We left Chandigarh on a five hour bus trip up into the cool air of the hills and the hilltop station of Shimla. We were greeted quite quickly with rising hills or more's to the point mountains, bedecked in trees, dahlias, budlieas, monkeys, dogs, cows and people everywhere. We caught glimpses of the toy train making its way back down on an equally long journey. The mountain tops dipped in and out of the clouds. En route we were subjected to some awful radio station which believe me if I could have got to my ear plugs I would have done but it didn't diminsh the wow factor of the scenery.
On reaching the bus station at Shimla we were greeted by porters running alongside and banging the side of the bus all vying for our luggage and then us! We had decided where to stop but inadvertently read its location wrong. We made our way to the Passenger lift to head upwards into the town. Why a lift I hear you say? This is because Shimla is built on seven mountain tops and spills elegantly over and down into the valleys far below. The main part of the town is best described as centring around three roads. One for traffic two for pedestrians all at differing levels, with steep climbs between each. So we headed up the lift to The Mall (top road) to find chosen hotel was twenty five minutes walk back in the direction where we had come from!! Ah well the walk did us good and we provided some entertainment for the locals parading along The Mall!
Our hotel was an original colonial bungalow situated across from the Railway Board Building. It oozed character and the shower oozed water over two electrical sockets! Monkeys bounce of the tin rooves creating lots of noise and entertainment!
After regaining our composure - or should that be our breath - in the evening we did the done thing and strolled out for dinner. Shimla by night shimmers. When you look down onto the valley floor there are many lights that look like the stars in the night sky - magical.
We visited the Viceregals lodge which is where the viceroys (and co) decamped along with the rest of the government from March to October every year. The lodge is based on scottish architecture and is set amongst green lawns and flower borders filled with dahlias, snapdragons and gladioli. The interior is clad with teak panels, dark wooden floors and some of the ceilings are carved with intricate patterns from walnut.
On our walk back we passed many colonial bungalows in varying states of disrepair and all very large. The temperatures are lovely and cool, we have even had rain! My fleece has finally seen the light of day as the evening air tends to be a little too cool for my liking!
There are lots and lots of monkeys about. They are quite cute but equally can be quite nasty. The advice is if you get into a confrontation with one, don't look into their eyes and don't smile/laugh at them, as in monkey speak this means 'oh yes boys game on!!' One carries her umbrella not only to keep herself dry, but to ward off any furry advances!!
Christ Churh is a proper english church painted in cream and stands proud in the town. The interior is bedecked with brass plaques to church members and various members of the forces from days gone by. It is a peaceful and calm place and a total joy to visit.
We have spent many happy hours just wandering around and soaking up the atmosphere and trying to imagine what it was like all those years ago.
After a few days we headed back down to Chandigarh on the toy train. And it really is tiny. There is no room for luggage and we had to share our carriage with a school party of teenagers which was entertaining to say the least. The guard is all dressed in white and loves the attention he receives. I found the little steam enginge and took plenty of photos. The trip takes 4 to 5 hours and we had stunning views as we travelled down the ridges back to the heat of the sultry plains.
We will miss Shimla it was a total joy to be here and experience we were glad to make the effort for!
Our next destination is Agra. We have a ten hour trip via Delhi on the bus, hopefully we can get an air con one!!
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