May 07, 2006 GMT

30th April and exited Pakistan where the crossing was very efficient and on to the Indian border control-( who go to lunch between 1pm and 1.30pm)-- so we had our picnic too--much to everyone's amusement.
We the only europeans there and and very few others crossing either. The bike was scrutenised here and the luggage checked before the Carnet was stamped.
We gained 1/2 hour and are now 4 1/2 hours ahead of UK.

Entering India was a revelation: immediately less heat, a cooling breeze, birds singing, trees and TARMAC. We carried onto Amritzar where we stayed for 1st and 2nd May. We are both very tired and need a break.
We luxurated in clean sheets, swimming pool, comfort, beer and salutes from the Sikh guard as you enter or exit the hotel and computers that work (cheap at 25p per hour but 2GBP in the hotels ). A 4* hotel is 40 GBP per night - and worth every penny. We have decided that even if it cuts the timing of the trip down ( due to finances - or lack of finances !) we have to retain our sanity by staying in the best hotel we can afford. Pakistan has really taken it's toll on us.

In Amritzar we met up with an Indian guy who took us to see The Golden Temple at night- by chauffer driven car with VIP plates. ( Here the different catagories of status is shown on the colour of the number plate- taxis are one colour and private cars or Government another). The Temple was truely beautiful.

Next day we hired a taxi to take us back to the border to see the closing ceremony of the border between India and Pakistan. This is done every evening at sunset and is well attended (on both sides of the border )and is a well orchestrated piece of theatre. The guards are strutting their stuff, in complete unison, the crowds are yelling for their own country and it is a good spectacle. The guards on the Indian side are the tallest men I have ever seen.
The taxi driver waited for us and picked us out of the crowd at the end and the round trip for 70 K was 10GBP.

3rd May and on to Chandighar on beautiful tarmac road, hectic traffic and you really have to watch for the cars, lorries or buses that have a death wish on overtaking. The drivers just do not seem to see us- despite the fact that we are big. headlight on and hand on horn !-- I want a horn for the back - so that i can klaxon to everyone, as well.!
We left early and by midday it was 40- 45 degrees travelling. At least we have a breeze as we are bowling along. It's when you stop that the heat hits you.
There are cows in the central reservation, amongst the bourgonvillia that is prolific. It was on this section that we saw a Mc Donald's- but it was on the wrong side of a dual carriageway-- we could have cried !

We then went up to Shimla which is at the base of the Himilayas and cooler. It was a long hard drive behind lorries belching out fumes and a very busy winding , twisting road . It took 4 1/2 hours to do 76 miles. Cows in the road and monkeys scampering around.
Shimla was a huge disapointment- very touristy ( including the candy floss ) and there were loads of visitors there ( no Europeans) and was basically like a seaside town in the summer-( but no sea.)
The day did not start off well when Colin was expected to leave the bike on the lower road in an unguarded carpark and the bags would be carried up by porters.The road to the hotel was 'sealed' and after alot of arguement and Police blowing whistles , Colin lost his cool ( for the first time in the trip ) and told the Police that he was going to drive to the hotel( about 200 yards up the road ) like it or lump it and then drove off.
That evening we walked around Shimla and saw the English houses . took the walk along "The mall" and generally saw the sights and were out at 7am to drive back to Chandrigar. This drive was actually one of the best of the trip- it was cool, you were going down hill, the monkeys were dopey and the cows half asleep.

So now we are having days off ( till 9th may ) to arrange the air freight from Delhi to Bangkok. The original plan had been to drive to calcutta and air freight from there but we have been advised by many people not to drive through the areas of Bihar and Jahark due to internal troubles and very bad roads. We then thought about putting the bike and us on to a train from Delhi to calcutta but on further reflection we thought -" why have the bother of 2 lots of indian beurocrocy when 1 will do". So we hope to do the airfreight in one hop- got to negotiate our way through Delhi first !

At least here there are road signs- not like Pakistan where you had to ask for each turning. Petrol is 76 pence per litre, food is cheap (but we have not eaten any meat since we entered pakistan.) Driving is manic with rickshaws weaving in and out of the traffic. We dont know the price of ther beer as it has just been put on the bill and we will pay whatever for it at the end ! Colin desrves each one that he has. There is heavy security everywhere with guards in each shop and on every level in the hotel. we had the explosive sniffer dog at the hotel one evenng as there wasa big "do" going on.

The Punjab is basking ina heatwave - the hottest it has been for 5 years. Daytime temperature is 40- 45 degrees. Trust us !

India is a contradiction - wealth, poverty, noise, pollution and beauty. Next on to delhi and we will see if we remain sane after the arranging of the air freight.........

Posted by Dee Masters at May 07, 2006 02:06 PM GMT

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