The alarm went off well before dawn broke. We hastily got ready, took our bags which had been packed the previous night and got into the cab waiting for us outside. We were on our way, albeit a little late, to Naldehra, a small village a few kilometers uphill from Shimla. The drive to Naldehra is around 8 hours from Delhi and hence we had left before the city could burst into life. The streets of Delhi were taking a breather after having borne the burden of more than a million cars which swarm the city every day, a city which is too elitist or perhaps too suspicious to embrace the public transport. This was an hour when simple sounds of nature, morning breeze gushing, chirping of birds were all still discernable, yet to be lost in the urban cacophony. As we traversed through the city the dark sky gradually gave way to hues of orange, the sun had risen, and early risers were out beginning their routine. We had managed to leave the city and get on the highway to Chandigarh before getting stuck in the daily morning traffic.
If you are on the road to Chandigarh from Delhi it is almost customary to stop at Murthal around 40 kilometers from the border of Delhi, where several Dhabas line the highway, tempting the travelers with their delicious Parathas. Amrik Sukhdev Dhaba is one of the oldest of the lot, years of popularity have enabled the owners to transform what would have been a humble set up into a suave building now. Even in the early hours of the day it was filled with people, not surprised at all we went on to treat ourselves with some Parathas and tea. Parathas were as good as they get, served with some fresh white butter and pickle ,you are left licking your fingers, no wonder this spot is so popular. We were on a tight schedule so we hit the road again without wasting any more time. You can really cruise to Chandigarh thanks to the four lane highway which connects it from Delhi and we would too had it not been for a flat tyre near Ambala which took away a precious quarter of an hour from us. We were however climbing up the foothills of the Himalayas nearly 5 hours into our journey.
Within a few minutes of leaving the Delhi - Chandigarh highway, the landscape had changed, our car was meandering up the Ghats now, flanked by the green hills on one side and a deep valley on the other. The fact that tourism is a mainstay of this tiny state in northern Indian was quite evident with frequency of resorts which offered a great view of the valley. Some of them were right on the edge of a precipice, almost defying gravity. We made another stop at a small stall by the road to get some snacks and tea. We had come up to a decent altitude, clear blue sky had no blemishes and there was a soothing silence. The owner of the stall brewed us some fresh tea complemented by the good old veg sandwich from a restaurant next door. Refreshed and refueled we got going again and numerous sharp bends later we were truly in the laps of the Himalayas. The air had become colder, cleaner too. We city dwellers have got so habituated to inhaling dust and smoke that a breath of fresh air itself takes us to heaven. Windows were rolled down so that we could soak in all the freshness around. The deciduous trees had now given way to likes of fir and pine trees. The sight of the supreme Himalayas cloaked in green was serene, however it was hard to ignore unruly construction, a big dampener in a beautiful landscape. There were big patches which had been deforested to allow the development of real estate, a vicious by -product of what we now term as development and growth. There have been enough natural calamities to warn us that a balance needs to be found where environmental conservation and economic growth can coexist. The extent of deforestation hits your eye as you approach Shimla where flora seems to be paying the price for rapid commercialization which has happened here. We entered Shimla after an uphill climb of almost three hours, Naldehra was around 20 kilometers further up. We followed the sign boards and took directions from some locals to get on the right road. After a short drive of about thirty minutes we were there, it was 2 pm. The road trip had extended to almost ten hours but surprisingly we were not really exhausted. We proceeded to check in at Chalets Naldehra.