley from where the view was awesome.
There was just one other occupant in that hall tucking into his breakfast. Soon we got talking and came to know that the young person was none other than the owner of the place. He was a very pleasant guy and happily provided us with interesting information about the place. We learnt that he’d bought the resort some two years back from the previous owner and has ambitious plans for expansion which includes a spa. As he set about giving us a historical perspective of the place, our breakfast of toast, eggs and parathas arrived. There we were – enjoying our first meal of the day watching the clouds hanging low in the valley below while our host entertained us with interesting tidbits. Can’t remember the last time I had such an amazingly refreshing breakfast. On a regular weekday, breakfast is usually on the run or not at all. So we wanted to stretch that moment as long as we could but there were more miles to be done yet. Reluctantly got up, said goodbye to our informative host, and promised to be back some day.

Since there was time on our hands, we checked out and drove a few kilometers further up the road beyond Fagu.

It was apple-picking time and way down in the valley we could see some sort of coverings on apple trees – probably to keep the birds away.  It was somewhere on that road that I clicked what I consider my masterpiece—a butterfly hovering on a bunch of flowers on a bush growing on the roadside. Some moments:

We turned back the way we’d come, past Ras Resorts again, and through the magical wooded spot where we halted once more. Once again we listened to nature’s chorus, glad to be in the box seat. At Dhalli we took the road to Mashobra through the mist and rain. It was so eerily silent and empty that we actually wondered whether we were on the right road or not.

But a mile post on the side guarded by some monkeys told us that we were. We took our time, stopping at will, clicking pictures, splashing through the little waterfalls flowing across the road on their hasty route downhill.

Finally we saw a signboard a few kilometers short of Mashobra telling us we’d arrived at Koti Resorts. We drove up the narrow road bordered by hedges of wild rose and ferns which reminded one of images of the English country lanes that one sees in pictures.

We drove into Koti Resorts through blinding rain and were ushered into the reception area holding huge umbrellas provided by our host. The rooms there are in different wings—ours was in an old wing with a view of the hills of “Chotta Shimla”. The room was pretty big and tastefully done and there was a pretty red rose on the bed according us a warm welcome. A hot cup of tea and snacks later, we were ready to explore the area around.

Taking advantage of the lull in the rain, we took off in the direction of Naldhera which is famed for the oldest 9-hole golf course in the country. Popular belief goes that the idea of the golf course was conceived of by Lord Curzon who was so enchanted with the place that his daughter was bestowed with the second name of “Naldhera”.

We continued to drive through the pouring rain on the largely deserted road to Tattapani in the valley below through which the river Tattapani is famous for its hot sulphur springs but we wondered if on that rainy day we’d be able to get anywhere near them.

By the time we were a few kilometers away from Tattapani, it had begun to rain in right earnest. We crossed a village whose road was a muddy stream of gushing water and we had to drive real slow in order not to spray the shops on either side. Undeterred by all this show of water strength, we continued on our way. But a little distance ahead we were brought to a halt by the occupants of another vehicle warning us of a fresh landslide that had taken place only a few yards away.

So there was nothing much to do except for turning back. Back through the flooded village on a road which was suddenly awash with small waterfalls running right across the road.

And at one point I had to get down and remove a few branches of a small tree barring the way so that Mintu could drive through. We distinctly remembered that it hadn’t been there on our way down some half an hour earlier.

The rain had stopped for a while giving us a chance to halt and enjoy the panoramic view of the emerald green landscape interspersed with floating white clouds. Absolute bliss!

Once again we were back at Naldhera and so was the rain. There’s a resort and picnic area adjacent to the golf course where we stopped to have lunch.

But since it was pretty late by then, we made do with sandwiches and pakoras. Nothing special really. But we weren’t complaining as it was all part of the adventurous time we were having. Some time later we were back at Koti Resort.
The sun had come out for a brief while in the evening and it was too tempting not to go out for a walk armed with a camera.

We walked down the narrow English lane taking pictures of the beautiful countryside. Raindrops hung precariously onto leaves and flowers sparkling in the sunlight making the entire place look like a fairyland.

On the far side across from us we could see buildings and houses of Chotta Shimla.

Mintu was uncharacteristically chivalrous enough to gather some green pinecones for me to take back home as souvenirs of that place. I’d never seen green ones before.

We went as far as the main road savouring the crisp, fresh mountain air and turned back as it had begun to grow dark. The resort was being geared up for the Independence Day festivities at night. But we decided against joining in for we didn’t want to break the nirvana-like state we were in with all that noise of music and dance. Somehow it didn’t seem right.

We had a quiet dinner in our room itself with the TV and the twinkling lights of Shimla keeping us company. All was right with the world that day.

It’s truly the little things in life that give you the biggest pleasure… .

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