Today we drove out from Shimla -- you remember Shimla, the Brit hiill station that served for over a century as the summer capital of British India -- to an overlook where we could see the snowcapped mountains of the Greater Himalayas. So I got to see the Himalayas before I died.
You should too.
Of course we did not see any of the name mountains, your Everests, your Kanchenjungas, and all that rubbish. Just your ordinary working-stiff mountains in the 20,000 ft range. But they were magnificent.
I was also delighted to visit Shimla, with all its British Empire history, and the notorious shenanigans that were alleged to go on there behind the Brit stiff upper lip. But there is not much left of all that.
In fact, it is Shimla all the way from Kalka, last stop on the plains before entering the Himalayan foothills: mountainsides full of houses and condos and hotels, until you finally arrive in Shimla and inch along the crowded streets with the south-facing slopes cram-jammed with houses and condos and hotels.
Yes, India is rich enough now that middle-class Indians want to spend a bit of the summer at their own hill station. You gotta problem with that? Goodness knows what the road to Shimla will be like when India gets from its current $2,200 GDP per capita to China's current $9,900 GDP per capita.
(I know. By that time India will have a ferocious environmental movement and you won't be able to build anything anywhere. And as for the chaps lighting open fires in the street, well, Captain Hastings' comment that hanging is too good for some people will probably apply.)
After viewing the Greater Himalayas we went for a short hike and then went to the highest point in Shimla at 8,000 ft, a Hanuman temple featuring a giant 108 ft statue of the monkey god himself. I experience Hanuman as part warrior and part trickster, but I really need to do more research.
One of the things about Shimla on this New Year's Eve is that the crowds I see on the main shopping street, the Mall, are overwhelmingly Indian and not tourist. Goodness only knows what will happen as we get towards midnight and everyone starts partying.