rollover

rollover

rollover


Click to see detail of route in map, part 3.


Bhairon Villas Haveli.

Wall murals on the Mandawa Havelis

Modern day scenes depicted in the paintings

Sights in the local market, Mandawa


Our Hotel, Hotel Shekhawti, Mandawa

Some havelis are still lived in but are very run down...

...others are just kept open for the tourist.


Wall to wall havelis in another small town in the Shekhawati region.

Not everyone has a motorcycle

Always a splash of colour in these scenes of a hard life in a harsh environment.

We passed many wells that have that have impressive structures with bathing areas no longer in use.

A heard of perhaps a hundred camels pass us on the road.

After having some chai with this great family they also want a photo.

Passing India's largest Mosque, Jama Masjid.


Old Delhi and the markets, Chandi Chowk


Click to read this sign about Indira Gandhi

Looking down on Nainital

The road winds up the mountains and into the valley as we ride up into the Himalayas.


We pass close to life in small villages perched on the edge of the mountains.

We see these women everywhere carrying these huge bundles of leaves. They're like walking bushes.

Plenty of good quality fruit and vegetables are everywhere...

...grown on the terraced slopes.

The road to Joshimath and the camera finds it difficult to capture the awesome beauty.

Sometimes we're riding really close to the edge

That silver thread is where we have to go?

Up to the snow line, the road to Auli.

How good is this?

The first time Jack's ridden through snow.


Following the Vishnu Ganga River.

Sadhus or Holy men and worshipers abound in the temples of Rishikesh.

View from the hotel - Rishikesh

Shimla scenes, probably debating something important like the cricket.


Yet another tourist in the mall - Shimla.


We are on the Tribal route and meet may friendly locals.


White wonderland in Sangla.


Locals on the big job clearing the roof of snow.

 


Jalori Pass at 3223 meters.

Views from the top of the world.


I hope she is not going to spit or vomit?? On these roads the sides of the buses are covered with vomit.


McLoed Gunj behind the Tibetan prayer flags


Prayers in the Buddhist temple.


Friendly people wave at us as we pass through their small mountain villages.


Views of Dalhousie taken on a walk that links the "chalks" or market places.


Fellow bikers also on their way to Amritsar for the festivities. (the wife is holding a small child too)


Shoes are not permitted inside the temple area and feet must be rinsed before entering. Everything within is spotless as there are hundreds of volunteers constantly cleaning and polishing.


Temple guards ensure all rules are abided by.


Many pilgrims choose to bath in the sacred waters as it is said to have great healing powers.


Not all men can wear pink. The turban colours apparently have no significance and are purely personal choice.

Indian soldiers are huge. Look how this guy's towering over the crowds.


Some of the friendly people that greeted us as we passed through small mountain villages.


Farewell India. We've had wonderful time here and we'll be back.

India part 3

Heading north, Delhi and on to the Himalayas.

Ready for Delhi?

It was difficult to leave Bikaner and the homely Bhairon Villas Haveli. It was such a welcoming place and last night Harsh the owner and I stayed up till after 2.00am copying and playing music and having a good time. Trouble is, if we stayed longer at every place we liked we'd never get anywhere so today it's off to Mandawa in the Shekhawti area, about 200km east on the way to Delhi and a small town in an area famous for it's many havelis with wall murals described as an "out door gallery". After a reasonable ride we arrived in Manama and navigated our way through a maze of small dirt streets to the Hotel Sheikh. Not a very welcoming introduction to this town but the sight of the magnificently painted hotel and the hospitality of the hotel owner and son was definitely worth the effort.

Manama is famous for it's many havelis and though most are now deserted and somewhat run down, the paintings on the outside and inside walls are still fairly well preserved. Religious stories and scenes of everyday life cover every inch of every wall. Home to wealthy merchants from the big cities, these were men of the world and we found paintings surprisingly, of the first cars and the Wright brothers first flight. All this elaborate infrastructure gave an indication of the wealth that must have prevailed here about 200 years ago, but it is hard to imagine when the people here now live such a simple life in the harsh environment of the Thor desert.


