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Day 32: Chandigarh to Shimla

Michael Palin - HimalayaWe rattle into a tunnel. One of 103 on the line, their entrances all numbered and marked with the exact length.

Deepti opens plastic containers and gets out lunch for the family. She was up at four this morning, she says, preparing pooris and aloo for the journey, and she insists on sharing them with me.

The deep-fried fluffy pooris mix deliciously with the curried potato. There are four more hours of the journey to go and I feel in no hurry at all, which is just as well, for the progress of the Himalayan Queen is dogged rather than dashing. We rarely make much more than 20 miles an hour, which is all you want with good food, good company and a good view.

I stand at the open door and let the gradually cooling air blow over me as we snake round corners and in and out of trim stone tunnels dug into the hillside like rabbit holes. As we climb, the date palms, rubber trees and bougainvillea give way to grassy meadows, oak scrub and then spindly deciduous woodland.

I have a knowledgeable companion in Raaja Bhasin, a neat, theatrical, young man who has written books on Shimla. The British, he tells me, had discovered the spot in the 1820s, and it was so much to their liking that in 1864 it was declared their summer capital.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 32: Chandigarh to Shimla
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Kalka
  • Book page no: 72

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