In to the foothills of the Himalayas
Ever one to procrastinate the list of jobs I knew I had to complete before going away suddenly became over whelmingly urgent. Stress levels rose and some last minute glitches meant those closest to me looked on wondering whether I would be ready in time.
As Sunday morning came, I woke with a knot in my stomach rather than the excitement a trip like this should bring. A mixture of thoughts and emotions whirled around from the practical concerns through to saying goodbye to loved ones with limited contact for the best part of a year.
All too soon it was time to say my goodbyes (and exercise tear ducts in the process), the last farewell reserved for my bestest of friends; my brother.
Wandering in to the airport a feeling of isolation envelops and fear of the unknown. Detachment from all the constants I know, its something I’ve longed for but yet failed to prepare for despite all the quizzical looks I received from others when explaining my plans and my solo journey.
The flight from London Heathrow to Delhi is grounded for an hour and half once we board due to rain, but the time passes quickly thanks to the Russian physicist I am sat next to. We discuss his work on the large Hadron Collidor and various other concepts many of which fly over my head but its refreshing to talk to someone passionate about their work, and with it his own journey west to Birmingham a place he now calls home.
After touching down in Delhi I’m quickly through the airport and bound for New Delhi bus station through Delhi rush hour traffic and an explosion of horns. This is one of the most white knuckle rides I’ve experienced in any of the countries I’ve travelled in. By rights we should have crashed at least 5 times, and its still indiscernible whether the taxi driver had any brakes or the reaction times of Lewis Hamilton as each car, bus, cyclist or cow is passed with inches to spare in many cases.
Its with a sigh of relief I wave goodbye to my driver and am in to the hands of the bus station coolies all ready to help me with my bags and bike. After a quick bit of negotiation I’m deposited at the bus bound for Shimla and soon heading through the outskirts of Delhi.
The driving no less manic as we head through the Punjab plains and its searing heat, seemingly big is boss on Indian roads something I will need to heed over the coming weeks.
The 10 hour bus journey passes in a blur of power naps, Bollywood movies and watching life along the road. As the the road steepens we wind our way up to the hill station of Shimla.
The roads are steep and chaotic with traffic which give the them appreance of being a cyclists worst nightmare, I can only hope the traffic diminishes and the inclines lessen. Perhaps wishful thinking on my part.
Arriving in Shimla after dark I use a taxi rather than local bus, and head to Hotel Basant mentioned in Himalaya By Bike. At six pounds a night its cheap and with it grotty, its easy to understand why I’m yet to meet any other guests.