Imagine the wealth these traders had

We chose to wander the streets without a guide so that we could just take it all in at our own pace, but despite our best efforts, 'well meaning' guides or touts still attached themselves to us even though we made it quite clear to them that we didn't want their services and we wouldn't pay for any they provided. The routine is so same same. 'Where you from?, what is your name? et c.etc. We reply with 'No we don't want a guide', 'Oh no, I don't want money, I only want to improve my English' No we don't want to buy anything' 'No no I'm not trying to sell anything.' The scam is the same though. They'll show us around a bit, then insist we visit their father's shop and we'll waste time looking at stuff we can't and don't want to buy. I keep repeating " we don't pay guides and we don't even look at shops and we don't buy anything', until the message eventually gets through. Sounds harsh I know, but we've become hardened to the constant badgering. On a more positive note, the havelis are magnificent and are a legacy to a wonderful and prosperous by gone age, funded by the lucrative spice trade routes.

The weather is warming up in Rajesthan and by early afternoon we need some shelter and the market street is a perfect refuse and place to just take in daily life and get some great photos. We also found a street vendor with wonderful samosas and enjoyed being a part of all the goings on that are seemingly unaffected by the tourist trade. As a bonus, one vendor had a radio and we could listen to the cricket. Remember, Indians are absolutely mad about cricket and on the cable TV there are often highlights or replays of matches that were played several years ago.

Mandawa, and this area is also famous for it's tie dye materials and Dianne is keen to see the women at work. We got directions and wandered around until we found red dye running down the streets and found a home where women were working. They were willing to explain and demonstrate the process and we got some great pics, but it was somewhat spoiled by the children who kept haggling us for 'Pen Pen', or 'rupee rupee', or 'bon bon, bon bon'. When we refuse they get quite aggressive and eventually we had a group of about 20 of them yelling and performing because we didn't give. These kids will eventually destroy the tourist trade here if they continue the way they're going and we returned to the hotel feeling somewhat aggravated and drained of energy.


Hundreds of knots have to be tied to get the right effect for the intricate pattern in the tie and dye material .

All that paled into insignificance though the following day. Dianne had mapped out a circular route through several small villages and towns on the small roads and tracks to the north of Mandawa and we enjoyed a magnificent day riding through the ever changing arid lands of the Thor desert. All up we were on the road about 7 hours and covered about 150km and rode through lots of fascinating small villages with only thatched mud huts in contrast to the small towns with with their wall to wall opulent havelis and forts. It seemed that about every 20km there would be a town with expansive havelis with detailed but fading paintings. Sadly though they are almost all now deserted and in varying stages of ruin. When we look at it now, wow, how grand this area must have been in it's heyday, an extremely wealthy area and an important part of Indian history and trade.


Fantastic roads for us - no traffic...


...Well maybe just a little.

Riding back to Mandawa in the early evening , both Dianne and I felt quite rejuvenated after another wonderful day on the bike in rural India. The main roads are really a challenge with all the traffic hazards etc. but the small roads are real gems. The traffic is light and we get a chance to see what we we believe is the "Real India". Friendly people greet us on the road side and we had several invites for cups of Chai. Hard to believe we are only a few hundred kilometers from the Capital City. Tomorrow though that could all change as we head for Delhi.

I phoned Lalli Singh of Inder Motors to get directions to his workshop where the tyres are stored and Lalli also offered to book a hotel for us nearby. Dianne hasn't got a detailed map of this city of over 9 million, but Lalli's directions seemed pretty straight forward, so with a little bit of confidence we headed east. The roads linking Mandawa with the major highway 8 were real scrappy to ride on with lots of potholes and broken pavement. Also there were several medium sized towns we had to find our way through which is always a challenge. After what seemed an eternity we eventually hit the highway and thought we could make up some time, but alas, there were several detours and stoppages due to roadwork. I really wanted to get into our hotel before 3.00pm before the rush hour traffic and at this pace that seemed to be a remote possibility, but as we approached Delhi we saw the turn off Lalli had described and following his directions easily found his workshop. Lalli could see that we were knackered and would not be wanting to fit the tyres today so he arranged for one of his staff to lead us to the hotel. Again a big surprise, for only 500 rupees (about $14.00 Australian) we had this great room with cable TV and 24 hours hot water. I'm sure this was an 'Indian' price as other places we'd checked in the guide book were at least double.

After a sound nights sleep it was off to the Iranian Embassy, hopefully to collect our visas. Well, after some form filling in and a trip to the bank to deposit the visa fees, we were told everything was fine and we could collect the visa the day after tomorrow. Also, the DVD drive on our computer failed about 2 months ago and there is an Apple dealer in Delhi who can replace it so we hopped into another tuk tuk. The staff at the Apple shop were really good and even though they didn't have a replacement drive in stock, they swapped one over from a new computer. Bingo and a good days work.

