Pity I don’t have the pension to go with it but I will be working on that when I get to Oz..
I left you the last time in Islamabad then rode down from
there to Lahore where there is a fort and some Sufi shrines. A group from the hostel went to an evening at one of these where the Sufi followers come to smoke lots of dope and get into a trance like state stomping and
whirling to the sound of drums. Quite interesting but, not being into the whacky baccy scene, but I preferred the following evening when a local Sufi folk band came to the hostel with traditional instruments and a
singer and had us all up and dancing.
It was Eid, the end of Ramadan, so the Islamic population was all in a party mood, in their best dresses and stuffing themselves with food day and night. Fun to watch but it meant
that museums and shops were closed so I moved on to cross the order into India and head straight to the Golden temple in Amritsar.
I was able to sleep in the pilgrims quarters and the bike came too, so that was
something special. There is a great atmosphere around the Golden temple complex. The temple itself is in the middle of a “tank”, which is a square of water and there is a walkway to it so people can come and give their
offerings. There are thousands of pilgrims everyday and it is amazing how the temple is kept immaculate by a host of cleaners, constantly washing the floors, steps and railings. At night the entrance gates are polished
and new head cushions made up for the prayers.
A local Sikh kindly showed me the way to the garden where the British massacred 400 (and wounded 1500) demonstrators in 1919 and I spent quite some time just wandering
around the whole area looking at the amazing colours and styles of the various clothing, both men and women. India is like a kaleidoscope after the other countries.
I met some other Europeans at the temple sleeping
quarters and we hired a taxi to take us back to the Pakistan/Indian border in the evening for the border closing ceremony that they hold everyday. Living so close to the Gib/Spanish border, as I did, I was very
interested to see this bit of theatre. As with Spain and Gibraltar, there is no love lost between India and Pakistan, and, indeed, it is making life difficult even now for the earthquake aid workers.
ceremony at the border is a display of men dressed in their military uniforms with the Indians wearing what looks like a red cocks comb on their head and the Pakistanis, a green one. They march and strut and stamp and
do John Cleese type funny walks, for about ¾ hour, to the cheers and chants of crowds of people in grandstands on both sides. The flags are lowered at exactly the same pace and then they are marched back to be
locked away until the following morning. I had to get a DVD of it. I could just imagine the Gibraltarians and Spanish doing the same thing if the border was closed every night.
I actually felt a traitor being on
the Indian side, where I had been for just a day, when I had spent 5 weeks in Pakistan.
Now it was time to start making a move toward Rishikesh as I had a message from Frank Reiser (from Stuttgart) that he expected to
arrive on or about 11th Nov. I took a back road of the GTR (Grand Trunk road) into the mountains and saw my first group of monkeys on the road. When I reached the hill station of Shimla, once the summer
capitol of the British Raj, I was even more reminded of Gibraltar. The buildings are colonial British, the roads are steep and the monkeys roaming everywhere.
I was now travelling in the foothills of the great
Himalayas and the scenery is green and lovely, with occasional snow covered peaks showing in the far distance. The roads are narrow and very windy and the traffic is heavy on some main routes so the average speed is
20-25km per hour and I wasn’t getting as far as I thought each day but passed over some very interesting and, at times, scary roads. The weather here at this time of year is great for motorcycling. Just cool enough to
wear my m/bike jacket over t-shirt or thin jumper in the day and great to snuggle in the down sleeping bag at night.
I spent one night camped by a lake in a nature reserve where they were just setting up for a week
long fair. Bit noisy for the animals, I thought, but the poor things were in cages anyway.
I called in at the other popular Hill Station, Mussoorie to check out the hotels for where I could hold the
birthday party and found a very nice Baronial style one, where we could all pretend to be posh for a night.
Steve and his wife, Trupti, met me at the arranged place in Rishikesh and it was great to see them
and be able to unpack the bike and fling my stuff all over the room they had arranged for me in their flat. They are in the process of getting a guest house built on the banks of the Ganges, in a beautiful spot, and
hopefully will have it up and running next year but are at the moment chasing builders, a scenario I know only too well.
Rishikesh is where the Beatles came to stay on an ashram to study meditation and Indian music in
the 60s and it is very popular with foreigners and Indians seeking spiritual enlightenment. That is the only kind of spirit you can get as, being a holy city, alcohol is not allowed (hence b’day arrangements in
Mussoorie) Small tourist village areas are on both sides of the Ganges, which at this point is not polluted and is a lovely green colour. There is chanting by the river every night and incense and music wafts in the air
all day. A very relaxing and colourful place and the first real destination planned in my Overland trip.