We did a bit of thinking and decided to go back and change our train tickets. Taking into account India time plus factoring the monsoon into it, we decided that the likelihood of our first train being on time and being able to catch our next train within a three quarter hour window was about as likely as seeing the Pope in a nightclub. So back we went to make a nuisance of ourselves at the
Railway ticket office again. By the time we’d finished enquiring about trains, times and other sundry details, the poor man at the helpdesk actually laid his head on his desk and groaned. I strongly suspect he was glad to see the back of us.
It turned out to be a fortuitous decision. After playing on the metro again and climbing 9 flights of steps with our backpacks and bags, it turned out that our first train was going to be 3 hours late. We congratulated ourselves most smugly on our intuitive foresight and settled down to wait. We were very lucky in finding a good seat under a fan with a definately lower count of sociable rats than last time and amused ourselves with a novel, a crossword book and watching an old man across the way discover the delights of the MP3 player. It ended up being a good laugh, as the owner of said machine was a very happy guy who sung out loud to his music while we mimed typical modern Indian dancing. A good time was had by all and before we knew it our train was arriving.
On this particular leg of the journey, we discovered something that will be of great value in future train-travelling; request a bunk as far away from the toilets as possible. We had the cubicle nearest the toilet and, well let’s just say that the air was rife with odours that are not to be compared with that of a rosebush nor indeed a field of lavender flowers. We live and learn.
We arrived, and gladly so, at Kalka station. The advantage of our train being 3 hours late was that we had 3 hours less to wait for our 12 o’clock train to Shimla. Kalka station is quite delightful compared to others we have been acquanted with – they are having ‘Clean Year’ there and there was no rubbish, spit, rats nor any of the other delights offered at other locations. They do, however, have a great variety of characters hanging about. One (female I think, hard to tell sometimes) considered herself to be a master of discourse. She raved on at the top of her voice in Hindi (I think), blissfully unaware, nor caring, that nobody was actually taking any notice of the many and voluble wisdoms she had to impart. We couldn’t help hearing her, of course, due to the high sound volume, and we did actually ponder what it was she was saying. Wouldn’t it be funny if she was actually another Einstein and was actually speaking about matters of inertialess drive, measuring the circumference of far away, yet to be discovered planets, and how to make a good cup of tea whilst floating in space.
After half an hour or so, she wandered of, wildly gesticulating, and we were just getting used to the comparative silence, when another one of these characters turned up. Well, no need for T.V. screens at Kalka railway station – there’s enough action going on already.
Our Toy Train was only one hour late in taking off and what a wonderful ride it was. It climbed the hills at a leisurely pace and the views out the windows were excellent. We shared the ride with an expatriot Indian couple who now live in Dubai and they were great to talk with. The train went through many tunnels, some so long it seemed we were in there for at least a minute. Each time we went through one everybody would scream with delight and when we came out the other side of the longest one, heaps of bats were flying around the entrance.
The train stopped at many little stations and so we didn’t get to Shimla until dusk (about 7pmish). By this time we had had enough of train riding and reckoned that since leaving our room in Delhi we had been travelling and perching for 22 hours. We were stuffed! As I stepped off the train, I was accosted by a hotel tout who spoke as if I were deaf, and I had to make it very clear to him that we needed a few minutes to sit in silence, thank you! We decided to go to this hotel in the end and thank goodness he and his cohort carried our bags, because there were no rickshaws and it turns out that Shimla is not called the Queen of the Hills for no reason. Up we walked, and then some, and then some more. I was dumped in the village square (or equivalent of) while Paul went to look at our prospective room. I was there for almost an hour before he returned and just about falling over with exhaustion. (Insert ‘Why do I let myself in for these journies??!!’ here.)
Our hotel, of course, was more up. Trudge trudge trudge….. (Chanting a mantra to myself, “This too shall pass,This too shall pass, This too…”.
Finally we were able to shut a door behind us and lay out flat. We ordered room service because no way was I being convinced to go somewhere for dinner – I knew it would include uphills sooner or later) and we ate that, had a nightcap of Southern Comfort in sympathy with our sore bones, decided we would decide at 6am in the morning whether we carry on with a 10 hour busride to Sarahan and promptly began to sleep like the dead.
NOTE: It is now well after 6am and we are still in Shimla.