Between journeys, I stay a couple of nights in Shimla, a hill station clinging bravely to the slopes around "The Ridge", which the main road, "The Mall", traverses. Shimla, much cooler than the plains in summer, was once the seasonal seat of government of the British Raj, who build mock tudor buildings, churches, pavilions with bandstands, a race-course, a narrow gauge railway from Kalka in the plains below, and other homely installations. The Viceregal Lodge, complete with the white Ambassador cars, seems straight out of Cthulu.
But Hinduism has also exercised it's influence. Atop the highest peak (2600m) near the town is situated the Jakhu temple, dedicated to Hanuman, the monkey god. The monkeys must somehow sense this, as hundreds of them congregate around the temple and the surrounding woodlands on slopes below. Apparently they can be quite vicious, and enterprising shopkeepers at the chai shops en-route rent out walking sticks to ward off the beasts. I forgoe the weapon and confront the one monkey that dares to approach me by baring my teath and hissing at it. It gets the message and scuttles away.
Picturesque as it is, after one cold night and a day seeing sights, I haven't seen any travellers in town, and I'm yearning for a bit of like-minded company. My second evening in Shimla, and last evening in Himachal Pradesh, I spend packing again before having dinner and playing cards with some Kashmiri men who work for the hotel in exchange for their "cozy", a tiny room cum kitchen in which they live.