It is the capital of the Himachal Pradesh State. It was known as the summer home for the Europeans during colonization, who retreated here whenever the temperatures rose in other states. It is in the mountains and thus quite cool and the scenery of the Himalaya Ranges from afar is breathtaking. The buildings have been done to have a somewhat Victorian look and the historic central area is a place of peace as traffic is prohibited. This was and is truly a retreat area. I totally went “wild” in Shimla and recommend you follow suit in the following activities.
1) Head to Kufri
This is a hill station about 20km from Shimla and a place I highly recommend. It is more relaxed, there are more people to interact with and learn more about their culture. This is also the place we did crazy stunts as shared below:
a)Ride a Yak
The people in this region keep Yaks as domesticated animals for milk, wool and as beasts of burden. I had only seen such on tv and it was great to pet and eventually ride these cute animals. Their fur enables them to easily survive the cold weather experienced in the area.
b) Carry a snake
I was shocked to learn that most of the people here keep snakes as a pet, yes, as pets. Back home I would have run for my life whilst calling for it to be killed and there after burnt, to ensure it was dead. However here, the people were carrying snakes on their necks as you would wear a scarf. At first I was terrified, I wanted to leave the place, go back to a safe haven, but the more I watched them, interacted with them, the more I became more brazen and inquisitive, snakes to them are home pets, their friends…a breeze just froze my spine. Curiosity eventually took over, I wanted to at least touch it, which eventually converted to actually wanting to carry it like them. After a long time of having to talk myself into it, I finally zoned off and decided to do it. I reasoned, I highly doubted I would ever meet with people so comfortable with snakes. I wanted to play with danger and eventually I decided I would be very annoyed with myself if I went back home without at least attempting, and I am happy I did.
I cannot explain what madness or brevity overcame me that inspired me to carry a snake, and a python at that, on my neck. I was terrified as the owner placed it on my neck, then twirled it severally around my neck and there after gave me its head to hold, I was now on my own on handling it. I was surprised to discover that it felt so soft on my skin and as it moved, feeling its body compress and relax as it slithered into a comfortable position was mind boggling. I was beyond terrified and the thought that it was planning to choke me crossed my mind severally.
It relaxed and lay somewhat still, seeming like it was in a relaxed mood and soon all fear was forgotten and I was smiling, laughing and taking pictures with my friends as it lay around my neck. However, when it opened its mouth and its tongue slithered out, I almost collapsed if not died of fear and couldn’t hold myself from asking the owner to take back his pet. I had come, I had seen and I had conquered. Never again would I do this, madness is only allowed in small doses. However, the feeling of accomplishment remains with me forever.
The area is hilly and thus one has to ride horses both to get to the bottom of the area and then back to the top. The terrain is narrow, rocky, mountainous and it was scary for a rookie like me. One is then advised to lean back as it starts descending the slopes to avoid being flipped off the back of the horse. It was both scary and exciting and I kept worrying if I would fall off during the steep descent.
d) Visit Kufri Zoo
This zoo has a wide array of animals with my favorite ones being bears and the snow leopard. I had only seen bears on tv so just seeing it live was amazing. However, the award goes to the snow leopard that is truly a rare sighting and a true beauty. My only worry was that they seemed to be enclosed in very small areas and I am not sure the snow leopard was fine not in the snow. I would urge the concerned authority to look into making this place animal friendly.
The town is best described as a boutique town and is a sight to behold. Though an old town, it is super clean, the roads are in perfect condition, the buildings are in great condition, the homes are built in an orderly manner and to prevent traffic, some areas are no go zones for vehicles.
3)Visit Christ Church Shimla
It is the second oldest Church in North India having been built in 1846. I was informed that it has a 19th century pipe organ and a great collection of books and ancient scriptures.
4)Eat at the local eateries
There are several eateries that freshly prepare meals as you watch. The diversity in delicacies will vary and there is something for everyone.
5) Beware of monkeys
This area is inhabited by several troops of monkeys. As you walk around, be very careful as they could easily snatch your property. The area is also home to the Jackhoo Temple where the monkeys fill the surrounding area and the Hanuman Statue which is part Monkey and part Man stands towering over the place.
Shimla was indeed an amazing place to visit. It is beautiful and this place truly removed me out of my comfort zone from carrying a snake, to riding horses on tough terrain to learning about the culture of the people.For more on India escapades, check out: