"…that this was pleasingly beautiful, while the other was sublimely grand" -Meriwether Lewis, June 14, 1805
The seasonal seat of the British rule in India, the Himalayas offered cooling respite from the hot summer heated plains. It is now an odd mix of Indians on Holiday and Tutor architecture. It is decidedly Indian with litter yet public smoking is banned; the Ridge is pedestrian only though traffic and horns ring this particular hilltop atoll; the shops are high-end and for the first time I see Indian wealth along with a Domino’s Pizza shop (open even on Diwali); an old man stands guard at the bank with a shotgun while helping this Anglo open the door.
The Ridge is a pedestrian promenade from which cars are banned. It takes me hours to find my way into the town by way of a tunnel, after a police man directs me away from the first tunnel, and obvious entrance to the town, given it is after 5 pm and thus closed to inbound traffic. Ringing the city and at one point motoring downhill and away to a suburb, I connect from desperate inquiries that I’ll need to turn at a traffic light for a tunnel, then find a hillside parking garage and leave the bike for the duration of my stay. I negotiate a better rate prepaying a few days, and carry what I can to a large, trippy elevation that lifts one up to the cobblestone mall road. I’m bogged down with gear and walk uphill the wrong way just to spite the honest directions of an otherwise steering taut. I pass by again later, and exhausted, will eventually reach the YMCA at one of the highest points in town and damn near hidden behind a church.
I spend several nights out and meet many good people. I email the driver who gave me a desperate lift in the Spiti. An advocate treats me to a round. Several German girls working for a German firm in Gujarat join me for a breakfast and a dinner.
As it turned out, I never came into Delhi and caught a train to Kalka for Shimla; I had flown on to Leh and a whole other story was born. But the narrow gauge train struck a curiosity. Pragmatically, the gentleman at the Y helped me with scheduling so that I worked backwards and caught the train from Solan after a taking a bus winding bus down from Shimla.