Islamabad to Amritsar (India)

hi all, happy new year.

we managed to drag ourselves from Pakistan and spend new year here in Amritsar with the rest of the crew and toast the new year in with beer (over a month with no beer, not even a drop on christmas day. im not saying Islam’s got it wrong but this is English traditions we are dealing with)

anyway ill get back to that later. so after our new celebrity status in Islamabad we decided we should leave the hords of admiring fans (actually, rather disappointingly not one person recognised us from the news) and start the relatively short cycle to Lahore. After spending an hour or so trying to find the right road we eventually got on to the Grand Trunk road which would take us to Lahore and kindly bypass the motorway. as we left Islamabad on a 3 lane road we could see (or not see) the pollution hanging over the plain which would be our home for the next 3 days. Not a particularly encouraging sight, to know that we would be inhaling all those fumes. our lungs would probably be healthier if we sat in a locked room for 3 days and chain smoke cigarettes. but we had no choice but to cycle (other than get a train, but we are both sick and tired of public transport). after cycling for about 50 km i heard the tell tale ‘ping’ of a broken spoke, a sound i am well used to by now. so when we stopped for lunch instead of eating and relaxing with the others i had to do some emergency repairs. my bike unlike Matts (much to his enjoyment) has had lots of broken spokes partly because i dont really know what im doing when i true my wheel and partly because my spokes have rusted to my wheel rim making them impossible to loosen or tighten, which means ive had a egg shaped wheel for the past 4 months. so when a spoke brakes it has to be replaced straight away or else the whole thing is likely to break (and probably when im doing 50km/h down a hill).  i think ive broken a record, when i looked at my wheel i had 3 broken spokes,  so with a crowd of intrigued kids i managed to replace all 3 and then get going again. by this time it was getting late so we decided to push on for another 40 km and then find a hotel. during the night Matt was to-ing and fro-ing between the room and bath room to vomit, so in the morning we decided it was best to stay and let him recover. Rob however was on a tight schedule so had to leave, which ment it was the two of us again. Matt spent the day in bed and we both watched TV pretty much all day, but it was interupted fairly regularly by the staff walking into our room just to stare at us and smoke cigarettes, which was as annoying as you can imagen. we also think the hotel double as a brothel as a woman came into our room and sat with another staff member and was really forward for a woman in Pakistan (just to sit in a room with a woman you dont know is unusual and to shake hands never happens) and kind of gesture she was saying next door if we wanted to know, which we didnt.

the next morning Matt was feeling better so we decide to push on. after a few km a fruit juice vender on the side of the road stopped us and gave us free fresh orange juice, which was lovely of him. feeling refreshed we cycled on. along the way we got beckoned to stop by a guy who wanted to chat. he was an interesting bloke and one of the nicest people we met along the way. it was kind of sad really because he was obviously fairly westernised, and said he felt like a bit of misfit in pakistan as he wasnt at all interested in religion, which in a deeply religious country like pakistan makes you a bit of an out cast. we chatted to him for half an our and enjoyed the coffee and sandwiches he bought us and then said our fair wells. we carried on cycling until the late afternoon untill we decided to stop. we got to a town called wazirabad about 100km form Lahore and tried looking for a hotel. we had a choice of either the grimiest hotels or the poshest with nothing in between. luckily we met a guy who took it upon himself to help us, and after walking around for a hour and us both becoming more tired and frustrated to no avail he suggested we stay in his cousins factory who had a guest house attached. so we lucked out again, the place was luxury and free. the guys were all really nice and stayed with us to chat for a while but not so long it was uncomfortable, and left us for an early night. in the morning our guide returned and took us for breakfast and then cycled out of town with us.

the 100km cycle went by pretty quick with good roads and a slight tail wind, the traffic was pretty mental though. i was almost squashed between two trucks which was really scary and made me rethink cycling aggressively in the traffic (which is usually the best way in cities but i dont think that rule applies here). we got to Lahore at around 3pm and found a cool hostel where all the other travelers go. it turned out rob had left the day before to spend christmas in india, and we were expecting kieth and christian the following day. Lahore had a nice fort to wonder around and a massive mosque, which we spent a day wondering around. so with all the attractions ticked off it gave us the rest of our time there to relax and do very little.

