Monsoon trip to Kasauli – I

Preparing for an extended weekend (with a Friday thrown in) during this rainy season, as we sat pondering overa destination, a sarkari friend of Sharmi from Shimla offered to book us in Circuit House, Kasauli. We could but jump to the offer.

Nestled in the Shivalik ranges of Lesser Himalayas, Kasauli is a popular destination among weekenders ex-Delhi (and of course, Chandigarh). At a relatively short distance, it offers bounties of a Himalayan destination – the curvedly drives, unpolluted environs, hill views and co-habitation with Pahari folks. I would, though, repeat the customary cautionary – go there only if you want to do ‘nothing’ (Nothing; as opposed to visiting malls/ shopping sprees/ snazzy crowds and such other touristy zings).


Kasauli (6400 feet ASL) is located at a comfortable distance of approx 300 Kms, out of which just about last 40 kms is hilly drive. Like many other hill stations in the area, Kasauli was discovered and established by the British. Drive to Kasauli is a pleasure, thanks to very good quality of roads. NH-1 till Ambala is followed by NH-22 and the entire stretch is real silky smooth.

Route:-
From Delhi, follow NH-1 to Chandigarh (approx 250 kms). 15 kms short of Chandigarh (at Zirakpur crossing), take the right turn towards Shimla (from under the flyover). Moving across Pinjore Gardens, Kalka(with its inevitable slow moving traffic), Parwanoo, follow the NH to Shimla till Dharampur, which is about 40 kms from Zirakpur. Road to Kasauli diverts from Dharampur, located about 15 kms beyond Dharampur.

Monsoons were welcome add-ons to an already enjoyable set-up. The mist laden pathways, with clouds as your consort– you can’t help feel being up there; how else could one catch the clouds in fingers !

There are two roads from Dharampur to Kasauli, almost parallel and equidistant (give or take 3-4 kms). Both the roads meet up at Garkhal, 3-4 kms short of Kasauli. First is the well marked one, turning left from Shimla road just as one enters Dharampur. This route goes along the lower ridges of Shivalik, passing through Sanawar village (not the Sanawar school).

The second route is a left turn just after the Dharampur market area (Café Coffee Day, Giani dhaba, etc), which takes a higher elevation and passes in front of the portals of Sanawar school.

At this point, I am tempted to describe the eating options en-route. Firstly, the entire route was filled with outlets/stalls selling fresh corn (bhutta), ready to be roasted on order. Though similar stuff is available abundantly in Delhi, taste of corn in hills was pleasingly different; succulent and inviting, something worth cherishing. The offerings are, of course, seasonal.

On our way up, we were famished by the time we reached Dharampur around midday. Dharampur has a thriving market with good options of eating joints viz traditional dhabas/restaurants, Café Coffee Day, Hot Millions etc, right on the main road. Though we veered towards the Giani dhaba, which has an imposing façade on left side of the road, we soon realised that it was chaotic, waiters were not keen to accommodate customers (despite availability of vacant seats, etc) and the general ambience was not very encouraging. No sooner did we enter the place than we left it in search of something better. Just across the road from Giani Dhaba, we came across this joint named Colonel’s Kebabs / Shan-e-Himachal, run by a retired Army Colonel sahib. The smallish but stylish restaurant has seating arrangements on ground floor and terrace with a view of Himalayan slopes. The place mainly serves tandoor based stuff, in veg and non-veg versions. And boy! We were overwhelmed by the great food, which arrive soon enough. The place is certainly a good discovery, worth a try on this route. We tried Tikkas (paneer/chicken) /Karhai chicken, with additives. The portions were very generous, very tasty and well presented. On our way out we realized the secret of such tasty food, when we saw the Colonel laboriously marinating pieces of chicken himself. The dedicated efforts and care being taken by the guy to prepare the stuff was evident in the taste. Despite our desire to talk to him, we realized that he was never free for small talks. The place is worth a try especially for those tandoor lovers.

Another stuff we usually enjoy on this route is the ubiquitous ‘Meat-Chawal’ joints. The roadside dhabas selling Meat-Chawal, with garish banners, is a typical Himachal phenomena and worth a try. This is, of course, subject to one’s acceptability to try out local cuisine in a set-up that discounts on the notion of hygiene.

We have been enjoying the stuff often.

This dhaba, located a couple of kilometers before Dharampur as one approaches it from Chandigarh end, was our latest gamble on return path. And the stuff was nothing but great. These places offer ‘meat-chawal’ in ‘full or half’ combination, in addition to chicken-chawal, rajma-chawal, sabji-chawal, etc. A ‘meat-chawal plate’ is typically loaded with rice and abundant gravy and fixed number of mutton pieces (depending on half or full order) spread over it. A half plate generally takes care of an urban adult appetite. And the taste of the meat is heavenly; something very different from the ‘meat’ of the plains – probably due to typical spices being used. Since most of these joints are away from market place and usually in isolated areas, one can afford to carry the plate, walking by the shaded roadsides or sitting over a culvert and enjoy a picnic-like ambiance. Beware of the monkeys, though.

We reached Kasauli amidst heavy rains by 5.00 pm.

I will talk about Kasauli town in the next part.

32 Comments

  • zeevie says:

    nice 1,waiting for next part

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Nandan,
    Interesting post and attractive pictures. I could see in one of the pictures ” Meat Chai” what does it mean?? Meat Chaval is OK but “Meat Chai” ??? beyond imagination.