Thursday and today I'll replace the tyres on the bike and give it a service. Again, Lalli was great and seconded one of his staff to help me out. After a short ride we even managed to find Mobil One synthetic oil for Jack. Whose a lucky bike then? Dianne enjoyed the day working on her images to free up some space on the computer and again we felt pleased with our achievements for the day.

One of the things a lot of travelers do when in Delhi is get Delhi Beli. Our digestive systems have been really good so it came as a bit of a shock to be struck with this condition in the middle of the night. It actually knocked me around so badly that I spent the whole of the next day in bed, close to the loo. Dianne gave me some anti biotic pills recommended by a German Doc staying at our Hotel and then she headed off to collect our passports with visas and also visit the National museum. We won't be able to leave tomorrow now as planned as I'm feeling too weak and so we're getting a little behind in our schedule. Our loose plan is becoming quite tight if we are to get to the border before our Pakistan Visa runs out and still enjoy the ride through the mountains in the north.

In our short time here in India we have become so anesthetized to daily life that we don't even notice the cows and ox carts making their way through the narrow bazaars around the hotel until we remember that this is somewhat out of place here in this capital city. Somehow the old and the new just seem to meld together here. The tuk tuk driver says the problem with Delhi traffic is that every one must go quickly, quickly and that there's an all day rush hour. With no lanes to control the dense traffic impatient drivers push in from all sides so an aggressive driving technique is the name of the game to survive. We did drive down wide roads in the city center that were relatively easy flowing, was it just a quiet area, good time of day or were we just lucky, who knows. Some cars actually use indicators and the traffic is more predictable on the larger roads with mainly cars, bikes and tuk tuks to worry about.

One thing I should mention though about Delhi is the relative lack of pollution. We were expecting the worst, but most days the sky was fairly blue and the air fine. One reason is the compulsory use of CNG (compressed natural gas) is all public transport vehicles. The fuel is also about half the price of regular petrol or diesel so most private cars are also converted to use CNG. Perhaps some western capital cities could take a leaf from Delhi's book.

The Delhi belie is taking its toll so Dianne has organised a ride in an airconditioned tourist taxi, this is the only way we are going to see any sights in Delhi. First we head for Old Delhi and the Red Fort, Lal Qila. Then it's through the very congested famous old bazaar, Chandi Chowk, to India's largest Mosque, Jama Masjid. Heading south we pass the India Gate, Parliament house and have a quick look at the Old Siri fort. Further south Qutab Minor is an interesting 12th century tower of victory commemorating the onset of Islamic rule but for us, we find the Gandhi Museum the most interesting. The museum is situated at the spot where Indera Gandhi was assassinated, it is free and a tribute to this popular leader.

Heading north east into the mighty Himalayas

Uttaranchal

Sunday March 1st. and I'm feeling somewhat recovered from the Delhi Belie and we need to move on to Nainital at the base of the Himalayan ranges about 350km north east of Delhi. This is going to be a big day but we have little choice as there isn't much accommodation on the way. Being Sunday and early, the traffic in Delhi is light and we quickly found highway 24 and headed out of the city. Trouble is that there are so many small towns along the way that we seem to be constantly passing through built up areas, for 100km at least. This slowed our progress and is also physically draining and we were somewhat relieved to see a by-pass on the right for the large city of Moradabad about half way. The by-pass saved us a bit of time but then the roads got bad. Really chopped up tar and pot holes and the traffic was as bad as we've seen. We've decided that Uttah Pradesh is the worst province in India to ride through and fortunately we only have a couple of hundred Ks to go before Nainital. Arriving exhausted just before dark, we grabbed the first hotel we saw and crashed for the night. To rub salt into our wounds, we discovered that at Moradabad there is a turning to the left that joins with a good road all the way to Nainital. Next time we'll know.

We've slept on softer planks but nevertheless woke up feeling refreshed and set about exploring this famous Hindu pilgrimage town. A huge lake dominates and the town is surrounded by steep mountains. Hindu religion believes that the attractive Naini lake is one of the emerald green eyes of Shiva's wife Sati and there is a temple on the exact spot where the eye is believed to have fallen. The town is quaint and very different to the India we've come to know and reminds us of Lucerne in Switzerland. The place is relatively spotless and for the first time we find trash bins and the traffic is organised and courteous. There are very few westerners here and the locals and Indian tourists are friendly and helpful and not expecting a handout. Just the spot to recharge for a day after Delhi.

