|Day 1: Wednesday, April 25th 1979
Selsey, West Sussex, England to Delhi,
Collected by Mr Wells* at 6.30 a.m. leaving only 2 hours to make
it to the airport. We made it easily, much to my surprise. It was a cold day, but all the spring blossom was well in
evidence. Very glad to leave the U.K. behind.
Checked straight in and had 30 minutes delay. The boarding facilities
as regards security were much improved, with X-ray for all hand baggage. I still seem to have
acquired an incredible amount, in
spite of good resolutions.
The plane was a large Air India Jumbo. My seat was an aisle seat, window side. There was an Asian man in
the window seat destined for Bombay. Slept (the Asian) all journey except when
crawling over me to go to the loo. Food excellent, service very good and nice listening music. Minimum of
disturbance. The film was poor, about a stunt man. Read and dozed. At Rome we were delayed for 55 minutes and had to circle due to an air traffic controllers strike - correction - 'go slow'. I thought this was dangerous. These men
need their minds on the job.
I worried that Tim had not got
my messages and would not be there to meet me but of course this was
needless. I arrived at 3.30
a.m. and there was Tim waiting in
Out with the minimum of fuss and formality. Drove into the sleeping city. It
was comparatively new and marvellously laid out with very broad streets.
Tim was finding his way very well
by this time.
*Mr Wells was the taxi driver.
Day 2: Thursday, April 26th 1979
||After the drive in from the airport we crawled
into bed at the Hotel Imperial at 4.30 a.m. The room was air conditioned, with its own
bathroom. Large and very comfortable.
Slept until 12.30 p.m. then had lunch in the
coffee bar. Afterwards, we visited the *Red Fort.
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||It was nice and quiet and
partly given over to army barracks. We had a good guide, a Hariana, who showed us
the palace, seraglio
and bath house.
A beautiful marble mosque looted by Nadah
Shah who came from Persia and removed the Peacock Throne and all the gold and silver
decorations, after a really terrible massacre.
(Left: Betty in the Allegro in front of the
In the evening we went to the Sri Lankan High
Commission where Ashish and Joanna* were showing the Leopard film. It was quite beautiful
and lovely to see Wilpattu
and also the tame Nepal Leopardess. An unexpected treat. Afterwards on to Tiger
Tops Delhi headquarters to meet Ashishs brother and wife. We had supper and they
were very hospitable. Home at midnight.
*Ashish and Joanna were friends of Tim and
Bettys from Sri Lanka. They worked with Dieter and Mary Plage, who were well-known
Day 3: Friday, April 27th 1979 At Delhi
Business at the Canadian High Commission. We had trouble finding our way
around the Embassy centre. Afterwards we went back to the hotel for a toasted sandwich
lunch. We spent the afternoon shopping in the Circus. There was a towel, food and chemist
shop. Also a good book shop where I managed to get War
and Peace which was to be my reading for the trip.
In the evening we had a late but very nice dinner. It was curry - hot, but not like
Ceylon. We were late to bed for a 5 a.m. start for Agra.
Day 4: Saturday, April 28th 1979 Delhi to Agra
We got away finally at 7 a.m. Had some difficulty finding our way on
leaving Delhi, but then were on a good straight road bypassing the towns, eventually
arriving at the Clarks Shiraz Hotel in Agra. The hotel was modern and air conditioned,
with a view of the Old Fort (which was huge) with the Taj in the distance. We had a picnic
lunch in our room. The temperature was around 110 degrees Fahrenheit, but very dry.
At 4 p.m. when it was cooler, we set off to see the Taj Mahal. At the gates
we were offered a very old cantankerous guide with absolutely no opinion of me. He spoke
to me as though to a naughty child, saying if I didnt want to go round and listen to
him, we could have our money back and do it ourselves!
As the petulance on my part was the result of having forgotten to put a new film in my
camera, Tim took me back to the hotel to remedy this and we returned to the same guide
The guide softened up and being Hindu did not have such a holy respect for the place.
He actually allowed me to use flash for the tombs (which was not allowed).
The jewelled insets and the lace-like carving on the marble are quite breathtaking. The
black marbles on the fluted pillars gave a wonderful optical illusion.
It was a nice time of day to see it, in the cool of the evening with the
lengthening shadows. It must be very beautiful by moonlight.
Back to the hotel for beer and dinner. The curries are peppery, but not chilli-hot like
Ceylon. Nice dining room and splendid flat roof, but very hot even at 11 p.m.
Day 5: Sunday, April 29th 1979
Agra to Delhi
Went very early to Agra Fort. Very, very impressive. Vast and beautiful buildings.
Shah Jehan was imprisoned in his daughters suite.
There were a chess board and fishing pool for his amusement. The chess board was laid out
in marble on the floor (above right).
||There was a view of
the Taj Mahal across the river.
