And we’ve made it! Another really long day on the roads, though the main problems this time were cows on the road, rain and the volume of traffic rather than the road surface. It is starting to make us wonder whether our planned Shimla to Leh via Spiti trip is viable, though.
We had surprisingly good omlette and toast for breakfast and were on the road shortly after 8 am. The plan was to get to Shimla in good time to contact BA before their office closed at 5 pm. The drive down the Baspa valley was lovely but the road on from the junction was very bumpy again, though it did improve as the day went on. I was intrigued by the smell of weed as we drove along, until I realised that the roadsides, in places, were full of Cannabis sativa growing wild!
The many cows grazing the road verges don’t look like they are permanently stoned, so maybe the alkaloids deter them. The vegetation is now starting to look much more tropical and lush though, sadly, we weren’t really stopping to look. We did see banana trees growing in a couple of places though.
What had been a beautiful sunny day suddenly changed, just before we got to Rampur and it rained, and rained… We had thali in a roadside café – three plates plus bottled water for 170 rupees. The traffic seemed to get heavier and heavier and, as always, what looked like a straight road on the map turned out to be a series of zig zag bends, up and down the hills.
There are apple trees all over the hillside, many covered with nets which look like giant spider webs in the rain. Much of the slow traffic on the roads is small trucks heavily laden with apples, bringing them to roadside ‘agencies’ for packaging and transfer onto big lorries for the drive south. The towns are particularly congested, especially as we start to run into school bus traffic.
Hotam has some difficulty finding the hotel, partly because it sits on Shimla’s old Mall and there is no road access to the front of the building but we arrive at 4.45, just in time to make a first stab at contact BA. It’s well worth all the hassle of the journey. Clarkes hotel is a fantastic late 19th century building, they have upgraded us to beautiful suites, and the staff are incredibly friendly and helpful – its all rather surreal after some of the places we’ve stayed this week.
We have time for a cup of tea then I jump into the bath before Martyn and Helen arrive by taxi from the station. They are tired, but seem to have enjoyed the journey. We have a phone call from Sumit, who will be taking us on a walking tour of Shimla tomorrow morning and, on his recommendation, have dinner at ‘Shimla Times’. This feels a bit of a cop out, in some ways, as the food is very continental, but John and I are ready for something that isn’t curry! Helen and I have mushroom crepes and John and Martyn have pizza, though Martyn does manage to find one with paneer!
When we got back to the hotel, Yasin had phoned for a chat. He’d said he would phone back so we sat and looked at photos together, for a while. We gave up in the end though, as we were all very tired.