In the Foothills of the Himalayas

From Kalka, you can take a Toy Train to Shimla up in the foothills of the Himalayas. The toy train is a heritage listed piece of machinery, that was once a steam-engine locomotive and today is used as an alternative form of transport into the mountains.

This turned out to be the best thing I could have done in Shimla as a lone traveller.

The distance from Kalka to Shimla is around 98KM, however the train journey lasts no shorter than five hours (12:10PM to 17:20PM).

At Shimla, we are already at an altitude of 2076 metres above sea level – from this vantage point you can see the snow-capped Himalayas in the far distance and the environs of lush greenery.

Here’s a view from the balcony at the hotel I was staying at – at sunset.

I was staying in Chaily, about 8KM from Shimla proper and the hotel was at the bottom of the hill. So I decided to hike up the mountain and summit. At the university on the hill (about the mid-way point), I stopped to observe what was a protest against fee hikes for student fees.

There I met two young law students, Mukesh and Suresh. As the protests disrupted the class schedule for the day, they invited me to explore the city with them. This turned out to be the best thing I could have done in Shimla as a lone traveller.

We visited the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), which was once the summer capital of India (during the British occupation). In the great halls of this heritage building sat a walnut table, at which the first drafts for the Partition were debated and subsequently signed. Mahatma Ghandi sat at this table! No photos allowed though, sorry!

We then walked all the way to Mall Rd in Shimla proper and the protests seemed to have escalated dramatically. On this narrow road, there was a fire engine blocking the way. From the distance as we approached, I didn’t notice that the windscreen had been smashed in – then I noticed men around me picking up stones as if to lob them towards the 200+ strong force of riot police officers. All that was running through my head was “I’m Australian, I’m a foreigner, I can’t get caught up in the cross-fire.

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