Westwards to The Punjab

Trip Start Jun 20, 2009
Trip End Jul 01, 2009

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Where I stayed
The Golden Temple

Flag of India  , Punjab,
Monday, June 29, 2009

How nice to be on an air conditioned train for 3 hours just sitting back and relaxing reading the Times of India and eating the complementary food, all for just a couple of quid. Arrived in Amritsar in the absolute heat of the day and managed to find a rickshaw to the Golden Temple. It was officially 50 degrees celsuis and even the locals looked desheveled, my poor guy had to stop twice for water on the 1.5 km ride.

At 2 I finally arrived at the Golden Temple, pilgrimage site and holy place for the Sikh religion. I walked in and crucified the bottoms of my feet as it is obligitory to enter bare foot. The intensely solar-heated marble made it feel like walking over a fire. Taking my bags to the hostel within the temple I was surprised to see about 20 caucasians in the foreigners' dorm. There I met 2 Israelis, an American and a Frenchman who invited me along to the tourist spectacle at the Pakistani border which involves the closing of the only passing place on the border between the two countries. We  an A/C jeep albeit with the olbligatory insane driver.

Arriving at the border after a 40km 1 hour long journey we were greeted with a gender segregated ampitheatre and a seat facing the late afternoon sun which was total hell on earth. I have never sweated so much. I was literrally dripping. Jake the American next to me was in a foul mood at the prospect of awatching a steady line of children run to and from the border iwht an Indian flag each. As about 200 Indians danced in the centre to what sounded like Punjabi MC Jake got more irritated and his frustration became contagious so that by 1 hour in I was also grumply. The ceremony finally ended after 90 more minutes which consisted of ubiquitous stomping by formally dressed Indian and Pakistani guards to which the crowd cheered. The final part of the ceremony saw the lowering of both flags which gave me much relief as I had run out of water and was fed up with the incessant sitting and standing cycle dictated by those at the front.

I was reminded that I was actually at the northern end of the Rajastan desert with the appearance of a dust storm which consumed our jeep and reduced visibility to almost zero. This was apparently the sign of the approaching and much needed monsoon.

We got back to the Golden Temple and headed straight ot the kitchen which was an amazing experience. The usual meal but eating with thousands of other people...for free!

It was now night and I went for a quiet sit down alone on the edge of the shallow holy lake and the central golden temple which dominates the whole complex and then went for a Sikh blessing inside, drank the holy water and ate some rice flour dough.
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