As a committed Indophile, I was excited to see the trailers and posters for the new Channel 4 drama series, Indian Summers. I was also a bit suspicious though: I mean, I’m really interested in that period of history, and I’ve love to see a quality TV series made about it (Jeremy Paxman presenting The Raj, a documentary series covering British-Indian history as comprehensively as The World At War, would be my pitch). But I was surprised that anyone else was.
In Shimla, a dodgy internet cafe virus wiped my SD card, and I lost all the photos from Nainital, Haridwar, Mussoorie and Dehradun that were on it. The ones I was most upset about losing were the ones from my day in Dehradun and the two couchsurfers I’d met.
When I got back to the UK, I used Recuva to recover the data from the SD card. Some of the photos were immediately recoverable in perfect condition, while others were corrupted to differing degrees: some were completely destroyed, while others had bits and pieces still salvageable.
So, with the damaged Royal Enfield Bullet packed up and transported off to Delhi, I abandoned plans for venturing further into Himachal Pradesh, and took the Kalka-Shimla Railway back down to Chandigarh.
At the station, I wasn’t sure which window to use: reserved or unreserved tickets? On the basis that I only had 15 minutes before the train, waiting on the platform, was due to leave, the queue for reserved tickets was much longer, and the two Europeans I spoke to in that queue were buying tickets for another day (and another railway line entirely), I went to the almost queueless unreserved window.
The man behind the counter was the same one I’d spoken to the night before, who’d said a first class ticket was Rs245 and I could buy it on the day. This morning, however, he told me there was no first class. Instead, I could buy a basic ticket for Rs40. Imagine, Britons, a six hour rail journey (London to Dundee, say) with tickets available on the day for 40p.
The bike, and associated kit, has been dropped off with the transport company to be sent back to Delhi. I’m still in cold, humid, rainy Shimla for another night.
So, it looks like I won’t be seeing the Himalayan moonscape of Kullu valley, nor the home of pop culture celebrity and theocratic feudal dictator-in-exile the Dalai Lama, Dharamsala. However, I will be achieving another goal that I thought I’d be missing out on: the Kalka-Shimla Railway. This narrow-gauge mountain railway, often called the “Toy Train”, is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site umbrella of the Mountain Railways of India. I already had in mind a future trip to India based on travelling all of the narrow-gauge mountain lines (which, being a more sedate itinerary, could be postponed until middle or old age), so I’ll count this as a recce.
I’m planning to take the Himalayan Queen Express out of Shimla tomorrow morning, and end up back in Chandigarh by the evening. There, I hope to see the Rock Garden, and day trip to Pinjore, and then head up to Amritsar for a few days, before returning to Delhi.
If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know I’ve been having numerous problems with the bike and was considering switching to other means of transport. I was also undecided where to go next from Shimla: further into the hills (Kullu or Dharamsala), risking more wet weather, or back down to the plain.
This morning I got up early and decided to head for Kullu. I set off at about 0730, successfully navigated onto the right road, and was feeling confident.
About 5km out of Shimla, I was coming down a slight incline and curve in the road. I braked, wobbled, slid on the slippery surface and toppled over. It was at slow speed, and no other vehicles were involved.
I’m absolutely fine: apart from a tiny graze on my elbow, totally unscathed. I’m not even feeling shaken at all, just a bit embarrassed.
After Mussoorie, I stopped over for a night in Chandigarh, the state capital of both Haryana and Punjab. My couchsurfing contact, Goldie, was a great host, but I was only using Chandigarh as a staging post, and didn’t really see any of the city. I intend to go back there and stay with Goldie again, on my way back to Delhi in a week or two. However, this time I was quickly on my way again to Shimla, the old summer capital of the British Raj.