the others arrived the next day as planned and we spent christmas together, doing very little. we bought cake and played cards on christmas eve (as we were with Europeans mostly who celebrate the eve and not the day… bizarrely). it was nice but uneventful. after a few more days chilling we decided to leave to get to india to spend new years there. it was 30km to the border and another 30km to Amritsar, our first port of call in India. the border crossing took a while, forms to fill out and numerous people to check our passports, so around mid day we were in india, which as we were still in the Punjab didnt reel particularly different until we got to Amritsar the Sikh holly land.

the sikhs being the great people that they are (men and women equal and no caste system) provide free accomadation and food for travelers and pilgrims, so we spend for days there. the day after we got there it was new years and the first time that we had all be back together for a while (that is me, Matt, rob, kieth and christian) so we went to celebrate. unfortunantly the bar we chose (not that we had a choice) closed at 10:30pm so we spent the next hour riding around on a crazy ric-shaw looking for somewhere else to drink or a party in a hotel. we managed to find a crummy bar in a hotel just before midnight so we could atleast toast the new year in.

the next day kieth and christian left to cycle north, i was certainly tempted to join them but i was done with the cold, and i wanted to spent the last part of Matts trip with him. so we said our farewells for what might be the whole trip as now we are all going our separate ways and India is so flipping big that the chance of bumping into each other on the road isn’t very likely. so we spent another day there being lazy before we decided to hit the road.

i think Amritsar was a nice intoduction to india, its kind of mellow, but with all the quintessential things that i expected from India, the touts, poverty and pollution. i guess the poverty is the hardest thing to get used to. i struggle with the morality of giving money to beggars. i never do because i think there are more productive ways of giving charity than handing out money but it never really feels good to denie someone money for food or clothes (or drugs) when that amount of money makes no difference to me. one night i made the mistake of hanging around next to a burger vendor, and a young girl came up to me and asked for a burger because she was hungry, and im a sucker for a cute girl with beautiful eyes so i bought her a burger, then her brother came, so another burger, then 2 more kids appeared so 2 more burgers. i left quick smart so as not to get caught in a never ending que or sweet hungry kids. on my walk back there was a small girl crying in the street lying half wrapped in a plastic bag, with no one paying any attention. so that night the poverty hit me. and i think its going to continue to hit me the hole time im here.

ill leave it there for now, so Matt has something to write when he does his last blog of the trip.

happy new year to you all

love jack x

8 Comments »

  1. han said,

    thank god for razors is all i can say!!!!!
    Glad you all managed to spend christmas together and at least got to have a drink on new years eve, bet you didnt miss the madness of newquay, glad we didnt have to face going in this new year!
    Bet its going to be weird for both of you when matt comes home, maybe you should come home too jack, charlie misses you and so do we all!!!!! can completely understand why you dont want to you are all having such an amazing experience and getting to see things that most people probably never will, i am a bit jealous to say the least, especially over the difference in temperature from us!
    Anyway carry on being safe and enjoying yourselfs, really do miss you loads, lots of lots of love from the 3 of us XxX

  2. mum and marg said,

    I’m with Hannah on the razor Jack please don’t ever grow a beard again!
    am waiting for the next instalment so hurry up
    love mum and margxxxx

  3. Aunti Sue and John said,

    Hi Jack

    Dont take any notice of the girls – beards are cool!

    Never did me any harm anyway!!!

    10/10 for motivation for you both!

    Hope everthing continues to go well – Aunti Sue wants you back to teach her backgammon!

    Hope you get another partner to continue your adventure

    Our best wishes

    Aunti Sue and John

    • eurasianadventure said,

      thanks for the support john, i was rather proud of it.
      backgammon is great and ill look forward to teaching it, we spend many hours in turkey playing and perfecting our tacticks so i should be a good teacher.
      hope all is well with you both
      love jack

  4. Tim said,

    Jack, i have to say i’m pro beard. Was it the final right of passage into manhood that you imagined?
    Great blog, i hope all goes well as you carry on matt-less.

  5. Aunti Sue and John said,

    Hi Jack

    Thanks for the comments.

    A cyclist goes to a doctor – he says he is really upset and does not know whether he is a wigwam or a teppee – the doctor considers the symptoms and then diagnoses that he is ‘two tents’

    Thats two more than you – Jack!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Stay cool and take care

    Aunt Sue and John

  6. Aunti Sue and John said,

    Hi Jack

    Remember its Mothers Day on Sunday 14th March

    Aunti Sue and John

  7. Aunti Sue and John said,

    Hi Jack

    HAPPY EASTER

    Did you get an egg?

    Hope things going well?

    Aunti Sue and John


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