|Well five months on the road and we have finally made it to India, we are still alive !!! (though there has been a couple of close moments) but we are still enjoying ourselves. The Pakistan/India border was no problem, despite what we imagined. However, goods coming from Pakstan into India and visa versa we unloaded from trucks by hand and carried on heads to the border line and passed to the opposition where they were loaded back onto trucks to|
|continue their journey. The Pakistani's all being in green and red outfits and the Indians in blue - thus none of them could make a run for it across the border !|
|Looking from the Pakistan side at Dates being carried to the Indian side.|
|Our first stop was to be Amritsar where The Golden Temple, the holiest site for the Sikh religion is located. We booked into Mrs Bandhari's Guest House - an amazing place, everything is as it was in the 1950's and has a real British feel about it. We even had a swimming pool and children's play area. We spent 6 nights here in total as we decided to change to tyres on the bikes - nightmare job with only tyre irons and brute force (atually the front tyres were easy but the rear tyres were incrediably difficult to change), and give them a full service. After a day and a half we had all four done - thankfully with no damage to the inner tubes.
One day out was spent wandering around the Golden Temple which is amazing although smaller that expected. The Sikh religion is a very passive one and they accomodate all religions and races, to the extent that there is always free dinner available at the Temple for all and accomodation is given free of charge ( a donation is appreciated ). We did not avail of the accomodation as it was a strictly no smoking environment ( this being a religious requirement rather than health related ), cigarettes not being allowed into the Temple at all - they had to be left with shoes - downside is that someone pinched them ! The food we did try. There was an amazing production line going on of food preparation, supply and washing. Around 20 people sat outside the food hall chopping vegetables (no meat here), food dishes ( something along the lines of prison food dishes ) were handed out by two men. Everyone was lined up along the floor in long rows facing each other as if sitting at a refectory table but with no table. With plates on the floor in front of you men arrived with buckets (literally) of Daal type stuff (lentils), chutney of some description and chapatti's. With a ladle this was slopped into your dish - occasionally splattering straight back out again ! The taste.................er................not really sure spinachy is about the best way to describe it.
|The Golden Temple - the golden bit in the middle and all four side being the same as the white section here. It is real gold !|
|From Amritsar we returned to the border to watch the flag lowering ceremony, for this we hired an auto rikshaw for the 30 km drive and shared it with Maarten and two Aussie ladies ( Jan and Robin ) that we met at Mrs Bandahari's. The flag lowering ceremony was very funny to watch from a Western perspective, and acually a little worrying as they take this very seriously. The ceremony involves a lot of marching as fast as possible followed by stamping the ground as hard as possible and then inflating their chests as much as possible and using a few arm movements to try to suggest to the opposing side that they are inferior, add to this the slaming shut of the gates and what you have here is the best comedy entertainment since Monty Python, now add into the mix crowds of Indians and Pakistani's in their respective grandstands cheering and shouting as loud as possible, all taunting each other, and a couple of people on each side are allowed to run upto the gates and wave their respective flags at each other before then running back in front of the crowds to a temultuious cheer. Because we were foriegn tourists we were given special treatment and taken to the VIP section, then as the ceremony was about to the senior officer invited us to move to an even better position, from which Cliff was able to capture most of the ceremony on video. This was one of those evenings that will stay with us for many years to come.|
|Indian soldiers lined up ready to go and taunt their opponant|
|Amritsar also has a Hindu version of the golden temple, It is a little different and not quite so golden but was interesting in its own right. On november 4th the Indians celebrate Diwali, which is the Hindu new year. Now, the Indians use fireworks to celebrate this occassion as we do, plus serious lighting on their houses, however, their idea of fireworks is somewhat different to ours. Pretty and colourful are not great requirements - noise is. The louder the better. Hence, firecrackers were the main weapon. Rockets went up and banged with little light, catherine wheels were set off on the ground - spinning wildly all over the place. But the favourite were lines of firecrackers that you lit one end and it was like machine gun fire and also single use crackers - the idea of these being you lit it and threw it as fast and as far as you could at anyone passing who might jump. There was also a total disregard for any danger involved. As can be seen from the photo below standing too close is unheard of.|
|Our own personal firework display. No, this is not us !|