Update 17 - Wagah to Delhi, India.
11th February 2002.
into India - our 13th country of the journey. And what
a welcome we received. It was showtime! Every evening
there is an unique closing ceremony at the India-Pakistan
border. Pakistan and India don't like each other too
much - no secret. Each night large crowds of people
travel to the remote border and stand on grandstands
and viewing galleries on their respective side of the
Highly disciplined soldiers on both sides of the border
then perform identical 20 minute displays. This involves
a LOT of saluting, stamping of feet and glaring at each
other. It is a sort of competition every day. Each side
tries to out do the other by shouting the loudest and
stamping their feet the hardest. Whilst this is happening
the crowds throw as much abuse to the other side as
they can. Great!
this we headed to Amritsar and arrived at the Gurudwara
at the Golden Temple in the city centre. A Gurudwara
is a Sikh pilgrim's hostel. The Sikhs are notoriously
hospitable people and western tourists are allowed to
stay in this basic and functional place for free - as
long as the hair is covered at all times by a hat. They
even throw in some free food as well.
The Golden Temple itself was beautiful (see photo).
We left Amritsar and headed north. But before that we
had a couple of goodbyes to say. Spanish 'Not tonight,
darling' Juan and David the Belgian had become honorary
Charityriders and we were sad to lose them both. Juan
had been with us since Esfahan, Iran - 45 days - poor
Onwards to McLeod Ganj, where the Dalai Lama has taken
exile. This is a small town set in a beautiful setting
within the foothills of the Himalayas. The views are
spectacular, especially at evening when the mountains
glow red in the sunlight.
(Matt) found McLeod Ganj to be a strange place. There
are many Tibetan Buddhist monks all wearing red robes.
But there are also many Westerners who have become Buddhists
walking around in the robes. I found this very strange
(even false). There are many yoga schools there and
many people stay for months to learn yoga and reach
It was also our first experience of tourists. All the
time since leaving Istanbul, we have been to places
where there have been very few (if any) tourists. We
were almost the only foreigners in Iran and Pakistan,
for example. All of a sudden, there are hundreds of
us all in a small hilltop town. Overwhelming to say
the least. When we first got there we beamed and smiled
at every foreigner we saw - for us it was a novelty.
People must have thought that we were very strange.
hotel was perfect. It overlooked a deep valley and we
could regularly see various birds of prey looking for
din dins. We even had a load of very very annoying baboons
trying to steal our food every morning - cheeky monkeys!
But the best part of our stay in McLeod Ganj was the
day walk up to Triund at 2840m. It's a beautiful walk
and the views at the top are spectacular of the Himalayan
foothills and prayer flags. (See photo).
It was time to head south to Delhi. And what a shocking
journey it was. The roads in India are something to
be experienced, especially as a cyclist. The drivers
beep their horns at everything, yes everything. They
beep when turning, accelerating, decelerating, when
they are bored and when they see Western cyclists. For
six days we had head aches and got very annoyed with
all the noise.
arrived in Delhi and expected the traffic to be utterly
horrendous. We were pleasantly surprised and had little
trouble getting into the centre fairly safely. In fact,
it was a quiet Sunday ride compared to Istanbul or Tehran.
Delhi is pleasant enough. Busy, noisy, polluted of course.
There are several good monuments to see and some good
took a day trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. What a
truely awful day. We spent 19 hours on a really bad
bus. The Taj, I agree, was beautiful, but expensive.
It is one of India's must sees, I only wish we had been
there in the early morning before the crowds and the
touts. It turned out to be one of the worst days of
the trip so far. You are probably getting the impression
that we are not too keen on Northern India.... Well,
But despite all these wonderful (and not so wonderful)
experiences, one memory stands out from a mile off.
Sitting in a good hotel in the small Indian town of
Mandi, near Delhi, we watched possibly the greatest
film of all time - George of the Jungle. If you haven't
seen this cinematic treat then let me set the scene.
George (the 'hero') was stranded in a jungle as a baby
and raised by a bunch of English-speaking gorillas (and
why not?). He is a second-rate Tarzan figure. Every
time George swings through the jungle on a vine he ends
up either falling off or banging into a tree. Now this
might seem like very simple humour, but remember, we
are very simple people. So for 2 hours we could hardly
breathe from laughing too much. The novelty of watching
George smash into tree and then another tree and then
another tree and then another tree...oh dear...