Wednesday, 13 October 2010

What is the strangest thing you have seen down a city alleyway at 10pm or on a train platform at 7am?

So this post comes from Shimla, 2200 metres up in the Himalayas. Took 10hrs to get here from Delhi but the views alone are worth it.

Back to yesterday's action.
After waking up quite late I spent lunch and early afternoon at the Red Fort in Delhi. When you come up to it, it totally dominates your view, the ramparts stretch for 2km. Once inside it opens up into expansive gardens and old ruins that seem to go on for an age. I basically took a slow walk in the very hot sun and had a nice curry for lunch. Not much else to say on that accept that on my way there I encountered my first child street beggar. She must have been about 8, very pretty but filthy. She tried to sell my some crappy pens but I had to refuse because she wasn't the only one there and you can't give them all money, plus they were crappy pens.
I wont lie though, it was a very uncomfortable experience, especially when she started kissing my feet! However, I did come here to challenge myself, so I have to expect that I will see a lot more of this.

The rest of the day was taken up at the Commonwealth Games. It was packed out for the last night but fortunately Marion and David (the couple from the first night) had saved me a seat! Turns out that Marion is a bit of a legend. She donated a kidney to her daughter 5yrs ago and has so far raised a further $100k (still can't find the pound sign) for charity. She was pleased to hear that I am on the organ donor list.
I have been invited to stay at their place if I am passing through, but I am not sure if I will have the time yet. We will see.
The Games were good. It was nice to see some English gold medals won.
My top 3 moments from last night are, in reverse order:
3) India Women winning 4 x 400m Gold - in a packed stadium the atmosphere was electric. It was also India's first track gold since the 1950's

2) As David was running back up to his seat after taking a photo of the triple jump he tripped on a step. He used his camera in his left hand to stop himself, which was a good job as that extra inch in height stopped his face smacking into the corner of the step. After a couple of minutes of dusting himself down and fixing his camera I was allowed to laugh

1) After all of the events had finished and there was only a few medal ceremonies left to complete, a street dog somehow got into the stadium. Watching 5 Indian stewards try to chase and catch a dog around the middle of the stadium was great. They got nowhere near for about 5 mins and eventually the dog left of its own accord

On the way home I took the back alleys to my Inn and was faced with a cow! It was just ambling along at 10pm at night, just chilling out. Very surreal.

One thing I have noticed about India is that they are obsessed with white people. Everyone wants to shake your hand and have photos with you - wierd, but sort of like being a celebrity. I find it quite amusing when they just stare.

This morning I made my way up to Shimla. First was a 4.5hr train journey from Delhi to Kalka. The train left at 7:40am, but the highlight was seeing 2 donkeys walking down the platform!!
British Rail could learn a lot from Indian Rail. For my ticket price I got free drinks and breakfast as well as a place to lie down and polite service. Sweet.
Once at Kalka I got the toy train to Shimla. The bad boy took 5.5hrs but as you are climbing all this time through the Himamlayas it is just amazing. It also helps having someone to talk to. I sat opposite a German, Danny, who went to uni in the States so was fluent English. He is spending 3 mths in India to decide what career he will do. One option is to join his dad who has a yacht building business, minimum 20m (euros) per boat - erm, what is the problem?

So Shimla is the most magical place I have yet to visit in my life. High in the mountains it used to be the summer retreat of the British during the time of the Raj. It is all based along one main street which has numerous restaurants and shops - a bit touristy but still beautiful. There are also lots and lots of monkeys. Apparently you cant make eye contact or they will have you!
I am meeting Danny tomorrow for afternoon tea - keeping to my Britsh Raj roots.

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