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India to England Overland 
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Elisabeth Dening's Travel Journal

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Week Two: Simla to Srinagar (India)
Map here


Day 8: Wednesday, May 2nd 1979
At Simla

Map of India image courtesy of Wikipedia.

I was in bed all day with a bad head and bad stomach. Saw the distant snow-capped Himalayas for the first time from the window. They were no more imposing at this distance than the Alps, but that could be due to my jaundiced state of mind and body. The altitude did not help either. Tim had a very happy day catching butterflies.


Day 9: Thursday, May 3rd
At Simla

Still poorly. Tim went off to Simla by jeep to visit local agriculturalists and was back by 4.30 p.m. I managed an omelette for lunch and to do a bit of washing, but my head is still bad. Started a course of Thalazole. More Indians arrived on holiday, mercifully they are not nearly so curious as the Ceylonese.


Day 10: Friday, May 4th
Simla to Pattiala
Map here

I was glad to leave - we were away by 7 a.m. We got through Simla before the traffic started. It was very hot once down on the plains.

Bougainvillea covered fortress wall.

Pinjore Moghul gardens.

We stopped at *Pinjore Moghul Gardens, an old Moghul pleasure palace. It was charming, surrounded by a fortress wall, covered with magnificent Bougainvillaea in full bloom. It also had a good cafeteria where we breakfasted. There was a good selection of animals and birds kept under good conditions. 

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From there, we went on to Ambala (a big military cantonment) to have lunch with General Barar’s family. The General was away in Simla, but his mother was welcoming and most pleasant. We had a lovely lunch and were entertained by an enchanting baby granddaughter.

Tim Dening with the Singhs. After lunch we left for Pattiala, to stay with *Colonel Bhupinder Singh for the night. We had a certain amount of trouble finding the house (the numbers bear no relation to position) and we spent an hour finding it.

We had a marvellous welcome. It was a lovely home and he had a sweet, little doctor wife.


Left - Tim with the Bhupinder Singhs
Colonel Bhupinder Singh was in the Indian Army with Tim during the Second World War.

We went for drive around the very pleasant, old Princely State city. We met many friends and Tim had the attention of a dentist and started on Ampicillin for his abcess. Then home for a nice dinner. They are the dearest pair and have promised to meet us in England next year. Late night, my tummy still not well.

They had the most ingenious air conditioning with air being drawn through a hay box which was damped.


Day 11: Saturday, May 5th
Pattiala to Jammu
Map here  

Left by 9 am with a packed lunch supplied by Mrs Bhupinder. Stopped by the army on the road and invited for pre-lunch drinks and a wash. Very welcome. Picnicked on the road side.

We arrived at *Skinner's Horse Headquarters and found they had returned from summer manoeuvres to entertain us. We were taken to an army rest house in Jammu, very comfortable and all facilities.

Skinner's Horse Invitation.

We were invited to dinner in the Mess which was beautifully set up for a guest night, although as they had only just come back from manoeuvres, it was buffet style. It was a marvellous experience for me and included a conducted tour of all the Mess treasures. There was a very charming C.O., Lt. Col. Somal. The wives who had stayed whilst the men were out were most kind and welcoming. We had a very good meal and then a presentation of gifts. I was very moved by the whole experience. They had chosen a very lovely Kashmiri silk sari in **Skinner’s colours for me and Tim had a celebration plaque of their 175th Raising Day ceremony which had taken place the year before. Left for the rest house and a good night’s sleep.

The drive that day was an exceptionally good one. Many draught camels and many water splashes. Very dry desert-like country but obviously big trouble in the monsoon.


* Skinners Horse were amalgamated with the regiment Tim served with in the Second World War: The 18th/19th King George Fifth's Own Lancers.

** Blue and Gold.


Day 12: Sunday, May 6th
Jammu to Udampur
Map here

Left for Udampur after a good breakfast. Jammu was very congested and there was a big army presence everywhere. After that, the road was good and we made good time. We arrived to an extremely impressive set up. An imposing General, with a kind wife who spoke no English but obviously understood quite a lot. They had a charming daughter visiting with three children, who did speak English and who looked after me. We had a marvellous suite and an orderly to take care of our clothes and needs.

