The Himalayan Challenge
21 September - 11 October 2018
SEPTEMBER 28, 2018
Shimla to Shimla - Loop
Pulling a rabbit from the hat
While the rest of us had shopped till we dropped yesterday, and taken in all that Shimla had to offer, the Clerk of the Course and his deputy, had obviously spent their rest day doing something much more productive and today we were all beneficiaries.
The floods, landslips and bridge closures had thrown the rally schedule into disarray but today the tide turned and the next time we open our route books, we’ll be on the correct page.
John Spiller was obviously a tailor in a previous life because he, along with Guy Woodcock, managed to stitch together a superb day of driving, complete with a pair of Regularities and a buffet lunch. Set within a 110km circuit this took us from the Oberoi Cecil in downtown Shimla to the Oberoi Wildflower Hall on the outskirts of the town.
The direct distance between the two hotels was only 15km, but our route was much more entertaining and within a shade under 14 km from leaving the hotel we arrived at the first Regularity on the road to Dhalli.
John and Gill Cotton set the clock running and 8.65 km later Jamie Turner and Tony Jones who’d swapped their spanners for a stopwatch, recorded the time. In between was a little used stretch of road with some excellent views across the valley.
The next part of the day involved a short section of a typically busy Indian highway and then a much longer section of almost deserted tarmac, which climbed steeply through a forest to the village of Chail. Here we enjoyed a buffet lunch in the eponymous Palace, which was built by the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh, after he was expelled from Shimla by Lord Kitchener for some unspecified, but no doubt serious ‘indiscretion’. At around 2,300m high, the Maharaja was just about able to look down upon the Viceroy, as well as enjoying some expansive views of the Himalayas.
After lunch, the second Regularity was quickly upon us but, as the cars rolled along the Kufri Road, which led almost directly to the night halt, the heavens opened once again, with rain and hail lashing down as enthusiastically as it had done so earlier in the week. Fortunately though, this storm only lasted for a few hours and the weathermen say that tomorrow it will be dry once again.
Tonight, in the splendour of the Wildflower Hotel, we can finally say that we’re now back on the original rally schedule. We’ve got a rest day tomorrow, Saturday, and then we leave for Mussoorie before pressing onwards to Nepal.
This then will be our last rest day for a week and there are some crews with a few jobs still on their ‘to do list’. Bjorn Schage and Trond Brathen for example whose Morgan Plus 4 was giving them even more trouble this morning and, on the way out of the Regularity, they were again by the side of the road with Andy Inskip and Russ Smith, looking at an engine which was still unable to keep itself cool. The crew sensibly skipped the afternoon’s session and headed back to Shimla to start work on the repairs.
Roland Singer and Hans Malus’s Saab has also been a frequent visitor to the side of the road and today it pulled over on the way into the first Regularity with what Roland described as "problems with the fuel pump, the carburettor and the windscreen wipers". They too decided to head straight back to Shimla to begin repairs and given the way that the weather turned during the afternoon they definitely made the right decision.
For those lucky enough to have some time to kill though there are still many things to do and see in and around Shimla with a train ride into the hills being a popular choice although there would be worse ways to spend a day than lolling around the Wildflower hotel and its grounds in the manner of, Shimla born, Guy "Dambuster" Gibson.
This evening, Andy Mudra and Gernot Woerle finally rejoined us, albeit in a hire car. They’ve had a wild ride like the rest of us, battling floods and road closures along the way after dropping their broken Bentley in Delhi, almost one week ago.