The fort had massive
fortifications. Although it had been looted, it was in a very good state of preservation.
||There were some
lovely flower insets in the marble pillars. Also a very imposing series of moats. The
first one was filled with water, then elephant and lion.
Again only a quarter of the place open to the public. The rest was in use as army
We headed back to Delhi after
losing our way and wandering through the Bazaar. Not so colourful and people less
interesting to look at than in Ceylon. It was a very good fast road - the first good bit
Tim said he had struck in India.
Saw the Moghul sign posts on the way and lots
of heaps of lovingly made dried cow pats for fuel.
Back to the hotel and the same room. We went
to dinner with *Christopher Peries sister and brother-in-law. His name was Lance
Fernando. He was a medical doctor, but here with I.L.O. (International Labour
Organisation). We had a very pleasant dinner, after first having called in to see
Joanna and Ashish to say goodbye and give them a letter for the **Plages. They were off to
Sri Lanka and ***Yala to film elephants.
At dinner we met a retired Air Chief Marshall who lived in
the flat underneath. On taking us down for a drink, he found he had locked himself out.
His servant had of course disappeared, so we had to burgle the flat to get in! We had a
good Western dinner and so back to the hotel and bed.
* Friends from Sri Lanka
** Dieter and Mary Plage - wildlife film makers, also friends from Sri Lanka.
*** Yala is a wild life reserve in Southern Sri Lanka which is famous for its elephants.
Day 6: Monday, April 30th 1979
Delhi to Karnal
||Left the hotel at 7.30 a.m. hoping to avoid the
morning rush hour. We found our way by aid of a map and a little trouble onto the Grand
Trunk road. We have long since discovered it is a waste of time to ask the way. By some
odd quirk of eastern thinking it is downright bad luck to tell anybody the right
directions. If you do ask and get told, go in the opposite direction.
It was very hot
and dry. We left via the bazaar, the people again looking very much poorer and less
colourful than in Ceylon. The main highway was good tar and we made good time to Karnal,
where we are to spend the day and night in the research station rest house. The power
supply was very erratic and the air conditioning dicey, but it was a nice building and the
cook was adequate, although with hind sight he nearly poisoned the pair of us.
Tims water filter is marvellous and a great asset,
but I had no idea it was so expensive (£87). However, water in this heat is the most
vital thing and a good supply you can trust is essential.
At 3.30 p.m. we went out on a visit to a nearby village stock scheme
overseen by the research station. It was most interesting, for it was a real village which
as a tourist one would not often see. It was very poor. There were many cow pats drying
and two weddings in process, as this was the season. Lots of music and dancing. One old
woman kissed my feet and thanked me for coming. A chastening experience. Their way of life
is a thousand years from ours, but none the worse for that.
Back to the rest house. One Englishman also
staying there. Ate unwisely and unwell to early bed for an early start to Simla tomorrow.
Day 7: Tuesday, May 1st 1979Karnal to Simla
||Left at 6.30 a.m. It was cool and lovely.
travelled on N.H.1 until the Simla turn off at Ambala. After that there were problems; bad
roads, obvious winter frost damage and no warning signs. Wild, white roses were everywhere
with dramatic rhododendrons and a purple wild heath.
Simla itself was a nightmare. A 1,000 ft pedestrian
precinct. The bottom through road was very congested and not really even two way, although
it was used as such. I saw my first hill people - flat faces, noses studded both sides,
small build, incredibly tough and all with back packs.
The prospect of staying in Simla did not appeal. None of the hotels seemed
to have garaging for the car or space to park and after one effort, we decided to push on
and look for a more rural setting. We were given the name of Wild Flower Hall as a tourist
guest house. We fought our way out of Simla and got into the most fantastic traffic jam
just when we thought our troubles were over. At least 100 lorries in a solid block of
chaos. The road was already narrowed with pipes and only one bloody minded lorry was
causing this jam. Two hours passed before Tim very cleverly manoeuvred us through a gap
caused by the eventual arrival of police reinforcements.
Our troubles were not over. Wild Flower Hall was at an altitude of 8,500 feet. The car
could not make it up the drive until we unloaded everything half way. Tim took a run at it
from the bottom and just before the top, met a car coming down dead centre. He nearly went
spare, but eventually was pushed to the top. Meanwhile a gentle hill man arrived with rope
and put our 3 suitcases (150 lbs) on his back and set off with me puffing like a grampus,
We had an early evening walk in the forest.
There were charming flowers, including wild violets and wild strawberries, with a grass
undercover for magnificent Pines. My last time of feeling well. I have collected a stomach
upset from the coffee water at Karnal.
Wild Flower Hall was built in 1910. It used to be Lord
Kitcheners summer residence (1889). The room was gloomy and small, but the
bathroom huge, tiled and palatial.