November 16th, 2006 – by: condoug
The back of the bus
We set off from Delhi at about 6 in the morning, the usual band of rogue cows were keeping guard outside of the hotel. We appear to be amoung the younger passengers on the trip. About half the the group appears to be eligible for pension benefits. I hope our CPR skills will not be required at any point along the way. The ride out of Delhi was a surreal, a bit like riding at 50 kms an hour for an hour through a burning garbage dump with interesting scenery. After we escaped Delhi proper we saw our first patch of blue skies in days. We stopped to get fuel on the way out and were inundated with two kinds of local wild life; flies and monkeys.
Constance with Avtar& Nick in Shimla
I guess in a country were cows wander at will and you-know-what at will, you have to expect that. The flies are rather friendly as well as the cows so, it isn't that bad (if you like flies and/or cows). The monkeys on the other hand are rather unfriendly which isn't a bad thing (if you don't like monkeys). As well, they appear to have a cruel streak. We saw one beating another one with a stick. I imagine having monkeys in your backyard would be like having 20 pound squirrels with hands and bad attitudes. The drive through the country was wonderful, we saw all kinds of animals, cows and cows and cows and oh yes a camel. Doug claims to have seen an elephant working on the side of the road???? (anything is possible in India). Although no one else on the truck saw this "elephant".
A watch monkey
There is speculation, that it may have been a large COW.
It was about 3 hours of driving later, in the rural areas, though dusty countyside, with brick making plants (made by hand) and poultry farms which you could smell for miles in the warm air, that we finally started to climb into the hills of the region. Some of the roads were like those of Sask. but others were decidely worse. We were getting pretty shaken up in the back of the truck. Doug says they are "bloody unreal". Leafy trees and vegetation started to give way to pine trees and semi-alpine looking terrain. We spotted monkeys along the road side periodically, a sure sign you are still in a semi tropical area.
Toilet flushing Shimla style
We then started to drive up the most incredible mountain track (road) we have ever been on. This road is narrow, no shoulders AT ALL. No passing lanes, and traffic like Memorial Drive at rush hour. Buses loaded with people, trucks sagging under incredible loads, little white cars every where (everyone seems to have a little white car here). If you went off the edge of road ( a distinct possibility) you would have a long time to think about your life, as you would be in free fall for several hundred metres. The scenery is spectacular, and I fear that our pictures won't capture the enormity of the landscape. We can understand why the leaders of India, and before them the leaders of the British Empire, chose to come to Shimla
for the summers, it is truly a majestic place.
Former summer residency of the British colonial government
Our driver, Nick and our capable Indian guide, Avtar, kept stopping the truck and trying to find a suitable location for our first night "rough camping" on the road. I (C) kept having this horrible thought, that when they left the truck, the park brake would fail and we would go carrening backwards over the edge of road. I don't do well on narrow mountain roads. But they searched in vain, no place was level enough to set camp, so we ended up driving all the way to Shimla, an amazing mountain city, the entire place is built up the sides of an incredibly steep mountainside. Every building is either build on stilts, or carved out of the side of the mountain. Here people still do things the old fashion way, by hand.
We watched as some men and women worked a moving a pile of dirt and rocks from the road in front of our hotel. They had a rope attached to the handle of the shovel and with one person manning the shovel and the other pulling the rope they moved a big pile of earth onto the back of a gravel truck. There are no "Bobcat" dealerships here. But people can work on slopes better than any piece of equipment. The night we arrived here in Shimla, it was cold, and we were glad we brought our long underwear. The hotel has plenty of hot water, but no heating at all. Burr. Although during the day it does warm up pleasantly. We have spent two great days here and tomorrow we are off again to our next destination.