This part of India is a real surprise for us. We're in a new province now, Uttaranchal (The abode of Gods), there is little traffic, the roads are good and the scenery is absolutely stunning with craggy mountains rising from up from deep, green valleys. The roads wind back and forth either up or down and around every corner there are magnificent views. Today we decide on a short ride to Ranikhet only about 80km away and arrive about lunchtime. This gives us a chance to wander the streets and eventually get invited to sit in a small shop and watch the final 10 overs of the 2nd Australia/India One Day cricket match. As mentioned before, the people here are fanatical about cricket and just to liven things up I placed a 10 rupee (.30cent) bet on Australia to win. Our host matched the bet, but felt uncomfortable about using money, so he sent one of his staff to buy some chocolate with the money. He then indicated that the winner of the bet would share the chocolate with the other. India just won the game in a thrilling last over and he shared the chocolate with us. This was just another example of the good nature of the Indian people that we have experienced so many times.


The moment Australia lost the One Day Cricket series

Moving ever onward and today we need to cover 150km to Karnapraya, another major Hindu pilgrim centre and where two rivers join to form the Vishnu Ganga or Alaknanda River and later become the mighty Ganga. Again the ride was magnificent through the mountains along winding roads and our hotel, though a little rough, looked out over a temple right on the confluence of the two rivers. Throughout the evening pilgrims came to celebrate the Ganga Aarti river ceremony, to worship and splash in the sacred waters and be blessed by the sadhus (holy men).

From Karnapraya, there is an 80km loop that we can do up to Joshimath and Auli, the premier ski region of India. An Indian fellow we met the night before has just done this loop on his Royal Enfield and it sounds too good to miss, so feeling all fired up we headed further uphill. Our journey over the next couple of days will take us along the path of the Hindu pilgrims through narrow winding gorges from which tributaries of the sacred Ganges form, from glacier and snow melt. Here, it is said, that the rivers carry "The Creators' message of the snows into the distant plains". I'll let the photos tell the story but let me say that this is one of our all time great rides.

The road followed the river most of the way but also winds it's way up and over and around the mountains. There have been many landslides here and workers are busy clearing the road, but it is passable.


Landslides become more frequent the higher we go

That just adds to the adventure and from Joshimath we branched off to the ski resort village of Auli. Suffice to say that there was still snow on the ground at these elevations (3000m) and the snow capped mountain views are incredible. See the pics. The mountains around here are over 7000m and Nanda Devi is nearly 8000m. Remember Everest is 8800m. so this is seriously high. We are also close to the Tibet border and there is a large military presence. Hard to believe that the riding can possibly get any better, but wait, tomorrow we head for Rishikesh.


Just as well we have an 'adventure' motorcycle


Onto Rishikesh winding round the mountains

A good nights sleep for both of us in Rishikesh and as we look out of our 4th floor hotel bedroom window this morning, there is a monkey wandering about a rooftop, 4 huge temples clustered together, the mighty Ganga below and the religious sector of Lakshman Jhula just across the river on the other bank. If the town of Rishikesh rings a bell, then you are probably in your 50s and recall that this is where the Beatles came to practice yoga and meditate. It's also where they wrote lots of songs for their 'White' album, and even today there are many westerners here seeking spiritual enlightenment in what is regarded as the yoga capital of the world. They're easy to spot wearing 'unusual' clothes and 'hairstyles'. Perhaps I'm missing something but to me meditation is something I do every morning on the toilet. It's there in the peace, serenity and solitude that I contemplate the day ahead and sometimes the day before and If I have time I'll even contemplate the meaning of life. Everyone to their own I suppose. Dianne I know has a different view.

Such good riding here and yes, yesterdays ride to Rishikesh at least equaled the ride to Auli. It started off a little tough with road-works to clear the landslides but then the road opened up and we rode along this thread of good blacktop cut into the mountainside following the Vishnu Ganga in the valley below. The scenery here is breathtaking with the rugged Himalayas either side of us and again I'll let the photos tell the story.

A couple of times we had to wait while bulldozers cleared the road and as usual, once the narrow passage was cleared, traffic from both sides charged forward and grid locked themselves. We had managed to get to the front of the queue on our side but still had to gingerly inch our way past the stuck oncoming cars and trucks with only centimeters between our tyres and a sheer drop to the valley below.

