Shimla

Monday 12 February 2018

By 12pm we were pulling into shimla. It was exactly how it looked on tv. The blanket-clad porters rushing to the train, to grab each person filing off.

It was cold. Nearly zero degrees.

I headed to the taxis, they were expensive. Costing almost £4 to drive the short distance to near where my hotel was.

Large parts of shimla are pedestrianised. So the taxi took me as far as he could. Which was further than I thought it could go. Then all I had to do was walk up (quite a lot) of stairs. With my luggage. I had ran out of change to be able to pay a porter.

It wasn’t too hard. But I didn’t feel great one I reached the top.

I’m staying in a heritage hotel. A very old building, which has been preserved and retains an ‘old world’ feel to it. Not my usual style of hotel, but everywhere in shimla offers very poor quality/value for money. This hotel is expensive.

I ended up with a suite. Definitely not the room I had booked! I had a lounge, a huge bedroom, a dressing room and a bathroom. Very cool. Even a partial view across to the ‘view’ of the rest of shimla.

Shimla runs along a 12km ridge, surrounded by steep forested hillsides. It is one of India’s most popular hill resorts and Indians come here to vacation. (My train was certainly full of them!).

The main road – which is pedestrianised -is known as the Mall. And I’m staying at one end of it.

It was around 1pm when I headed out for a walk. To look around, and find some food.

Just next to the hotel was an amazing view, all across the hillside and surrounding valley. Colourful buildings cascading down the hill. Completely covering the mountain.

The streets were busy, lots of people. And the shops were a random mix of old fashioned traditional shops – selling books and clothes etc. And brand new western shops like Nike, Adidas and Benetton. The supermarket was particularly exciting.

I ended up walking further than I had planned. And spotted a cafe that I had read about, Indian Coffee house. It was very old fashioned inside. The waiters wearing fancy outfits and serving cheap food. 80p for a dosa. Yes. It was tasty. Different to South Indian style (even though really it is a South Indian food).

I walked back a different way. On a higher road, past the main square with the church. And a temple in the background on the hill. Pretty.

From here I headed back onto the mall, then further down into the lower bazaar. This was a more local area. Shops selling clothes and general stuff. The smell of ghee sweets wafting from the many sweet shops.

The lanes split in different directions, one headed down was a fruit and vegetable market. Colours spilling out on the street in all directions. A lot of noise – every stall owner shouting out their goods. And people moving all around. It was hectic. And smokey – many people had small fires lit, I guess to keep warm.

I bought a couple of things – bananas and sapota. They didn’t rip me off either. I had seen how much the person infront of me was paying and I was charged the same.

Then headed back for the evening.

For dinner I ordered a local thali. And asked for vegan – and they completely understood. And made me an entirely special meal (which was completely different to what they would normally put on the thali). It was so delicious and one of the best meals I’ve had all trip.

I had, spinach curry with sweet corn, lentil dal, a kidney bean curry, pumpkin koftas in a tomato curry, rice, falafel type things, naan bread. So good.

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Loud thunderstorms woke me at 5am. Right overhead.

I needed to be up just after 6am anyway. And out of the window, snow. And despite still being dark, several Indian tourists were already out, jumping about in the street.

I was supposed to be getting a taxi to the airport at 6.30am. The receptionist thought I was mad – he clearly thought it was obvious that no plane was going to be departing today.

After a bit of googling, and he called the airline for me. Apparently the plane might run.

So I headed off to the airport. It was a 1 hour drive. Round and round, winding roads.

We were headed downwards, the snow stopped. Turning into rain.

By the time I reached the airport, it was just heavy rain. And a bit of fog.

The airport was just one large room. No bag drop. No departures. And there was 1 other person waiting. The staff set up a heater for me and ushered me over to sit by it.

And a short while later, decided that no plane was arriving from Delhi. So no plane to go back to Delhi. Great.

So car it is then. Which the airline organised for us. A total of 4 passengers (the other 6 didn’t turn up!). It was really squashy.

And it’s an 8 hour drive.

So there goes my temple plan for the day.

The first 2 hours were winding roads. Round and round the sides of the mountains. I felt awful. It was foggy. Rainy. And the car was very squashed.

We passed over the railway line a few times – the route I had taken up yesterday.

When we popped out from the bottoms of the mountains, we were by kalka. Where I started yesterday.

From here, it was fast, straight roads.

But for some reason we had to swap cars again. Something about the current car not being able to drive faster than 80km an hour. And we had to wait well over half an hour. Rather frustrating.

New car, new driver. And this one was a bit crazy. Zooming between motorbikes, cars, buses, lorries and horse carts.

9 hours later. Finally in Delhi. No temples for me. Shame.

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