i (i) wrote,

night before last, i stayed in Kalka, in the foothills of the foothills of the himalayas at a posh resort normally only frequented by indians. i was dumb enough to purchase a package including this stay, two nights in shimla, train from delhi there and back, a night in delhi and train passage to goa, for almost double what it would have cost me to do it on my own. it has made it easy for me to take care of my eyes, staying in more upscale places, but i spent too much, even if it was a bargain by US standardes. i'll go backpacker style from goa on. went for a walk uphill from the hotel, since i was too far from town to wander around and see the kali temple i wanted to, and encountered a bunch of rhesus monkeys, which are ubiquitous around here. the hills around kalka are farmed on terraces probably hundreds of years old, and are dotted with houses, all brick or concrete, which are built with materials carried by hand (or on heads) up and down winding paths for amazing distances.

the train to shimla was 5 hours late. i spent most of the time talking to a british couple i met at the station. i mentioned to them my observation that the infrastucture of india is crumbling, but must have been beautiful at some point and my curiosity about when that might have been. "when the british left" was their response.

i climbed into my car before i was supposed to (my name was on the list taped to it, after all)only to have an engine hook up and pull it out of the station! it went about 100 yards and then backed it up onto a track one over from the platform. then it went and got another train to put between it and the platform, but not before i grabbed my bags and sheepishly ran across the tracks.

[excerpt from email to jane]i am in shimla now, amidst former colonial splendor, now neglected into ruin, surrounded by the nouveau middle class who seem very concerned with their personal appearance while oblivious to the appearance of the country around them. i rode up here with five young men (late teens, early 20's), three of whom are aspiring politicians. all were fairly well off and enthusiastic about the visit to shimla of sonia ghandi this afternoon. (i'm going)(well, i was going to, but the crowds were insane. i'm online now because all the restaurants are full). after we ate the lunch served us on the train, they dumped the contents of their trays out the window in the face of a spectacular view. in fact, they threw everything out the window, even though there was a porter who would collect all trash and dispose of it. i don't get it. then their main focus when they got here was hiring some girls. they invited me. no thank you very much! i did
drive around with them and get an idea of how indian men travel, 5 or 6
to a room in seedy hotels, despite the fact that they had their own car
and driver, and could have afforded a suite. how odd. i was
introduced to the president of the youth congress, who's name i forget.
she was a very personable, very attractive woman of about 30, holding
court for a half dozen part officials in her hotel room. i think the
kids misled her about who i was in order to get her to provide a room.
i'm not sure because it was all in hindi. anyway, i avoided them this
morning. i just needed some peace. ran into a guy named hank who i
had seen in delhi at the station there. he's a psychiatrist/historian here to interview a lama. we had breakfast and a mocha. i'm looking forward to getting out of the cold tomorrow. i arrive in goa the afternoon of the 18th. i likely won't stay there long, judging by what i've heard about it. sounds kinda sleazy, so i'll dip my feet in the ocean and head east to some temples and a more backpacker atmosphere, where i can hopefully meet some likeminded
travellers and get advice for future destinations.

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