The holy waters of Ganga has drawn millions to her banks each year since the dawn of history and it represents the life and the death of the Hindu people. At a short break for water and fruit at the side of the road, we were marveling at the river and one of the many ghats below and noticed what looked like a dead body on the banks. The telephoto lens confirmed our suspicion. Incredible India! Incredibly good, incredibly bad, but always Incredible.

A day off in Rishikesh to take in the sights and catch up with the emails, general internet stuff and do some washing. Before we knew it, it was 5.00pm and Dianne had arranged with the receptionist to join her for a free yoga session. That plan changed though as they were late for the class and the receptionist invited us to her home for a meal. It was quite a walk from the hotel and Jeme explained a few things along the way. It seems she was from Delhi and is Rajput (a high caste), but she fell in love and married a man from a lower caste. Together they left the comforts of Delhi to start a new life in Rishikesh. Naturally, not all of her family approve but they are determined to go their own way with the help of their Gods and accept that they need to work hard and it will be tough. Remember that even now, most marriages in India are arranged by the parents and 'love' marriages are still not generally approved of.

Jemes and Ankor are a real inspiration to us all. Their 'home' is a small single room with only a double bed for furniture. They brought very few personal possessions with them and we sat on their bed while Jeme cooked us a wholesome tasty meal on the single gas burner while squatting on the floor to do the preparations. This couple have so little, in material terms, but have such huge hearts and their hopes and generosity are a real inspiration to us all.

From Rishikesh we headed back into the mountains and north to Mussoorie passing through the hill resort of Dhanaulti at 2770 meters. Again exceptional scenery even if the road was a little rough. Tomorrow we need to make it to Shimla, and from Mussoori it's going to be a long ride. There are still a few hours of daylight left so we elected to head down from the mountain into the valley and stay the night in Dehra Dun, a modern town and what seems to be an education centre, not far from Delhi.

Himachal Pradesh

Just a pleasant ride today from the valley up to the popular city of Shimla, we felt we needed a break from the stunning scenery! Shimla is the capital of Himachal Pradesh (Himachal means the home of eternal snows and this region certainly lives up to that). It was discovered by the British in 1819 and was used as a summer resort to escape the heat of the capital on the plains. We stayed a day to explore the mall and local markets. It certainly had an English feel, with old Tudor style buildings and some locals dressed in tweed coat and cap, sporting a huge moustache and walking along with a stick and nose in the air. In contrast to these characters, the local hill tribe people with backs bent, lug huge packs to serve the needs of the community strung along the ridge of the mountain. Houses and hotels that cascade down the hill have a ramshackle appearance but a steep climb to the top of the ridge reveals the wealthy and more stable building structures.

One day in the touristy city of Shimla was enough for us though and the mountains are beckoning us onwards. Sarahan is about 150km away and the road descends steeply from 2200 meters to Rampur at about 900 meters, then up again to 2000 meters. Again there are landslides along the way and some snow and ice in places, but overall it was a pleasant easy ride to the turnoff to Sarahan from where we climbed steeply up a narrow but good track.

Sarahan overlooks a magnificent valley of apple orchards, all in bloom at this time of the year. The village is famous though for it's Bhimakali (Buddhist) temple. The palace of the last maharaja is also located here and we enjoyed simply wandering about this picturesque village dominated by the 5200 meter Strikhand Mahadev mountain. Our guest house has a dinning room with a magnificent view of the valley and the moment justified a bottle of wine, our second since entering India.

This route through the valleys and mountains of the Himalayan's is absolutely outstanding and today we descend back into the valley then up again into a road literally cut into the mountain side overlooking the river in the valley below.

The surface is good, the views unbelievable and I was just saying to Dianne that this is probably the absolute all time best road we have been on! Well this part was spectacular but then we descended down to the river below and endured perhaps 50km of muddy, slushy road works, a consequence of a huge privately funded hydro electric project. When completed this will provide India with a clean energy source but right now it's a real challenge for us to ride on.


Woman building the roads after the land slides.

Eventually we reached the turn off for Sangla and left the mushy roads of the valley for what the Lonely Planet describes as 'this cliff hanging road is truly one of the most hair raising in India'. They are probably right, but we take things easy and again the scenery is well worth it as we make our way gingerly along a narrow track right on the edge of the mountain side.

