Technically, we started our day at 8pm last night by getting the bus from McLoed Ganj to Dharamasala before boarding our 9 hour night bus to Shimla. The night bus was… Interesting! Having paid an extra 70 rupees (70p) for a ‘deluxe’ bus, I fear Jayne and I were slightly misled!! It certainly made us laugh, especially as Jayne’s seat was broken so would only stay in the reclined position and my window wouldn’t close (only an issue when it started raining!!). After a rather sleepless night, avoiding other cars and cattle, we arrived safely in Shimla around 6am. Keen to stretch our legs, we walked the 2km from the bus station to the train station. Sat with some locals waiting for the ticket office to open and watched various Indian men try to impress us by going near the nearby monkeys, only to run away the minute the monkey turned to look at them!! We were slightly worried that, being a UNESCO World Heritage site, we might struggle to get train tickets. We fully expected that we might have to stay in Shimla for the day/night. However, 4 minutes after the ticket office opened we had 2 tickets (for about 50p each!) for the 8.35am train. A quick snack shop stop and 2 cups each of the nicest coffee ever we were on our way!
The journey down the mountain side in the toy train was spectacular. Can’t believe it is over 100 years old. The views were incredible! The 102 tunnels were made slightly less appealing by the locals (I’m assuming tradition) of screaming, shouting and blowing whistles throughout the duration of every tunnel. Once in Kalka, we boarded another train to get us to Chandigarh. A slightly traumatic experience trying to get off the train whilst 100’s of locals tried to get on at the same time. Jayne was a total trooper getting them to move – apparently saying ‘back up’ with hand gestures works in all languages (having a big backpack to bulldoze them may also have helped!!).
Having been on and off public transport for almost 22 hours at this point, we decided to walk the 8km from the train station to our hotel. Was really nice to walk through a new city at dusk and see how Chandigarh is very different to everywhere we’ve been so far in India – much cleaner and, almost, less manic.
A few bids for negotiation and a walk out of one hotel, we finally settled in a very simple and clean hotel. Dinner in a lovely vegetarian restaurant attached to the hotel and we both fell into bed exhausted!