It is March 8th and after spending three nights being cold in Shimla we decide it is time to move on. We are going to leave the mountainous area and go further west to Chandigarh which is about 130 km southwest of here, but more importantly out of the colder mountainous region.
To get there we are going by bus. Although the distance is not far the road is full of switchbacks and the trip takes approximately six hours. The cost of the bus transport is about $3.50 each. It was quite an adventure driving out of the hills. On both sides of the highway were buses and cars parked along the way, with a few cows here and there, making the roads at times quite narrow. It was a roller coaster ride, curving and winding all the way down. I had a lot of respect for our bus driver as I watched him maneuver between the parked vehicles and the on coming traffic. What was most amazing though was how often he passed vehicles in the middle of a switchback when you couldn’t see on-coming traffic. There appeared to be a system of just holding the horn down until finished passing. We sat in front of a fellow who spoke excellent English and he was telling me that the mountain bus drivers are specially trained and highly regarded. Not all bus drivers are as well trained so it is important to take a slightly more expensive bus, which we so happened to be on.
I chatted quite a bit with this fellow and he asked me a question that kind of surprised me. He wanted to know if Magnetic Hill was as magical as it appeared on TV. Really?! Of all the tourist sights in Canada I was surprised that this is what they are seeing. Way to go New Brunswick! I wondered how many Canadians knew of this place.
Our next destination, Chandigarh is the joint capital of the states Punjab and Haryana. It is known as the first planned city of Independent India. A Swiss architect, Le Corbusier, was commissioned in 1950 for this task and he conceived a people-orientated city of sweeping boulevards, lakes and gardens, and grand civic buildings, executed in his favourite material, reinforced concrete. This description from the lonely planet travel guide appeared to be quite accurate as we drove into our destination.
After we settled into our hotel, we headed out to the shopping district in search of food. The shopping district is a large outdoor plaza with dozens of boutique shops and restaurants. This evening we are having Chinese food with an order of fries. Just outside the restaurant was a lazer light show being played on the water fountain to disco music. It was quite impressive and we watched for a couple of minutes before heading back, as believe it or not, it is too cold to stay out! So although we escaped the bitter cold, it is still not quite warm enough for us. Turns out that northern India has been uncharacteristically, even record-breaking, cool and wet the last few weeks so that’s what we have been feeling and it is not just us.
The next day we decide to take in a full day of sightseeing. One sight I am expecially eager to see is the Nek Chand Rock Garden. It was started by an artist from Bengal in the 1960’s, and contains sculptures and designs made up mainly of discarded rubble (broken crockery and bathroom fixtures, broken bangles, smelting clinker, electrical insulators, etc.) from the building of the city, it’s a fantasyland of weird and wonderfully artistic representations. The park is essentially a linear path winding its way around and up-and-down through the various canyons, waterfalls and sculptures, taking maybe an hour or two to see everything and exits out through a 1.5 metre high hobbit-hole. I totally loved this place! The entrance fee was 50 cents each.
From the Garden, we walked to the artificial lake and park known as Sukhna Lake, which is used as a recreational facility. It was a pleasant and relaxing place to sit for a while and contemplate our enjoyment of retirement. We paused for a light lunch of potato patties and tomato soup. One of the interesting things I saw at the
lake but have seen elsewhere are people who go around and polish/clean people’s shoes. It actually took them about 20 minutes to clean a pair of runners but they were spotless once done.
From there it was back to the room and unfortunately for me, back to being sick. I spent the rest of the day in bed under lots of blankets with frequent trips to the bathroom as I threw up everything I had eaten over the day. Will this never end?!
Hopefully I will be better tomorrow as we hope to head to Khanna to visit with friends of Sanford, but my health will determine whether we move on or not.