Although a popular summer retreat, we are a little early in the season for Sangla at 2700 meters, and we're lucky to find a guest house. During the day the temperatures are mild but as soon as the sun sets the mercury drops. By dusk it is really cold and starting to rain - no - snow. It got so cold that by 9.00pm the hotel staff offered us more blankets, and with these over our sleeping bag we were snug as bugs in a ....

A chink of sunlight through the window woke us early and rushing to the windows we were greeted with a winter wonderland. The whole valley and mountains were covered in snow. Poor Jack had about 4 cm over him too. Needless to say we captured it all on camera and went for a 4 km walk further up the mountain to check the road surface as we wanted to ride higher still to Chitkul at 3600 meters where there are 360 degree views of the mountains.

Well, there is a lot of snow in places and some ice particularly on a bridge just out of town, but by the time we get back to the guest house, pack up and have breakfast, the snow is melting and we reckon the road is do-able. Riding along the cliff edge, the snow covered valley is spectacular and we got to 3000 meters and within a couple of kilometers of Chitkul before the icy conditions halted our progress. Nevertheless, we felt privileged to have got this far and enjoyed probably the best scenery and (adventure) riding ever.

 

Descending back to Sangla and then the river valley below the roads were a bit more of a challenge with all the snow melt. This is also as far east into the Himalayas as we will go as the snow and ice are likely to become worse, so it's back through the slushy muddy roadworks of the hydro project to Rampur for the night.

While in Himachal Pradesh, we have stayed at several of the HP Government Tourist hotels. They have all been good value (average cost about A$17.00) and the staff at the Bushahr Regency in Rampur were particularly obliging. I also got directions to a car (bike) wash and gave Jack a good rinsing to get rid of all the sticky mud.

With a clean bike and after a good nights sleep, we're fired up for another great ride.

There are two routes to Mundi. One over the recently opened Jalori Pass at 3223 meters. This is more scenic but at this altitude there is going to be a fair bit of snow even in late March. The other route follows the valley and no doubt will also be a good ride. Naturally, common sense prevailed and we convinced ourselves to take the safer more predictable valley route, but somehow, despite asking the obligatory 3 people for directions we ended up on the Jalori Pass route. The first indication we had taken a wrong turn was when we started to climb from the valley below. The climb was steep and got steeper and steeper and as we neared the summit. Through the pass thick snow lay on the ground around us and the GPS was indicating over 3000 meters.


It is all down hill from here.

Fortunately, the day was warm and the road was clear of ice but the snow melt did make the roads quite muddy. Dianne elected to walk about a kilometer on the down side as the road was particularly slippery but after that it was another great ride all the way down the mountain, though impressive valleys past quaint villages and friendly people. (see pics below) When we reached the Kullu Valley we followed a river ravine to Mundi.

We could have stayed in Mundi for a rest day, we certainly felt we needed it, but Dianne was keen to get to Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj, home of the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan Government. Soooo yes it was another good ride up into the mountains and down into the valleys through tea plantations and clean interesting villages. In fact a feature of Himachal has been the lack of rubbish and a generally clean appearance to all the villages and towns. We noticed in Shimla for instance that even the Indian national pastime of spitting is not allowed.

Dharamasala seems a bit run down but the ride from there at about 900 meters to McLeod ganj at 1800 meters is a steep and impressive climb. The Tibetan influence here is huge and red robed monks dominate. We can feel the tension in the air as it just so happens that we've arrived just as the Tibetans are protesting in Tibet. (16/3/08) The Media people are out in force filming the refugees in peaceful, organized marches through the town chanting 'free Tibet' and 'stop the killings'. Quite an introduction for us to this symbolic town and the plight of the Tibetan people.


More and more organized marches, each one becoming louder and larger and more boisterous than the other.


We sat for a couple of hours with hundreds of Buddhist monks and Tibetan families, as they prayed and chanted in the modest Buddhist temple close to the home of the Dalai Lama. A very moving experience.


Our final climb into the most impressive Hill station yet, Dalhousie.




Our final view of the magnificent Himalayas from Dalhousie.


And then, the final descent into the fertile valleys on our way to Amritsar.


A feature of the Holi festival is the throwing of coloured water and powder at passers by.


To enter the Golden Temple area heads must be covered with a scarf or turban.


This is what they've all come to see, the Sikh's holiest shrine. The dome is said to be guilded with 750kg of pure gold.


This guy's not going bathing without his dagger.

