From Pakistan to India: Lahore, Amritsar and Dharamsala

 From Lahore the intense heat drove us straight on across the border to Amritsar.  We didn't stop to see the amazing Sufi spinning night.  We didn't go back and watch the Wagah border ceremony.  We didn't, in fact, do anything.  We were rubbish.  It was absolutely sweltering.  We met Brock and Peter the night we arrived and they agreed there was no way they could stay in it either, which made us feel a bit better.  We had slept on the roof to avoid the godawful load shedding that lasted for 6 hours a night.  There was an emergency fan. We slept with our noses grazing the casing, and still fried ourselves in our sweat. 

It was time to leave Pakistan.  I was going to miss it. We came with the intention of spending 5 days transiting the country. We were leaving after 5 weeks.  It is my best country yet. 

Riding to the border was an adventure.  We got caught in an almighty downpour which flooded the streets instantly.  We sheltered under a tree with the local constabulary.  They laughed at us when we said we didn't have waterproofs. The puddles under the tree grew.  The tree stopped sheltering us and poured urgent streams onto our heads.

We figured there was nothing to lose and made a run for it.  At least the road was a bit quieter.

It got more and more ludicrous, and we got quite merry with the silliness of it all.  We sang as we rode along, and waved to other soaked bike-riders.  At the river everyone was throwing themselves in.  There was really no reason not to.  Even the women paddled about in the water, their salwar kameez sticking to them like a Bollywood romance scene.  I considered it, momentarily, and then realised I would have to rock up into India with pools gathering inside my boots. 

The road to the border was wrecked.  Some young punk-rockers showed us where to go, taking us over a 2 metre high sand-pile somneone had accidentally placed in the way.  The traffic was just maneuvering over the top of it, like determined ants on an ant-hill.   Adam revved the bike to hell and sprung over it in one go.  I wearily clambered over it with the tankbag on my head.

It was a bit of a strange way to access a border, but then its not one that gets much use...

A kilometre from the border it stopped raining.  The ground dried out in seconds, and we were left as the only soggy reminder.

It didn't really matter, as we were literally the only people at the border. The process, even with ridiculous Indian bureuacracy, only took half an hour.  It had to be some sort of record. 

We had made it to India BY LAND!!!  We sung little songs to ourselves as we sailed towards Amritsar.

It was odd watching the changes. Amritsar is a Sikh city, home to the Golden Temple, their holiest shrine. 
It meant that all the men wore bright turbans.  They also all rode Pulsars or cruised in Toyota trucks. 
The women didn't have their heads covered. After so long, I was scandalised! 

The cities were more congested and irritating, but the landscape and the dhabas remained the same.  Only the dhaba signs changed in script. 

Amritsar was a fun and chaotic place to drive into.  As we stopped the bike was immediately surrounded by lads, pulling at the throttle and generally posing with it. 

The heat was insane.

We went to the Golden Temple as the sun was setting.  It was far more impressive than I had expected. 
We tried to feed the fish with Adam's toes.  Not suprisingly they weren't keen.  We got told off by a stern attendant.  That was a holy lake (concrete basin), and those were holy fish.

Toe-dipping was not permitted but outright bathing was fine.  There were two entire families swimming in it.

We met a Sikh guy who asked if I knew of anyone in England who would marry him. 

In the hall there were ill-looking people lying all over the floor in various uncomfortable-looking poses.  A woman with gold teeth told us to leave.  It's possible they weren't ill, and were just staying there- it was a very hot day. 

We found Brock and a Brit called Jack he had picked up at Wagah, and had a few beers with them on the roof-top: a romantic location of empty plastic bottles and rubbish, but with a great view of the Temple, and Brock had constructed benches from old toilets for us to sit on.  We drank catatonically strong beer.

I got thoroughly and completely drunk, admirably so.  We discussed something pretentious and faux-philosophical, loudly and with much emphasis, in that dreadful way that only travellers in India can. 

Then I was ill.  Not hangover-ill, or so I proclaim, but cripplingly, disgustingly ill.  A little reminder of Pakistan, in case I had temporarily chosen to forget.  Another day of hanging around in the toilet, just in case.

