Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Shimla - So what did we actually do? (Part 3)

So, I am at 8,500 ft on a pony, no riding helmet, holding a camera, next to a snake temple, over looking a golf course - where else in the world could I be but India!!

We took a pony trek to get higher into the mountains and to see the world's highest golf course. There was actually someone playing! The pony guides led a few ponies in tandem and essentially ran up the hills, wthout breaking sweat. The beauty of the mountains and valleys was outstanding - tho the mist meant we couldn't see the distant snow clad mountain tops.

The "Toy Train" runs from Kalka to Shimla and takes 6 hours, going through 103 tunnels and over 800 plus bridges.  We took it for an hour from Shimla to Tara Devi. The train trip is quite an event for a lot of Indians and their families. Some of them were taking more pictures than me, family groupings on the platform, with the portly station master, (attired in white waving a green flag), all dressed in their best. The train duly wound it's way thro beautiful forests, over bridges and thro tunnels. The first tunnels causing much excitement and cheers from our fellow travelers, true Indian exhuberance and joie de vivre! The following sign was on the wall at one of the tiny stations we passed through - such wisdom. 

We got out in the rain and begin our trek up into the hills to the temple of the goddess, Tara. She is a manifestation of Parvati (Shiva's wife). She is supposedly beautiful but a bit "crazy" according to our guide - perpetually self-combusting. We  almost didn't need a guide but could follow the red and gold ribbon tied on the trees by pilgrims on their way, which reached a crescendo on the trees outside the temple.

 We all successfully made it to the top, to 8500 ft. I was really impressed with the kids endurance as they scaled the hilly slopes like mountain goats! The mists were still down so the views were not all they could be but still magnificent, if only in their abundance. The rich trees were white oak, cedar and rhoddedendrum, I never realised that our rhodedendrum bushes are imported cuttings by the British from these trees. I can't imagine what the forests must look like when theses are in bloom.

We also legged it up the long hard climb up to the Jakhoo temple from Shimla church. This was quite a climb. At the bottom was a board giving target speeds to top, for various age groups -  a time for the fit and the not so fit. The tourists huffed  and puffed, while the locals raced to the top in saris, heels and carrying babies.   We got to the top complete with our anti-monkey sticks, as the monkeys are a big nuisance - we also had to take off sunglasses and baseball hats - big monkey targets! 
And what else did we do?, well we shopped, just for souvenirs.
We made friends!!
And just enjoyed the incredible beauty of our surroundings, to return to Bangalore, refueled, recharged.........

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