Sikhs refer to the 5 kakkars or emblems.
Kesh - the unshaven beard and uncut hair - symbolising saintliness.
Kangha - comb to maintain the uncut hair and kept in the turbine.
Kaccha - loose hand made underwear - symbolising modesty.
Kirpan - the saber or sword - symbolising power and dignity.
Karra - steel bangle - symbolising fearlessness.

Many Sikhs use the last name Singh ( lion)

Exceptionally friendly people wanting to be photographed with us.

One other unique 'must see' event in Amritsar is the border closing ceremony. Every evening huge crowds gather at about 5.00pm to see Indian and Pakistani soldiers go through their rituals and try to intimidate each other with high goose steps, super fast marching and shouting.

Our guide book describes it thus.

With a bellow from each guardroom a squad stomps out onto the road. The drill is to parade up and down in front of your home audience, stamp your feet, throw in some yells and once puffed up, march off to face the other side with scowling faces, pumped up chests and clenched fists.

The gates are flung open, and the commanding officers march up to each other and perform a brief handshake and salute. Then the guard parties goose step to the border and wheel to face their flags. Bugles blow and the flags are lowered slowly so that neither flag is higher than the other, implying national superiority. The flags are quickly folded and marched back to their respective guard rooms.

Reflections.

We've been in India now for nearly 3 months and covered almost 13000km. Our initial introduction riding from the border town of Rudolf to Patna still remains as one of our all time horrific rides. Thankfully things got much better. There are still the crazy bus and truck drivers who try to push us off the road, but we know they're going to do it and are prepared so it's not a problem anymore. As for the oncoming cars that pull out to overtake right in front of us, we've learnt to deal with them too. The technique is to swerve violently towards the center of the road and ride head on towards them. 95% of the time they will duck back into their lane and the other 5% of the time we revert to the bus/truck emergency SOP (standard operating procedure)

For us though, the minor roads are far better to travel on. Generally the surface is good and there is much less traffic and we get to see more of the real India - the villages and the people. Since we left Delhi and headed for the Himalayas two weeks ago, we've done about 2000km on small twisting roads that wind their way up and down the mountains. Be warned though that the weather can change overnight and landslides are common on the roads at this time of year. It's been a glorious time though and we were reminded just yesterday how good it's been as we descended down to the plains of Punjab and joined the main highway (?) our our way to Amritsar. This road is badly potholed and the traffic was as bad as we remember. Bad roads and busy traffic demand 100% concentration and we don't get to enjoy our journey.

For a short video clip of what riding the Himalayas is like, click on this link and turn the volume up.
http://gallery.mac.com/wonderlust04/100080

Overall, our moving average speed has been between 30kph and 40kph. Not that we're slow riders, that's just the way the roads are. Our average doesn't pick up much on the highways either because of the conditions. The premium fuel that Jack likes is available most places and costs about 50 rupees/litre. ($A1.40) and our budget averaged about 2000 rupees ($A50.00) a day. A bit higher than we expected mainly due to accommodation costs. Generally the food is good, although we stuck mainly to vegetarian dishes which are reasonably priced. A good tip though, sometimes the meals at upmarket hotels and even restaurants is of a far higher quality and there is very little difference in price, but keep away from tourist hot spots.

Last week the two millionth Indian waved his fingers to us to indicate we had our headlight on. Indians don't even use lights at night so they must think we are really crazy to be using ours in the day. It drives them nuts and some will go to great lengths to warn us of our wastage. But really, it's just an indication of how friendly these people are. They are helpful, polite and curious and will go out of their way to please. I usually strike up a conversation about cricket and instantly become their new best friend.

Education is extremely important to Indians with thousands of private schools and colleges and universities. Educated Indians are keen to seek opportunities in foreign lands and an interesting statistic from our guide book claims that about 20 million Indians are scattered in over 110 countries around the world with 1.3 million of them in the UK!

'Incredible India' is the national promotion and they are spot on. This country is incredible, exciting, exhausting, stunning, exasperating and frustrating - every day. Traveling here is absolutely 'full on' and we can't imagine another country that has as much to offer as India. We believe we've made the most of our time here and encourage others to also enjoy this wonderful land.

We 'blast off' into Pakistan tomorrow so wish us well.

Click below on Next page to continue our journey in Pakistan.

Click here to go back into India, part 1.

rollover

rollover

©Haydn and Dianne Durnell 2008