Changed into our available finery and set off for a farewell Mess party and lunch. All very nice Western-style food. The General was obviously very popular with everyone and greatly respected. Home for a well earned siesta then again in finery, set off for an evening party. It was outdoors, with very pretty decorations and a fine firework display. Pretty garden and again a lovely meal, especially the home-made ice cream. And so to bed with every luxury. Fabulous house set up and service. The car got herself washed. Temperature surprisingly warm.


Day 13: Monday, May 7th
Udampur to Srinagar
Map here  

Up early after a very good night. Breakfast with the family and a long discussion about our proposed trip overland. The General was not very hopeful as Bhutto’s mourning period should be up the day we cross into Pakistan and the army were expressing their fears over whether there would be trouble. Left it open until our return on Saturday. Started for Srinagar at 9.50 am.

The road climbed all the way. There were many rockfall stretches which made the going slow and hazardous, but we were soon into the hills and really wild country. Passed many nomads taking their herds up into the high pastures. Adorable goats, very silky and long-furred. A thousand at a time and one shepherd walking with a baby goat in his arms. A really biblical character.

Lunch with the army at a post just before Bunihal Tunnel. It was a lonely spot but all the wives seemed to enjoy being there and doing long walks with their husbands. Snow still on the mountain tops. Only four wives had stayed on for the summer. Had a simple lunch which they had obviously gone to great trouble over preparing. Much talk and they were loath to let us go. I fortunately found some sweets for the only child there.

Bunihal Tunnel ticket.

Bunihal Tunnel Ticket

On through Bunihal Tunnel, 3 kilometres long and very wet, taking us through to the Vale of Kashmir. Heavily guarded. On the other side snow was still laying like huge walls. We literally burst on the Vale of Kashmir. Blue, blue sky, paddy fields and fruit trees surrounded by very high snow-capped mountains. Road lined with very beautiful straight Poplar trees. Very good straight road.

Went into the Nedhous Hotel Grand Suite - a real hang over from the Raj. Everything should have been O.K. but infuriatingly there was no water. Tim was very irate but to no avail. We had a good dinner and then slept well, although we nearly moved out that night because of the lack of water.


Day 14: Tuesday, May 8th
At Srinagar  

Approached by a U.N.D.P. chap (English) who offered us his bathroom for washing. Saw the owner, or rather, past owner - it was now a State Corporation Hotel - a Mrs Nedhouse, who said she would arrange for a pump for our room and said she had been asking for it to be done for months. The old bearer was very upset over all the commotion. The whole surroundings are totally English. Horse Chestnuts in full bloom, same climate, soft rain, Pansies and daisies everywhere. Did our washing in the new man’s bathroom. Has one ever had an odder set up? Washing clothes in a complete stranger’s bathroom and being given coffee by him, while still on your knees washing? All in the middle of Kashmir! We both agreed it was extraordinary and good fodder for a book. He had been in Srinagar when there had been riots and some loss of life earlier in the year.

We went to the very large and reasonably well organised tourist centre for cards for the family. The touts were absolutely maddening and we nearly had an accident because they were shouting and screaming whilst we were backing out.

Houseboats on Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir They were all advertising the famous house boats for renting.

The lake was pretty but the house boats were very tatty.


The shops do not appeal, but I did weaken and buy a fox for Graham* (? a dog’s tail) and a little goat skin purse for Tricia*.

Nishat Gardens, Srinagar, India We toured around in the pouring rain - also went to Nishat Park and Shalimar Gardens. Gardens; Nishat Moghul had beautiful massed pansies. I have never seen such a display, as well as roses and many English flowers. The roses will be lovely in a month.

The usual arrangement  - 7 Vistas, dated from 1634. Shalimar was also full of pansies, more buildings and fountains which would be lovely at night. Marvellous old trees at least 200-300 years old.


Nishat Gardens

Back to the hotel to sort out the washing. It set in madly wet for evening. Did my faithful crossword puzzles. The antibiotic (for his tooth) is getting Tim down. And so to bed.


* Grandchildren



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ŠE.G.L. Dening
Images and text are copyright E.G.L. Dening 1979/2008