I left Shimla by bus for Narkanda which is quite a short distance away except that I had to wait at two different bus stations in Shimla before my departure proper. Narkanda itself had nothing much to offer and the thing I remember most about it is the excellent food served at the New Himalaya Dhaba.
The proprietor is Inder Singh Negi. His father setup this restaurant in the days after independence. In those days, this was the first and only shop in town. Today his son continues the tradition of good food and excellent service at prices that are hard to believe. Today I had breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same place. For breakfast I ordered omlette. For lunch, it was vegetarian thali. For dinner, they do not offer thali but a plate of sandwiches and a bowl of hot noodles was quite tasty and filling. The place is always busy and there is a lively bustle to it. It is that typical feeling you get at a travel stop on the road in an ambience of conversations and stories. It defines you to be a traveller and this too is a memorable experience part of a longer journey.
From Narkanda it is an easy hike to Hatu’s Peak. It is a pleasant walk through slopes of conifers affording great views across valleys and further slopes. This is the kind of walk that was missing at Shimla. If you are alone, it’s a good idea to carry a stout stick just to serve as a warning to the many macaques and langurs in the forests. On this walk, I passed a group of women sweeping the road and some men whitewashing the stones that line the road. When I reached the top, more workers were involved in cleaning and whitewashing. Tomorrow happens to be a day of special religious ceremony that happens once a year. Minister Veerabadra Singh was going to come to preside over the event. Tents were being setup at the summit in preparation for this event.
The temple at the top has Buddhist-style sloping roofs and gables. It is a structure of stone, wood and brick. Many symbols decorate the structure. From Hatu’s peak, it is a fascinating view of the Himalayas to the north. The peaks are barely visible and peep at the edge of horizon. It is only a glimpse of the peaks playing hide-and-seek with the rolling mists. Yet, in this fleeting glimpse there is that magic of seeing the Himalayas for the first time in life, a feeling that comes only once. It is a significant moment for it is the Himalayas that define in some measure the wild natural beauty of the Indian subcontinent.
A couple of hours from Shimla by bus costing Rs. 80.
Within town just a few paces from the bus stop. It was a dorm bed for just Rs. 75 without any hot water and roommates who smoked through the night. I kept the window open to keep out the smoke but closed it later for fear of monkeys.
Thali at New Himalaya Dhaba for Rs. 35. The best there is in town and excellent value for money.
A 3-hour hike to Hatu’s Peak with opportunities for longer ones with a guide or on your own if you are willing to be more adventurous.