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Views from Shimla
(India)

The drive back into the hills was beautiful yet again. Shimla, the Queen of the Hills was my destination. Famed for being the summer capital where the British governed the country during the hot summer months down on the plains.

It was an early start and a long drive from Delhi. On arrival in Shimla after some shenanigans finding the right accommodation I ended up finding a hotel not far from the town centre. I parked Boris and crashed out for the rest of the day and night. 2 hours sleep the night before had left me wrecked after 9 hours on the road.

After such a big sleep I awoke fresh, ready to explore Shimla. The town was quiet at 9am, slowly waking up as the stalls, shops and streets came to life. Breakfast at India Coffee House on Mall Road afforded me great views down the valley. It was very peaceful and I enjoyed a chat with a few locals over breakfast. I went for a morning stroll after breakfast. Wandering the streets, it was so peaceful, the birds singing, and trees dominating this old hillside retreat.

Views from Shimla (Shimla, India)

Views from Shimla
(Shimla, India)

The Main Square in Shimla (India)

The Main Square in Shimla
(India)

Christ's Church in Shimla (Shimla, India)

Christ’s Church in Shimla
(Shimla, India)

I spent the afternoon continuing the gentle stroll by accident. I popped out for ten minutes to park the car and came home 4 hours later. Shimla was the kind of place you could just explore with such ease. My walk took be past the Shimla Rail Museum, I walked through the lower bazaar, snacking on local treats as I went. Then I walked west out-of-town to explore the natural beauty and amazing building landmarks. As a passed by Peterhof (the old government guest house) and found it packed with people. It was his holiest Satguru Baba (Hardev Singh Gi ‘Maharaj’ ‘His Holiness’ of Niran Kari faith www.nirankari.org) speaking to his followers. I chatted to a chap called Sachin about the occasion. Apparently just seeing his holiness is enough to bless you. It was an unexpected bonus for the day to be blessed by a person considered to be god. As a result I felt confident that the rest of the trip would no doubt go off without a hitch.

Satguru Baba's ceremony (Shimla, India)

Satguru Baba’s ceremony
(Shimla, India)

Street Market (Shimla, India)

Street Market
(Shimla, India)

Another stroll out west of Shimla trying to find the Viceregal building failed but it was nothing to worry about. As this was a very relaxing, not a care in the world kind of place. I just brought some sweets and waited for the train back to Shimla from Summer Hill. 30 minutes I was told until the next train. I wondered if that was an Indian or British 30 minutes? I didn’t really care as I sat in the sun at Summer Hill watching the world go by. It gave me the chance to enjoy an afternoon nap in the sun as I waited. 50 minutes later the train arrived. I purchased my 5 rupee ticket and we were off. A wonderful 8 minute ride through the hills and tunnels back to Shimla followed. While I marvelled at the engineering feat of tunnel 103 (out of the 104 tunnels) that the British engineers had to build to create this train line into the hills.

Summer Hill Station  (Shimla, India)

Summer Hill Station
(Shimla, India)

The Shimla Express (Shimla Express)

The Shimla Express
(Shimla Express)

Shimla left me in a relaxed mood as the hassle and bustle of Delhi soon faded. But there was more mountain retreats to be seen. I left Shimla at 5.30am to beat the traffic and head towards Manali in the morning sun. Stopping at Pandoh Dam for breakfast and then continued up the winding roads up the Kallu valley towards Manali. All was peaceful in the world and fairly uneventful until my first case of road rage. I came close to fisticuffs with a biker who got in the way and took offence to me calling him a $^@&!& idiot. All was soon forgotten as I drove off and the single finger salute was produced by both parties, bringing an end to the altercation.

Early morning on the road from Shimla to Manali (Northern India)

Early morning on the road from Shimla to Manali
(Northern India)

Sunrise on the road from Shimla to Manali (Northern India)

Sunrise on the road from Shimla to Manali
(Northern India)

The drive up the valley beside the river was as scenic as ever. The signs that this was a tourist haven were easy to spot. Every 50 metres there was either a place to buy a Shawl or a place to go rafting on the river. On arrival into Manali I found a small and busy little hub that was the centre of town. A local cops helped me find my hotel eventually. The locals aren’t always the most detailed in giving directions so you have to ask around. Once on site at the Apple Bud Cottage Mr Ram Singh was very helpful and the free upgrade to luxury suite certainly washed away the weariness of the journey. Sweet As, Mr Ram Singh, Sweet As!!

Manali Main Street (Manali, India)

Manali Main Street
(Manali, India)

Temple Hot Pools (Manali, India)

Temple Hot Pools
(Manali, India)

Rotung Valley (Manali, India)

Rotung Valley
(Manali, India)

Manali is famed as a mountain retreat. It has a bit of everything for every traveller. Walking, hiking, hot pools, coffee shops, skiing to name a few. It’s the gateway up the Rotung Valley to the pass that takes you into Ladakh and into the Kashmir/Jummu regions. Manali is a place the travellers often find themselves stuck in for a week or two, unable to leave the tranquility of this small mountain town. Over the next couple of days I visited the local hot springs, relaxed at cafe’s with the most amazing views and went for a drive up the Rotung Valley towards the pass. It was just more of the chill time that Shimla had re-introduced to the journey. And with the views out the window I could have easily stayed longer. Alas 3 days passed in a flash and I was on the road again.

Boris & me heading up the Rotung Valley (Manali, India)

Boris & me heading up the Rotung Valley
(Manali, India)

2 Responses to “Shimla & Manali – Queen of the Hills & Mountain Retreats”

  1. Love it fella. Your drive is inspirational.

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