Well we've just said goodbye to all of our friends at the airport after travelling with them for the last week and a half - it's going to be a bit odd without them now, especially as it felt like we should have been flying home with them today, when we have another 2 weeks to go! Shimla was excellent, really relaxing, though it didn't really feel like India at all, or like how you imagine India to be. Most of our days there were spent checking out the markets and shops, or trekking up a massive hill up to see a very odd temple dedicated to monkeys, with hundreds of the animals running around scaring Cat to death, or just eating and sleeping! We left Shimla after a few days to make our way down all the way to Mumbai (Bombay) as the others' were flying out from there on the 6th. It involved the return journey on the Himalayan Queen to Kalka (something like 6 hours) then another big train ride down to Delhi, arriving at 10.30 pm. The latter train was a little bit scary - felt a bit intimidated by the men standing over us holding big wooden sticks. The girls got harassed through the windows whenever we stopped at stations, and after a few episodes of this, plus the friendly Indian guy next to me whispering to me in no uncertain terms that due to the men carrying wooden truncheons we had to change carriages at the next station, made us feel a bit jittery. Thankfully nothing happened, and arrived at our hotel in the Pahar Ganj district of Delhi, exhausted and hungry. It was another early start the next morning, rising at 5 am to catch the 22+ hour overnight train down to Mumbai. Sleeper trains are the best! The time passes so much quicker when you can lie down and sleep.
So far we've spent 2 nights in Mumbai, with the first day kind of written off due to our lack of sleep, managing to drag ourselves out for a quick meal down the road from our hostel. Yesterday was my birthday woo hoo!! 19 19 19 19! Though it was bound to happen - 3 and a half months travelling and not one day of illness, then as soon as my birthday comes along, i get hit by some kind of stomach bug and feel like i'm about to get the 'flu! I still managed to get out though, and we visited a brilliant place called the Mocha Bar to have Lava Lava (basically just molten chocolate with a brownie crust on top served in a mug) and loads of hot chocolates and milkshakes. Then it was time to wander around a few (actually hundreds) of shops, markets, stalls, in the quest to satisfy the girls' endless appetite for shopping! Many bags, shawls, fabrics, saris and various other bits and bobs were bought, before retiring back to our hotel rooms so everyone could pack for their flight the next day, and then we went out to a Jazz cafe by the bay for a bit of a birthday celebration and the others' last evening in India. Had some cool seats in a little alcove by the stage, where a classic rock band were playing - the musicians were okay, but the singer was by far the funniest thing we had seen in a long time! He looked like an India Jim Morrison, and behaved ever so slightly strangely on stage. We called it a night around 1 to get a cab back and collapse in our rooms. Me and Nico have just arrived back from the airport, and have just tried to scam some free accomodation at the home of the sister of the Hinduja brothers - apparently in the top 10 richest men in England and India! Unfortunately though their house appears to have been flooded when Mumbai was submerged after seriously heavy rain - over 1,000 people are reported to have died. Luckily it hasn't affected the Colaba area where we're staying, but we weren't sure whether our friends' flight would be going ahead, but all seemed fine when we got to the airport today. I think i'm gonna be here for the next 2 days, then heading back up north to Ajanta and Varanasi, but we haven't really got everything sorted out date-wise yet.