October 19th - Shimla (rest day)

Today was meant to be a rest day but in fact it turned out to be quite a hectic day of visiting Shimla and going on its famous narrow gauge railway.

Our bedroom overlooks a wonderful valley and in the distance are range after range of Himalayan mountains. We rose early and were able to watch the sunrise over the mountains, which was really very beautiful.

Our breakfast was on the hotel terrace and we could now see the furthest range of mountains, towards Tibet, were covered in snow.

At 9 am, forty-four of us were taken by a fleet of taxis into Shimla to catch the 10.30 am train. The drive from our hotel to Shimla was along a very busy road choked with dozens of buses dropping off and picking up passengers. Finally, we arrived at Shimla station to catch the train. The carriages were very old and basic and looked as though they were leftovers from the British. The diesel powered engine wasn't much better than the coaches!

The line has 103 tunnels and numerous bridges and viaducts. It is a great engineering achievement. The line was built in 1903 for the East India Railways and was part of the Delhi to Ambala to Kalka railway line. Our trip took about two hours. We disembarked and were picked up by our taxis to return to Shimla for lunch. Following lunch we visited the old part of Shimla, where one of Shimla's most famous landmarks is located, Christ Church, which was established in 1844.

We walked up the Mall where the main shops are located. During British rule Indians were not allowed in the Mall. How times have changed! Just off the Mall is the Gaiety Theatre and Shimla Town Hall, both designed by a Scottish architect. Shimla Town Hall.

India is a country of such contrasts. As we walked along the Mall we saw both modern, western dressed Indians talking on their mobile phones and at the same time men carrying huge loads on their backs.

I was following a group of young Indian women and was struck by the contrasting dress styles. A young girl in western jeans and the others dressed in traditional shalwar kameez. Another example of the contrasts between old and new in India.

After about two hours we took our taxi back to the hotel.

When we returned we learnt that Hugh and Julie Brogan, in Car No.1, have had to return to England. Everyone was saddened by the news. They have been such an integral part of the group that it will not be the same without them. We all wish them well and hope to see them when we return to the UK in November.

Tomorrow we drive about 300 kms to the Ananda resort. This is also located in the Himalayan foothills, but further south than Shimla.

For those interested, we have now driven more than 2,000 miles, we have climbed to the highest point of the tour the Jalori La Pass at 10,500 feet and been to the northernmost point at Manali. From now, until we get to Goa, we will be heading south.

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