After our week in McLeodganj, we made our way to the hill station called Shimla. The local bus was our best and cheapest option so Steve booked online the night before we left. When we got to the bus station we started looking for the right stance. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, nothing was marked. Lots of buses were coming and going and we were afraid we would miss our bus. We tried to ask official-looking people but apparently being there 30 minutes ahead of time was absurdly early so we just had to wait. The chaos was driving Steve crazy, which I admit was entertaining to watch!
While we waited, we got the hang of the system. Each bus had two people working on it – the driver and the ticket seller. The bus would pull up and driver would get a break while the seller would walk around the station calling our the destinations. People would get on as they heard the name of their destination. We thought we had it in the bag.
About five minutes before our bus was supposed to leave, a guy came over to us and said ‘Are you Steven?’ Turns out no one really buys their tickets online for local buses. He had a “passenger manifest” that was basically just a piece of paper with “Steven McNaughton +1” on it. It also turns out that if a white guy is at the local Indian bus station asking multiple people about the bus to Shimla, people will talk and everyone will deduce that he is likely Steven McNaughton, the guy who prepaid online. So our ticket seller got us in the right bus and away we went!
The bus ride was eight hours of bumps, twists and sharp breaking down the side of a mountain. We felt a bit nauseous but the scenery was amazing.
We stayed at a guesthouse in Shimla run by a man who had run a volunteering organization in India with an American partner for many years but had shut down the business during the economic downturn. He was a very interesting guy to chat with and the food his wife made was delish.
We spent the next few days exploring Shimla. During the time of British rule, Shimla was a posh hill station for the ruling elite because it was accessible from Delhi by train in one day. We noticed it still has a much more upscale feel with many chain stores and higher end amenities. It had a very interesting multi-level market with the more posh shops on the higher levels and the local markets down below. We took some time to wander through both to get a feel for the different areas.
My favourite story from Shimla involves Steve being chased by a monkey for his ice cream cone. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of the chase itself but I did get an after photo of the dejected monkey. The monkeys are incredibly bold in Shimla! Earlier in the day, we saw a little boy get his cone swiped by a monkey but Steve was convinced he would be a harder target I he went ahead and bought a cone. The monkey literally sized him up from a tree a good 300 metres away, ran down the tree and beelined it to Steve. There was a group of Indian teenagers beside us who started yelling, laughing and pointing at the whole thing. Steve’s strategy was to shove the entire cone in his mouth and if he hadn’t done that I honestly don’t know if he would have won the battle!