If Slartibartfast won an award for the fjords, as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy suggested, then whoever came up with the Himalaya surely deserved an honourable mention. We’re currently in Shimla, once the summer capital of the Raj and now a pleasantly quiet and pretty mountain town nestled happily in the foothills of the Himalayas.
When I say “foothills”, I mean things that look suspiciously like mountains to the untrained eye, and would probably be called mountains just about anywhere else (if they didn’t have the likes of Everest and K2 to compete with). The scenery is just absolutely stunning – we’re at about 2000m about sea level, and just about everywhere you look there are sweeping panoramas out over the great folded fractals of stone that define the ranges and valleys. Leila’s been taking lots of photos, and if I can ever find an internet cafe that’s competent enough, I’ll upload some here. In the meantime, words will have to suffice, although it’s difficult to find the right ones.
Suffice it to say that there’s something really quite wonderful about being able to see for miles and miles, everything from the tiny white spires of temples perched precariously on hilltops down to the stepped crop-growing vistas carved out of the hillsides right down to the green valleys way down below, all the land stretched out before you until it vanishes into the haze where there’s no horizon, just the distant shadow of mountains and the sun floating in the fog and cloud. I keep thinking of Jack Kerouac perched on his mountaintop writing Desolation Angels – I could happily spend a long, long time up here. As it is, a couple of days will have to do.
The fact that I can actually see for miles is due to the fact that I’ve finally bitten a long-overdue bullet and invested in a set of glasses. They only cost me $140, which is some consolation, but they’ve bought on one hell of a “Aaaargh fuck I’m getting old” crisis. Aaaaaaargh fuck I’m gettin old! Matters are made worse by my recent adoption of the Indian habit of wandering round in a blanket to keep warm – there’s something very pleasing about being able to do the next best thing to staying in bed all day, but with blanket and specs I now look like some unholy amalgam of Daniel Vettori and Neil from the Young Ones. Whoop-de-fucken-do.
Next stop: Manali, home of the world’s finest hashish. Which, given the tales I’ve heard of Indian police and kickbacks, I’ll be avoiding like the plague. You can buy it in Amsterdam anyway. And whit goes on in Amsterdam, *stays* in Amsterdam.