TREACHEROUS DRIVE UPTO 8000FT ALTITUDE
FESTIVAL OF HOLI: LET’S THROW COLOUR!
We leave on the world-renowned day of Holi, the festival of Spring where Hindus celebrate wildly with coloured powder-throwing, allowing me to indulge. Groups of kids stop traffic through rural roads, demanding money. The forfeit? Car (and contents if doors aren’t locked) doused in watercolours. I can resist no longer and leap out to soak a group of stunned boys with their own coloured powders. Needless to say, our driver is little amused as I return to the car dripping in a liquid rainbow, beaming an aura of self-satisfaction.
LUXURY HOMES NESTLE AMONGST SLUM SHEDS
Shimla is in the State of Himachal Pradesh. It’s an airbrushed palette of pastels; a mesh of slum sheds and luxury homes interwoven into the Himalayan hills at giddy heights. Candy-floss coloured homes stack on top of each other, with drastic drops; people live on the edge of cliff-tops and of poverty, yet at the cutting edge of reform. Universities attract smart liberated girls, who freely ride their scooters to campus, relishing the freedom found with education.
With a rich British history and as the former summer capital of the British Raj in India, it strikes several chords with British travellers who make the journey. And with hotels like the Oberoi Wildflower Hall, it is a journey well worth making.
BLESSED BY LORD HANUMAN
For the headiest heights, trek up Jakhoo Hill, the highest summit and home to a towering 33-foot orange statue of Lord Hanuman, affectionately known as ‘Monkey God’. Amazingly, it houses hundreds of wild monkeys, the red-bottomed vicious ones. I watch in both glee &terror as one manoeuvres the trouser leg of an Oriental tourist, frisks each pocket and swipes one of his cameras. The poor man watches helplessly. It’s believed Lord Hanuman blesses Shimla, echoing Christ the Redeemer’s presence over Rio.
OUT FOR THE NIGHT
Mall Road is the night-time buzz word. Indians on holiday dress up to stroll the commercial mile of shops, stalls, restaurants, roadside eats and bazaars. Here, Indians are visibly comfortable in their surroundings, dining and socialising, and it’s a known haven for India’s honeymooners.
STUNNING SCENERY FORMERLY NEPAL
A short drive lands us at the foot of Mount Kufri, a natural park in the Himalayan belt. Unfortunately, the only way up is on rickety horses, knee-deep in mud& snow and it’s best to go early before swollen volumes of tourists cause congestion. I even witness a rebel horse throw off a passenger and make a run for it through the woodland, whilst others cheer as I gallop past, shouting things like ‘Sonia Gandhi.’ If you understand that analogy, please enlighten me!
The views up here are surreal; mountain ranges ensconced within a snowy embrace; the main draw to this region which was once a part of Nepal.
WORLD’S MOST ASTOUNDING TEMPLE
Don’t miss ‘Tara Devi’ temple. To reach, you must remain determined! The road up is hair-raising, testing the mettle of any car& driver skills. Built 250 years ago, the temple hovers atop a mountain, encircled by majestic undulating hills as far as the eye can see. It’s stillness, ethereal beauty& inimitable location make for a spine-tingling experience, comparable only to Peru’s elevated Macchu Pichu Inca ruins. Outside the temple, I’m captured by the stark spectacle of thousands of red& gold prayer flags fluttering in the wind, tied around a tree-trunk alongside bunches of decorative bangles; against a dramatic backdrop of Himalayan peaks. They symbolise girls’ aspirations to find a good husband; bangles being emblematic of married women.
LEAVE IN AWE, VOW TO RETURN
Shimla tickles anyone’s fancy as an untterly unique and fascinating location. I leave wowed by it’s structure and in awe of it’s chaotic harmony. It makes London roads and traffic seem like a doddle!
- Who is poor? (straydog77.com)
- Around Summer Hill (themirrorview.wordpress.com)
- Pictures give rare glimpse into life under the British Raj (itv.com)
- Travel Guest Post: Mesmerizing Beauty of Kullu Manali & Shimla (jetsetera.net)
- Himalayan glaciers dwindle each year – Times of India (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)