April 26, 2009 GMT
No.20. India. From North to South

Meanwhile, back on the 'open' road - at the gates of the Golden Temple, Amritsar, NW India....

I'd picked my way through the ever narrowing streets following locals' gesticulations towards the temple. I'd read that it may be possible to stay here in an area within the complex set aside for foreigners. Sure enough, I was ushered in by an imposing Sikh and, having handed over 'cigarettes, alcohol and drugs' was led - bike and all - to an enclosed courtyard where, amazingly, I was given a private room.

I unpacked and joined the pilgrims walking clockwise around the Golden Temple which is set in a large ornamental pool. Steadying myself for a photo I was handed an empty bucket and promptly swept up into the daily cleaning ritual. Later that evening I was invited to join them in the communal eating halls. Attendants went from row to row ladelling food out of metal buckets as we sat cross-legged in lines on the floor - painful at the best of times for Euro-man and food from buckets? Not for the faint-hearted. My request for the A la Carte menu was met with a blank expression.

The end of a long day, and I would have slept well but for the incessant wailing, chanting and gnashing of teeth together with the constant comings and goings throughout the night. I contemplated a call through to reception in my half sleep....


Click here to see the full story

From Amritsar my route took me North East to Mcleod Ganj, home of the Dalai Lama (he was out), on to Delhi and from there to the desert region of Rajasthan. Spectacular scenery, spectacular forts and spectacular driving conditions awaited me on my journey south.

For the full story, click on MORE below....

Delhi. With extended visa in my pocket - more easily said than done - I zig-zagged my way through the debris down the roads towards Jaipur and Rajasthan.

Ah yes. The roads of India. Everyone has their tales and I've done my best to catch the drama in a cartoon.

A typical scenario: I pull out to overtake a bus. Straightforward. I then realise he's overtaking a slow moving truck which is moving out past a spluttering rickshaw who's overtaking a camel and cart which is avoiding an old man on a bicycle. Change down and gun it through the ever shrinking gap between me and the deep gravel on the right hand side. I look up to see that the same sequence of events is going on - coming at us. Never a dull moment. I had considered welding the front of a bus to the front of my bike to give me a little more 'presence'.


Original cartoons from my journal.


Life on the roads was always intense and 'in your face'. You constantly needed your wits about you as an accident was waiting for you around every corner - and on the straight bits. But fortunately, despite the seeming chaos of the narrow streets there was always an 'oasis of calm' waiting for me behind courtyard walls. I just needed to find them - not always easy. The Cosy Guest House in Jodhpur was one such example. By the time I found the doorway I swear the cylinder heads were scratching on both sides of the alley walls....Narrow, yes, but it was worth it.

Happy days spent sightseeing and lounging on the terrace overlooking the magnificent Meheranghar Fort with Ray, Chris, Tam, Jack and Joleen. Brief friendships that were much enjoyed by the 'Lonely Biker'...What are you all up to now?

It's impossible to tell every tale in this limited space but....Christmas and New Year were spent in beach huts in Goa. There was romance and sunsets, sunrises and hangovers. There was undelivered tyres, an Indian Christian wedding party, good coffee, bad alcohol, dramatic temples of doom and Shakespearian weather leading to embarrassing electrical failure despite serious amounts of 'The Elixir of life' - WD40.

But despite these highs and lows, I finally rolled up on the southern coast. Made it! This must be photographed...Me, the loaded bike, the Indian Ocean as back drop. I could picture the final enlarged photograph above the fireplace at home...The stories I would tell over dinner... " Sir! Photo?! No problem.I can help you.."

Travel Tip No. 303: Take a tripod when travelling solo.

Next. The route North and the Nepalese border

Posted by Simon Roberts at April 26, 2009 08:42 PM GMT

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