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Published: October 28th 2011
Evil monkey looking at us through our caged window.
We got on the bus early for another long, winding journey through the hills and thought we might be in for a pretty comfortable ride as the bus was only half full leaving Manali. Of course we should have known that we'd be picking up people along the way until we were crammed to capacity. We had reserved 2 of the front row passenger seats but it turns out that the driver's compartment in front of us held another 20 people anyway. This was unfortunate for us as there were a few kids up front that were having troubles stomaching the endless swithbacks and bumpy roads. We had to keep our window closed the whole time to protect us from projectile curry puke!
We finally arrived in Shimla early in the evening. There was a mob of touts and porters waiting at the bus stop so we just quickly grabbed our packs and hiked the long, steep hill up to the town centre. After wandering around looking for a decent place to stay we reluctantly settled on the local YMCA for the night. Predictably, it ended up being sub-par in the hygiene department and had as much character as an
Our little guest room.
abandoned mental institution. The next morning we packed up and found a nice little guesthouse just down the road.
Shimla is probably the most 'British' place in India. It was developed in the mid 1800s by the English as a hill station and summer retreat area for those trying to escape the deadly May-June heat in Delhi. There are a number of historic buildings from the British era along the main Mall. We weren't too impressed by the British architecture but did splash out on some fine dining while we were here.
The main draw to visiting Shimla is the opportunity to ride the famous Shimla-Kalka rail line. The narrow-guage railway winds it's way down from the mountains into the plains north of Delhi. You pass through over 100 tunnels along the way and travel at a delightfully slow pace in an open car with simple bench seats. It's was an unbelievably relaxing ride after our recent experiences on the bus. You can hang out the open doors and just soak up the scenery and cool air. We met a cool Dutch couple that were traveling India for the second summer in a row with their 3 elementary
The rooftop terrace. Note the radiation warning sign behind me. The sign said we were fine as long as we were outside that fence. That must be some kind of fence!
school aged children. The kids loved it so much they begged to come back again.
In Kalka we connected to a first class train heading straight for Delhi where we would be spending the night before moving on into Rajasthan the following day. We made it back to Delhi after our epic overland trek from Leh. It's funny how it took us 1 hour to fly up to Leh and 30 hours on the bus and 8 hours on the train to get back. A trip like this reminds you of sheer size of this country and the experiences you can miss by taking the easy route and flying from city to city.
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