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.