1st February 2013
Arrive in fog at Delhi airport at 3.15 am local time. We have decided to be 'lazy' travellers and fly to Chandigarh, as we really want to get to the Shimla Hills to meet our friends Skinny & Myra, who arrive there tomorrow. We book the 10 am flight for 60.00p each, we will then get the train (or bus) the rest of the way.
I'll cut a long story short, our flight is canceled, due to the fog. We can either get on the bus that they are providing, which theoretically will cost us 60.00 each or we can have a refund. We go for the refund option, which takes nearly 2 hours to sort out. They are very quick to take your cash, but not so quick to return it. After talking to two Indian people, one local and one from Canada, we arrange to share a taxi with them to Chandigarh. It costs us 35.00p so divided between the four of us, it's not to bad. The young lads father, then also arranges a taxi for us to go straight to Shimla. Our first taxi driver gets us out of Delhi safely, which is amazing, considering he looks like he may fall asleep at any time!
The road from Chandigarh is very mountainous, so although it is not that far, it is very slow. We arrive at Shimla, which is high up in the mountains, at around 8.30 p.m. When we arrive it is cold & wet. A porter appears from nowhere and offers to show us where our hotel is, for 50 rupees, thank God he did, we never would have found it. It was up a very steep rubble track, (I think would be the best way to describe it). The hotel does not seem to have a record of our booking, which is not a good start. The room is....basic, cold and dirty, we are not impressed, but we are to tired to be bothered to complain tonight. I get the 'emergency' sheets out of our bag, there is no way we are sleeping on their sheets. The next morning we go in search of a better room. We decide to find Myra & Skinnys 5* hotel, then get a room near to theirs. (They are on a tour with the Great Rail Journeys, hence their 5* accommodation). We find a better room. What we have realised , very quickly, is that in India, you pay more, but get less for your money.
We get back to the Hotel Prestige and tell them that we are going to check out, a night early. The manager seems surprised! We tell him the room is not clean enough, he offers to move us to a better room. I ask him to come up to the room with us, so we can show him how dirty it is. He is reluctant, but agrees, in the end. I could carry on whining about this room and the 'better' room, but I won't bore you with it! Needless to say we move rooms, but they will not give us a refund, as I had booked through Agoda. Lesson learnt, only ever book for one night, then if it is OK, book for longer!
Time to meet up with Skinny & My at their hotel. It is great to see them both after one year. We catch up on all their local gossip (very disappointing), and arrange to meet up with them over the next few days. They have lots of tours arranged, but have one full day free. We arrange to meet them, to go for a good walk, unfortunately, it is pouring with rain and the wind is bitterly cold. They end up 'slumming' it, in our hotel for the afternoon, drinking tea and chatting.
We spend four nights in Shimla, then get the 'Toy Train' to Kalka (5+ hours), this is one of the 'Great Train Journeys' in the world, apparently. Maybe if the rain is coming down the inside of the train, wetting us and our bags, it is. Unfortunately, it really wasn't that 'great' for us! Then the express train to Delhi.
What a 'shit-hole' Delhi is. Couldn't get out of there quick enough. Dirty, dirty, dirty!
Onto Agra, to visit the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Our hotel rooms are improving, you'll be pleased to hear, and our next one even has a roof terrace. We arrange to meet the girls at the Taj. This may seem like an impossible task, seen as there are thousands of visitors here every day. We arrive there mid afternoon and they are due to arrive late afternoon. We have the most perfect weather, blue skies, but not to hot. We start looking out for the girls. Matt has our trusty monocular (a going away gift from the Clark's) that goes everywhere with us, and amazingly he spots them. What a great way to spend our 'one year away anniversary'. FABULOUS!
On to Jaipur to visit more forts, palaces and temples. Unfortunately, Matt gets 'Delhi-belly', on our first night here. He had a sore throat, so had some ice-cream, big mistake. Our sight-seeing is curtailed, somewhat. Never mind, I sit in the garden of our very nice hotel, while Matt tries to catch up in the sleep he missed in the night!
Sunday 10th is the last day with Skinny & My. We hire a tuk-tuk for the afternoon and visit Jaigarth Fort with them. it's very high up and has the largest canon in the world at the top. The views over the city are fabulous. The ride to and from the fort is fascinating in it's self. Ali, our 20 year old driver, takes us down the side streets, where the local kids all shout and wave at us. We pass pigs, cows, camels, horses, goats in coats (no I'm not joking) and even elephants along the way, yet another great day out.
Tomorrow we fly to Goa, to meet up with our friend Kirsty, who is now living there with her Indian husband Pammy and 3 year old daughter Latika. It should be the perfect end to our travels, as she has managed to get us a villa to stay in for a couple of weeks, while we get our heads around the fact that we are heading home, very soon!