I am sure the border ceremony was very good.  I don't know, I didn't see it. 

The illness lasted all the way to Dharamsala.  Nice of it. 

The journey was great though, very peaceful and pretty.  We got waylaid a bit by a bridge that had tried to swim away down-stream, but we managed to retrace our steps eventually.

There was a camel in the jungle.  It looked a little confused, as well you might.

There were monkeys sat around trying to lick the road.  It was a dangerous hobby, and one of them had been killed, face-down against the tarmac.  Its grief-stricken mate tried to attack the bike, then realised it was Very Large and Very Noisy and Very Fast, and backed down.

Some of them examined their nails and looked bored. 

The final road to Dharamsala was totally gridlocked with jeeps full of weekenders, and we waited while the police whistled at people. 

An old English hippie turned up next to the bike and congratulated us on our arrival.  He had done the trip on an old BSA bike in the '70s, via Afghanistan following the Silk Road Hippie trail.  He was brilliant, and stressed that we needed to go to Norway.  I think we probably will, it was that sort of a suggestion. 

Later that evening we were unbelievably pleased to find ourselves sat in the coolness and jungliness, eating Marmite on toast for dinner, listening to chanting.

We drank hot chocolate in the rain in one of the new US-style coffee houses in McLeod and wondered inbetween delicious sips whether nothing was sacred.

We discovered mongoose(s?) snuffling through the bins.

Away from the hustle & bustle we recovered slowly from the madness of the last two months. 

We moved further up the hill past Dharamkot, and found a pot-bellied chain-smoking Dutch philosophy teacher.  He told stories about smoking tulip bulbs, and gave us '70s Oriental philosophy books to read.

We saw an outrageous scam performed by a Buddhist 'monk'.  He meandered up to an Israeli girl sat on her own at a table in the restaurant, and asked for food.  He ate and ate and ate, asking for more.  She gave him it, as you would a monk (unless you want bad karma, man.).  She paid and wombled off, slightly peeved. He stopped smiling, and started sneering.  He immediately demanded a hefty commission off the restaurant manager for getting her to spend so much, and disappeared.  It was a perfectly executed scam.  My little naive mind was shocked.

We watched the European-ified Delhites networking in the coffee bars, whilst updating Facebook on their iBooks on the wifi.  They drank Lattes on the terrace. 

Found Brock again, and another Aussie called Bruce (Could their names have been any more Australian?).  They took us to an English conversation hour for Tibetan refugees, and we spent a great afternoon chatting, with lots of friendliness and smiles. 
Some shy-looking monks got up and sang a song, and everyone in the room joined in in a beautifully uncynical way. 
We were asked questions- 'Who is a person you like?'
I had answered: 'My 'Fiance'', but the lovely girl who said my answers aloud to the group mispronounced it and everyone thought I said 'Beyonce'.  That took a little explaining...

We visited the Dalai Llama's compound, and watched the Buddhist monks debating.  It is customary to clap loudly to emphasise when a point is made.  Some of them seemed to be taking it rather too seriously.  Others were just having a laugh.

That evening there were stalls set up in McLeod, and we looked on as a group of young monks enthusiastically pinged bullets into a Barbie at a makeshift shooting range.

There were the usual stalls selling plastic rubbish, and lots of jalebi stalls.  Odd to see liquid sugar being deep-fried.  Even bloody odder to see someone eat it.

We had one last night there, and got whisked off to a strange Israeli rave-up by some very young Enfield-riders we found in a cafe.  I watched a man physically unable to stop 'dancing', even when someone shook him by the hand.  It gave a new meaning to the word 'jerk'. 
I wondered what molotov of Class As he had coursing through him, and sensibly went home to bed.

1 comment:

  1. I am incredibly jealous of you guys! Found your blog recently and have been reading non-stop, you've just done a journey I've dreamt about quite a lot! Some day... :)

    I have quite a few posts of yours to catch up on though! You have a very easy and humourous way of writing, makes it extremely interesting. Please keep them coming.

    Just got your latest post on the fever, hope you get better soon and back to your perky self!


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