In the crowded, cut-price and cutthroat world of Shimla tourism, a resort’s success or failure is decided primarily by the view. Everything else comes a distant second. Hilarious frauds like ‘Eco Jungal Retreats’ abound, specialising in the felling of virgin groves and the erecting of some hideous tent or glass palace in its place. Not so Aamod, a resort that boasts every possible mod con, but one that also tries hard to preserve a sense of isolation, introspection and hard work.
Located at the tiny village of Shoghi some thirteen kilometres before Shimla, the resort’s giant sign can’t be missed. Alighting at Aamod — just off NH-22 — you receive your first surprise. The car does not drop you off at the reception, but stops just off the main road. You are then expected to walk up a steep and winding path to reach the dining area. The reception itself is another incline and a set of steep steps away. At Aamod, you are expected to exercise those leg muscles.
Spread out over a forested ridge, Aamod consists of twenty freestanding cottages, with six pinewood, eleven mud-finish and two family cottages. Apart from this there’s a mud-finish deluxe family cottage. All of these structures are made on natural clearings, and the resort is particular to point this out. A good thing, too, because the closer you get to Shimla, the more environment norms get thrown out of the window.
I stayed in one of the pinewood cottages. Quite large and airy, with a lot of natural light, the cottages have evidently been built with some thought and a fair amount of care. A large king-sized bed that is just soft enough for a good night’s sleep dominates the rooms, with an assortment of pictures of old Shimla for company. The bathrooms are small and compact, although the bathing stall is a bit too tiny.
What spoils the serenity of the place somewhat is the national highway, which is just a forested knoll away. You should be prepared to be rudely jolted from a reverie by an occasional cargo truck with its silencers shot. Much more pleasant are the many trains of the Kalka-Shimla railway that pass through the day. The narrow-gauge line winds its way around the ridge Aamod stands on, passing a hundred feet under the property. Indeed, you could spend an entire day watching the trains come and go, as they make their way through a couple of tunnels to the nearest station, Kathleeghat, some two kilometres away.
All the cottages come with their own spacious balconies complete with quaint lantern-shaped light fixtures and a rocking chair and table. The occasional monkey family taking up residence on the balcony just adds to the charm.
Aamod is an activity-based resort, and to this end, it has an excellent bunch of adventure professionals who organise some interesting ways of getting your hands dirty. You can go rock-climbing or mountain biking, or spend the day floundering about in a tangle of ropes doing things like Commando Net and Rope Bridge Walk. The pick of the activities, though, are the nature trails that dot the ridges, connecting villages and temples. Most of these follow forest paths over the surrounding ridges, and they make for great walks, especially if you get lucky in your choice of guide. The best walks, though, are the ones that follow the railway track, through innumerable echoing tunnels — there are 103 in all — and steep cuttings and quaint little stations. Less impressive is the small activities centre, with the requisite Ludo and Chinese Checkers boards, as well as a small library made up of mostly second-hand thrillers.
The big disappointment at Aamod is the food. Despite a battery of chefs, and great service, the dishes on offer are middling to bad. The Chinese has too much salt, while the Indian cuisine is too generic to justify the prices (all meals cost extra). Aamod has two dining options — a spacious restaurant called The Colonial and an al fresco eatery.
The spa wasn’t functional at the time of my visit. However, its location is pretty spectacular, with an unrestricted view of the lower Himalayan ridges as they march west like petrified waves towards the distant plains of Punjab. If you’re a sunset nut, this is the place to be.
What Aamod is attempting is laudable, and thanks to the excellent staff, the resort meets most of its promises. However, there is a lingering doubt about the kind of clientele the resort is likely to attract due to its proximity to the main road. The weekenders who come to the Shimla hills are looking for maximum comfort — with views — and zero exertion; those interested in adventure usually venture deeper into the mountains. But if you’re looking for an exhilarating weekend of breathing fresh air and relaxing among the pines, Aamod is just the place.
Where: Shoghi town, off NH-22, 13 km before Shimla
Accommodation: 20 cottages: 17 deluxe; 2 family and 1 family deluxe
Tariff: Rs 7,000 (deluxe); Rs 12,000 (family) and Rs 14,000 (family deluxe)
Contact: 0177-6532020, aamod.in