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10/08 – 13/08 – Amritsar and the final farewell

November 10, 2011
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So here we are, India, and the end of our ride together. For those of you who don’t know, this is where myself and Julian part ways.

Unfortunately the trip has taken a lot longer than expected (we originally planned to be in Kathmandu in mid July) and here we are mid August having just reached India. For me, this means i wont be going to Kathmandu – instead my road will end in Delhi.

I am mildly dissappointed that I won’t get to the final destination, but I’ve come to realise over the last year that its not about Kathmandu at all – its about everything in between. It was a shame we named the trip London to Kathmandu – its put pressure on us the whole way to make sure we will be there beforethe time runs out. Really it should have been called sometihng like ‘the big cycle’ or ‘UK to India’ (even though that has a destination in mind, its a bit more flexible) or we shouldnt have named it at all. Either way, my road ending in Delhi doesn’t make it for me any less of an experience.

Julian is continuining on, beyond Kathmandu. His plans from Amritsar are to head to Kashmir where he will avoid the worst of the monsoon, then to Nepal and Kathmandu. He will spend some time at the ICT project there doing volunteering work. Afterwards his plans are to head to south India, Goa, Kerala, and back up to Calcutta, before getting a flight possibly to Singapore, cycling up through central Asia andback into China, before heading to Japan and searching for a job in Tokyo.

So the trip has really blossomed and changed since we left. Amritsar we felt was a good time to part ways, allowing me three weeks to settle and come to terms with everything that has happened over the last year, and to prepare for the manic ride back into normality and study when i get back home. My plan is to head from Amritsar to Chandigarh, then on to Shimla, into the Himalayan foothills towards Rishikesh, where I will relax hard before heading down to Delhi and getting on a damn plane.

So we arrived in Amritsar, and had Julian’s birthday to celebrate. Fisrt things first, we headed to The Golden Temple, to get our bearings. This beautiful temple, is set amidst a huge marble ambulatory with a lake that is supposed to contain the sould ofthe seven gurus of Sikhism. Its a beautifully calm place, and incredibly welcoming – you must take off your shoes and cover your hair upon entering, and then you can sit, bathe in the water and enter the temple at your own free will. The amazingly reductive quality of the Sikh religion means eveyone is welcome. We as non Sikhs were allowed to go right into the golden temple, eat the free food that was provided at the kitchen, drink the water that was provided at each corner. Even sleep in the dorms if we wanted. You wouldnt find this in Islam.

The Sikhs are very photogenic – the elaborately coloured turbans dominate the skyline of the crowds that bustle in and out of the temple. Everyone must carry a knife, at all times, and the women dress in a wonderful array of deep, rich colours. There is live music from the temple that is pumped all around the complex, creating a very inviting, soothing and wonderful atmostphere. We would have stayed longer, if it wasnt the call for curry that was dominating our thoughts. We didnt have to venture far – we were tipped off about Punjabi Raosi around the corner, possibly the best curry of my life. So good in fact, that we ate there every day for three days. It was cheap, it was plentiful, and it was tasty beyond belief.

That evening we found a bar and drank a few cold Kingfisher blue’s to celebrate. We picked up a few for the road and even managed to score some hash – a rather dodgy deal (as always) that saw us actually buying quite a low – 1,000 rupeesbeing the minimum he would sell. We went back to the hotel with a big bag of weed, a big bag of beers, and saw the night off in style.

The next few days I stalled on leaving – instead using my time to scour the depths of Amritsar to find Julian a birthday present – I was looking for something – a blowup globe – a great idea from one Alastair Humphreys as an easily packable talking device about the trip to anyone he may encounter, aswell as a good toy to play with kids. Eventually i found one down the back alley of a back alley, in a shcool supplies shop. Julian was delighted. I was delighted. We saw the day off eating in the Temple kitchen and smoking a joint.

After yet another day of rest, i was ready to head on to Chandigarh. That morning i packed and Julian saw me off from the hotel. Our goodbye was a low key affair, neither of not wanting to make a big deal of it. I shall miss my brother of the road – its been the most amazing year of my life.

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