Last Shimla Sunset
Always a beautiful sight. KJ and I will always hold the vistas of Shimla close to our hearts.
We made it out of Shimla on Tuesday morning. We hired a private car to take us down the mountain to Chandigarh. Total cost for the new Toyota Elios and a very good driver was $49 US. The ride took 3 hours and with every kilometer we breathed easier due to the increase in oxygen and the knowledge that we were a kilometer closer to leaving India.
We came to like, if not love, Shimla. It is a beautiful locale and in the end we met some very kind and helpful people but not enough to offset the tremendous hassle of traveling in this most vexing of lands. I would like to return someday to hike the Kashmir area but only with another person capable of taking care of themselves. Somebody like Noah, Greg, Reed, Montgomery, Stites or Tom.
We must add that the food here is among the best that we have ever eaten on the road. The breads are amazing, the vegetables are the best tasting we've dined on and the meats superbly fresh. We will most certainly miss that aspect of India.
Our last stop was in the city of Chandigarh. Designed by the modernist
View of the Himalaya. Air Conditioning system and monkey entrance. What's not to like?
architect Le Corbusier after India's independence, it was meant to be the epitome of modern Indian cities. The entire town of 900,000 is divided into a grid of 1 kilometer squares with wide streets and large traffic circles to facilitate the movement of people. Soviet era looking low-rise apartment buildings were erected for the poor with large casement windows overlooking the boulevards. When we arrived we found many of the neighborhoods hidden behind tall masonry walls topped with razor wire. Many of the windows are long gone and the openings may now be covered with large sheets or nothing at all. The reason we chose to come to Chandigarh was only because there is a large airport here with international connections. Under no circumstances were we ever returning to Delhi.
We booked a room for $36 (highest price we've paid in India) in the Rio Hotel because of its proximity to the airport. The Rio is located in a partly demolished building on an empty parking lot. The hotel restaurant is closed and food choices in the area are slim to none. The temperature when we arrived was over 100. Small groups of thugs lounged along the street in
Morning Of Our Depature
We both were feeling chipper on this day.
front of the building. After checking in we were constantly hassled by hotel staff for another look at our passports or asked to fill out additional 'mandatory' government tourist forms. We ordered delivery of some Indian food and hunkered down for an early morning getaway. I felt like Dillinger at the Bohemian Lodge. At 1 AM a drunk Indian hotel guest mistakenly tried to enter our room with his key. He seemed surprised when I answered the door wearing only my underwear and a week's worth of South-side Chicago attitude. He beat feet. I didn't sleep after that.
Final observations; India is a flat-out beautiful country. Just stunning. Plenty of different terrains to suit an outdoors-man's needs. Wonderful food. It would be great to come back to India and hire a guide and a car for a visit to Kashmir and Ladakh. You really need a baby sitter in-country to help you sort through the problems. I would never again bring a woman here unless she knew how to handle herself and had an appetite for it because sooner or later she would
have to handle herself. This is no place for the meek and mild. I am sorry
Freaky isn't it but you get used to it amazingly fast because, in fact, it is very good tasting food.
that India did not work for us but I am happy that we took a step back and gave it a chance even if it didn't come together. No harm in trying and failing. Only in not trying. If nothing else I'll always have the memory of the day the monkey tried to break into our room and that marvelous look on KJ's face.
My heart goes out to my friend John Montgomery who lost his wife, Marie under sudden circumstance this past Sunday. I cannot imagine what he is going through though I know that many of you readers do. John; I will be in touch with you as soon as I get to civilization.
Noah: It's all good. Given the circumstances we managed pretty well for a couple of geriatrics. Never let em' see you sweat and always stay in touch with that 'Mad Monkey' that dwells inside you.
CONTEST ANNOUNCEMENT: Guess the next country we are going to and win a local souvenir worth less than $1. No multiple entries and Karen's family need not apply. Send your answer via the comments section of this blog.
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