Pat and Richard in Northern India 2015 travel blog

On the train from Delhi

On the Kalka-Shimla train

The view from our hotel in Shimla

The body van

The Vice regal residence


A 6.15am start on Monday morning to catch the train from Delhi to Chandigarh. At this time of the morning the roads were fairly quiet, the temperature hot and steamy but not overwhelmingly so and the station was not too chaotic, and we found our seats with no problem. We were in Chandigarh by 11.30am and transferred to our air conditioned (sometimes) bus - very unDragoman like!

On the way to Shimla we had the opportunity to ride on the Kalka - Shimla toy train, a narrow gauge railway which snakes its way up into the mountains through 103 tunnels and magnificent scenery. It was built in 1903 and it's now a UNESCO World Heritage site according to the signs. Unfortunately the rest of India had the same idea and we were packed in like sardines, standing and sweating for a couple of hours till we decided we had had enough and got off and called the bus to pick us up. We arrived in Shimla at 7.30pm after a couple of hours of steep, windy roads and beautiful scenery all around.

Shimla is a very pretty town, elevation 2205m, which used to be the summer capital of the Raj where they could escape the heat and humidity of Delhi. Every year until 1939 the entire government of India relocated here until the weather cooled down on the plains below. The first thing I noticed when we went out for dinner in the dark was the illuminated statue of Hanuman, the monkey god, on top of the Jakhu Temple high above the town. That's on my list for a visit in daylight tomorrow!

Shimla is built along a 12km ridge, with the centre of town known as Scandal Point (some dignitary many years ago abducted a woman from this area, hence the name). All roads are very steep so we are getting a good workout today. You can see the British influence in many of the buildings, especially the Viceregal Lodge which the Lonely Planet describes as a cross between Hogwarts School and the Tower of London - pretty good description. It now houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study but we were still able to go inside and see the beautiful building - lots and lots of teak on the walls and ceilings, all taken out of Burma by the British many years ago. The gardens were beautiful as well. There is a Gaiety Theatre in Shimla, modelled on London theatres, which has recently been renovated and they are hoping it will be UNESCO World Heritage listed, and also the mock Tudor post office which looks very out of place. Plus a very English looking church, Christ Church, the second oldest church in northern India, built between 1846 and 1857.

A few of us decided to walk up to the Jakhu Temple, braving the very annoying rhesus macaques on the way. The road was very, very steep and it took us just over half an hour to reach the top of the hill. As usual, the local people wanted to have their photos taken with us - I don't know what the fascination is, but I suppose judging from the advertisements for skin whitening creams they must be hoping our skin colour will rub off on them. The temple itself was quite small and dominated by a huge orange statue of the Hindu god Hanuman, the monkey god. The macaques were everywhere gorging themselves on the temple-blessed food the devotees drop. Our guide told us that they are not allowed to cull the monkeys, but sterilise the males to keep the population down, good idea as they can get a bit aggressive.

Now back at our hotel for a rest before dinner. We have a big day tomorrow as we drive northward further into the Himalayas. We are camping tomorrow night at Shoja, so no internet.

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