Shimla and Dalhousie
We flew to Chandigarh from Jodhpur via Delhi – two flights of around 2.5 hours in total flight time with an hour to wait in Delhi. Once in Chandigarh, we boarded a bus and drove for a little over five hours to Shimla.
We were accommodated in the Hotel Prestige – a hotel which certainly does not warrant such a title. There were a number of rooms which were quite dirty – literally and the morning after arrival the manager was instructed to have all rooms cleaned. The hotel (as many do) had WIFI but was inaccessible on arrival. The following morning there was an assurance that it would be available in the evening. However, to my surprise (not) it was not available. It turned out that the one and only person who had the WIFI password was out of town..!!
Thankfully, after a call to KV our guide and a phone call from him to the absent staff member, we had the code. One of our group was given feedback unsolicited that the Hotel Prestige was dirty – no arguments there…!!
Shimla Toy Train
We all elected to take a ride on the Shimla “Toy Train”, a railway (only one of two in India which are World Heritage Sites) which was built on a very narrow gauge (762 mm). The trip took us some 80 kilometers from Shimla to Solan and we had private transportation back to Shimla.
The ride was an “out of India” experience with likely double the number of people standing in the carriage as were sitting. Amongst those standing on our carriage were a delightful bunch of young Sikhs from a school in Armistar who were on holiday with their teacher. The kids kept us all entertained along the way with many photographs taken and laughter throughout.
We had lunch at a restaurant heading back towards Shimla and after arrival Shimla, we visited the former Viceregal Lodge, the residence of the Viceroys of India. This imposing building was where the British Viceroy resided for several months of the year as the government of India was conducted from Shimla away from the heat of Delhi. This was also the place where discussions over the partition of India and Pakistan took place and in one room the small table at which the split of the two countries was the centerpiece.
Once we left the former Viceregal Lodge, we took a walk through the centre of Shimla and people went their own ways to have a wander through the shopping area.
The following morning we departed Shimla bound for Dalhousie at 0700 for what was supposed to be an 11 hour travelling day. Sadly, this turned into nearly a 15 hour day with a stop for lunch and a few stops at local shops for a quick refresh and we arrived at our hotel at 2140.
For some, sleep was a good option during the course of the long day.
Notwithstanding the length of the drive, the countryside was fascinating as was the driving and the state of some of the roads. Not quite the world’s most dangerous roads with 1000 metre drops but hairy in places nonetheless. The driving was generally well ordered but suffice it to say that there were some statistics in the making practicing their own demise. Our driver and his spotter pictured below were superb.
A few of us laughed when we observed below us what we thought was the old washed out road - nek minute we hung a right and were driving on it...
The countryside is very interesting - at present the wheat harvest is just commencing and you can see it for as far as the eye can see.
One thing we noticed from Shimla onwards was the amount of wild marijuana growing on the side of the road (used for medicinal purposes only I daresay...).
Dalhousie, our northernmost destination, is a former British Army garrison post and has some 3000 Indian Army personnel on station today (largely engineers). The town has grown since the British departed and has a number of hotels which are popular for Indians escaping the summer heat.
Dalhousie is beautifully situated high above rural small villages situated within terraced gardens.
Our hotel (Grand View) was established in the nineteenth century and has been extended over the years. It was very comfortable and the owner was there to greet us on arrival with dinner awaiting us and the hotel was somewhat of a improvement on our Shimla experience to everyone’s relief. One thing which has been fascinating from time to time is to see how our luggage is transported from our bus to the hotel.
We had a drive to a small waterfall – barely a trickle by New Zealand standards and then back to Dalhousie where we had a look at a local church and a drive through the old Army garrison area. Strictly no photography is permitted of the Army base. The local forests are very beautiful with Himalayan cedar, oak and pine trees throughout.
In the afternoon after a large lunch at our hotel, we again boarded our bus bound for Dharamshala, the town in which the Dalai Lama resides. Time to explore Tibetan Bhuddism.