    Thanks.

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Dear Nandan,

    let me have the opportunity to write the first comment.

    Very well written post supported with beautiful Pictures. I have been to Kasuli long back , may be 20 years back when I pass out from the collage. I remember only two things , one Hanuman Temple , if I am wrong , the place was known as monkey point & the other was Air force unit.

    I liked the new design of your pictures frame with multiple colour !!!!! :-)

    I too liked the collations of hoardings , specially “fresh meat chai” & ” Disal Engine workship” :-)

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Sorry I am late :-(

    Mukesh grab the opportunity.

  • nandanjha says:

    I am “Sorry” folks. I just played the type-setter and in my excitement to publish, I failed to change the ‘Author’ name. Now rectified.

    • aurojit says:

      Thanks Nadan,

      You know I remain grateful to you and this blog foreve for publishing the articles, irrespective of on whose name.

      Auro

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Dear Aurojit,

    Interesting post and attractive pictures. I could see in one of the pictures Meat Chai what does it mean?? Meat Chaval is OK but Meat Chai ??? beyond imagination.

    Thanks.

  • Dear Dada,

    Very well written post supported with beautiful Pictures. I have been to Kasuli long back , may be 20 years back when I pass out from the collage. I remember only two things , one Hanuman Temple , if I am wrong , the place was known as monkey point & the other was Air force unit.

    I liked the new design of your pictures frame with multiple colour !!!!! :-)

    I too liked the collations of hoardings , specially fresh meat chai & Disal Engine workship :-)

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Nandan,

    You have reminded me of our memorable trips to Subathu, very close to Kasauli. I have been to Kasauli a few times and to the Lawrence School, Sanawar, where a friend’s son was studying.

    I fully agree with you about the quality of service at Giani’s Dhaba. We have been to Colonel’s Kebabs. Food was really very excitng.

    Yes, you are very correct about doing nothing at Kasauli. Doing nothing is also something.

    The pictures in the post are simply scintillating and the picture frames add to the beauty.

    Shall await write up on Kasauli.

    • aurojit says:

      Thanks Mr Ram Dhall,

      actually Sabathu is visible from Kasauli (smallish structures across the valleys, which I first thought to be Shimla). Will include a snap in Part II.

      Doing nothing – I am always for it, especially if ‘not’ doing nothing in todays world of consumerism means unending, mindless grind towards maintaing the company’s ‘bottomline’, when the worth of an employee to the Company is assessed in terms of ‘Cost to Company’ (for sobriety’s sake, they could at least term it as ‘Benefit to company’, BTC).

      So doing ‘something’, including ‘everything’…. is defined in terms of gross currency earning ability…. and the same reflects in our evolving mindset – buy things on your whims, not need; define criterion based on currency… forget whatever happened to terms like sharing, goodwill and frugality.

      Well – I suppose trampling on too many feet..

      Thanks
      Auro.

  • GAM says:

    Very amusingly written with witty captions on the photos.

  • ssk agra says:

    very good

  • Sahil says:

    Dear Mr. Aurojit ,

    Very interesting post with nice pics. I have never been to Kasauli , but after going through your post , I think Kasauli really deserves a visit.

    Sahil

  • Stone says:

    Very nice post Aurojit, I really liked the way you described eating options there.
    Another destination added to my ‘must-visit-before-I-die’ list.
    Thank you for sharing.

  • Nidi... says:

    Pictures covered with fog and the greenery all around is making me to get a visit to this place….!!
    waiting for more pictures of here..

  • Nidhi... says:

    Pictures covered with fog and the greenery all around is making me to get a visit to this place….!!
    waiting for more pictures of this beautiful place

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    An interesting post, Alas! it ended so soon.

    Cost-to-company / Benefit to company – Interesting thought Auro.

    • aurojit says:

      Hi Mr Manish

      Thanks for your comments

      CTC and consumerism is a subject common to all of us, because we have seen the conception from its origin, over here in India.

      Thanks,
      Auro

  • Nandan says:

    Der aaye durust aaye !! Appologies for the delay.

    It’s not meat-chai, it’s rather meet-chai, you know like meet coffee, meet chawal, meet pahari and so on. And rest of it later as I get pulled in later.

    • aurojit says:

      Hi Nandan,

      Its my turn to say DADA (Der aaye durust aaye ).

      It was a Puja break, you must understand, so ‘no show’.

      And ‘Meet Chai’ – Bongs call it ‘ADDA’ (‘Meet’ followed by anything; or nothing at all, till the time it’s FOE – Freedom of Expression’ for participants.)

      Thanks for comments.

      Could you place the link under the headings in Kasauli, parts I, II articles (- linking each other)

      Auro.

  • Denis Thakur says:

    ‘Kasauli – the quiestes hill station’ The most distinctive feature of Kasauli is that being the first hill ranges after the plains of Haryana & Punjab if offers unbridled view of the plains on one side as against the Shimla hills & beyond on other side. Hills adopt different moods during different seasons of the year, I invite you to soak in the spirit of the mountains during monsoons -….great pic’s thanks for sharing..

  • Pushkar says:

    Lovely write up. Making it more interesting to visit Kasauli which I am planning to visit in a couple of days. But quite apprehensive to go in these rains. Perhaps you could give some options for stay in kasauli and could not find your write up on kasauli liank

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