Thursday, 25 March 2010


Tuesday 23 March: Charles Kennedy , a Scottish civil servant, first built a summer house in Shimla in 1822 and in 1864 the Raj followed, making Shimla the official summer capital of the British Empire in India. From this lofty ridge, away from the baking hot plains of Delhi, one-fifth of the human race were ruled for nearly a century. Now the state capital of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla is a clean and tidy town with a feel of Scotland about it. The mountain air is fresh and sweet, the centre is quiet and traffic free, my hotel room is spacious, comfortable and good value.
So I stroll down to the plush colonial style Cecil Hotel, built 1925, where Michael Palin stayed when filming Himalaya - don't believe for minute that he was roughing it on a BBC budget. I look around the bar and lounge then continue further out of town to the Scottish Baronial castle of Viceregal Lodge, home of the British Raj until 1939, now an educational institute.
After lunch it's a hike down to, The Glen, a thickly wooded ravine of mostly dark green pines peppered with the scarlet blooms of rhododendron trees. I'm feeling a little homesick after this very Scottish of days so retire to the YMCA, now a government run hotel, and watch the
short-tailed, pink-faced, red-arsed Rhesus Macaques playing noisily on the red tin rooftops. The windows are nailed shut to stop these most indiscriminate of thieves and vandals entering the rooms. The YMCA welcomes all, even women - but not smokers - it's my sort of place.
In fact it's against the law to smoke, spit, drop unbiodegradable litter or use plastic shopping bags anywhere in Shimla. I like Shimla, it has an interesting variety of shops that make it look like an old British high street before the chain stores arrived and made every town centre look the same.
News from Hamish Jameison of Freighter Travel (NZ) cheers me up - I'm no longer homesick - my passage has been booked and a cabin reserved
for the 9 day voyage from Singapore to Freemantle, Australia, on the cargo ship MS MSC Basel for January 2011. The Basel only has two passenger cabins and they are both fully booked for most of 2010.
Wednesday 24: I awake to the noisy drumming of a troupe of Macaques scampering along the rooftops - what a sweet alarm clock.
Pictures of Shimla.
Continuing the Scottish theme I take the eight-hour overnight bus and then local bus to Mcleod Ganj.

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