I Wore Socks!
Trip Start May 01, 2010
23Trip End Jul 15, 2010
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Where I stayed
Shimla is cool. 2200m above sea level, the buildings go straight up out of the mountain side - like big mushrooms sprouting out of the forest. It's hilly as heck, too. I was feeling the burn in my calves all week. The place used to be the summer capital for the British during their rule here in India. It was too hot for them down on the plains (I can relate...), so every year they would move up here. Indeed, the sign stated that, at one point, "1/5 of the world's population was ruled from Shimla."
And you are not even allowed to spit and litter! It would have absolutely made my day to see someone getting fined for spitting or littering but, alas, it was not to be, as the spitting and littering continued apace.
Our first night there was actually a bit chilly. Planning to wear my shoes, I reached into the depths of my bag and pulled out a pair of clean, machine-washed-in-Canada socks. I selected a fine cotton-blend, calf-high pair. Carefully, I separated the socks and stretched out my right leg. With a sense of wonder, I slowly, carefully, lovingly put the sock over my foot, wriggling it around as you do, and pulled until the material was fully extended up my leg. Congratulating myself on a job well done, I repeated the process with my other foot. It had been a solid six weeks since I had worn socks, so I was savouring the moment.
After the Monkey Temple which Genevieve "I Love Monkeys and Have to Take 5000 Pictures of Them Every Day" Weber will be writing about, we spent a day walking to The Glen, a picnic place where the British used to go because it reminded them of Scotland. It was very nice, quiet, natural, and steep. I’m not sure that any of my past lives involved me being a mountain goat for, as mentioned above, I was feeling the burn. But it was great to go on a day hike out in the woods, and I can now safely say that I've "gone trekking" in the Himalayas. Oh yeah!
The following day we set out to the Institute of Advanced Study, a home originally built for Lord Dufferin, who was Viceroy of India from 1884-88
You are not allowed to go inside the building unless you go on a guided tour, so, after the requisite photo-op with total strangers and pushing to get the security guard to rip your ticket before the next person, we went inside.
It really was a beautiful old building. And full of history, with pictures of Gandhi and the rest of them when they came up here to talk. It's always kind of cool to be in a place where such history was made. Plus Genevieve took a sweet picture of me pontificating in the conference room. Whoop!
Speaking of Gandhi, I must go on a tangent here. I am currently reading his autobiography. It's been a bit of a slug at times, as it goes into some pretty minute details of his existence, while simply referencing other books that have been written about the more key events in his life. However, there have been some interesting passages. For example, of Rishikesh (where we were earlier) he wrote:
"The way in which men were using these beauty sports was far from giving me peace
I had been hesitant to make this criticism, because, really, who I am to be an ethnocentrist? But, with this passage fresh in my mind, we were walking down the main road in Shimla. There I saw a man helping his little boy take an enormous pee DIRECTLY INTO THE ROAD when he was only metres from a hotel entrance door. And while I was hopping over yet another river of urine, I could not help but think, surely, there must be a toilet about somewhere. And to hear Gandhi making similar remarks about the sanitary conditions in India 100 years ago certainly gave me something to think about.
Nevertheless, we did not let any of this ruin our plans to go... golfing!
So, the following day, we hopped on the bus and went to the course. The bus was full when we left the station, but we stopped to pick up a few more people along the way
And so it continued. Genevieve and I were seriously considering getting off the bus and calling it a day when we reached a junction and a few people got off. With the tiniest bit of breathing space, and the hope of a sign stating the golf course was less than 10km away, we persevered. Not too long afterwards, we fell out of the bus at our stop.
We arrived at the pro shop to the disdainful look of the golf pro, who thumbed his nose and asked about our handicaps. He also gave a derisive look at our feet, and asked whether or not we had proper footwear.
Genevieve, being crafty like that, had called the course the day before inquiring as to the specifics of the dress code. She was told no jeans and no shorts, but was not told of any footwear requirement
Now, of course, normally we would not bother to use a caddy. I am built like an ox, with muscles that simply ripple out of my shirt, so carrying golf clubs around ain’t no thang but a chicken wang. But we learnt that, once upon a time, the golf course was only nine holes; however, it had recently been converted to 18 holes. Unfortunately, this expansion of the holes did not coincide with an expansion of land, so the 9 extra holes were basically sandwiched on top of the original nine.
And this is why you need a caddy, otherwise, you would have no idea which green to shoot for, as there were often three or four greens within 50 yards of each other.
But no matter. We skipped the first two holes on the advice of our caddy in order to get in front of what promised to be an agonizingly slow group of 4 children and 2 adults. Our first hole was a tricky par three where you had to shoot over the water and over the road to the back green (not the front green or the green to the right, mind you).
The road, which we criss-crossed repeatedly throughout our round, was made especially challenging by the presence of pedestrians, motorcycles, cars, buses and kids getting donkey rides
We soon realized that, of course, we could not expect a golf experience in India to mirror a golf experience in Canada, so we just rolled with it.
So after walking around in the heat and up and down basically the same hill over and over again, we decided that maybe playing nine would be enough. We got back to hole number one, a nice down-the-hill up-the-hill par 4 with a water hazard cunningly placed in the middle. Yet, this was not a typical water hazard, because the extra caddies were wading around it in their underwear!
We could not really believe our eyes. Here we were, standing on the tee box, not only having to worry about the water hazard, but also having to worry about all these dudes IN the water hazard. And they were in their ginch, for crying out loud! We could also not help but notice the hypocrisy: Mr. Golf Pro gave us a hard time about our footwear, but PEOPLE WERE SWIMMING IN THE WATER HAZARD, IN THEIR UNDERWEAR, WITH NO FOOTWEAR AT ALL!!! Like I stated above: Golf in India does not equal golf in Canada
So we finished our nine and went up to the clubhouse, which was actually very nice. From there, we had a cold beer and a splendid view of our caddy taking a leak against the fence not 30 yards from the first tee box.
And with that, we were done. But please don’t let my sarcasm fool you, because we had lots of fun golfing. For the way back, we decided to skip the bus and splurged on a taxi. The next day we were off early to catch a bus for Dharamshala.