Published: August 7th 2007June 8th 2007
As I tipped one of the managers of the houseboat as I left (with all the money I had on me) he counted it out, smiled sadly and said "i am sorry the service was not good enough".
But no matter. I was leaving Srinagar, I was leaving the vicious circle of guided tours and touts, I had no hotel booked in Jammu, no-one to meet me at the station and take me somewhere expensive. THings were going to change.
The bus journey fro Srinagar to Jammu is not something I want to remember, beyond it being 12 hours of my life I wish had never happened. Particular low-lights include throwing up out of the back window, and forcibly removing my neighbours hand from my thigh, 3 times (after which I changed seats).
The lonely planet has this to say about Jammu:
"apart from being a railhead and transport hub there's no compelling reason to visit"
I found this to be a bit harsh. Of course, that might simply be beacuse Jammu provided me with the opportunity to purchase said Lonely planet, which will be hugely useful in informing the rest of my travel in India,
and which I can't believe I came away without. Nevertheless, there's not much else to say about Jammu. I was there for a day, I booked a hotel and a railticket all by myself, I did some shopping, I sat in a cafe eating the first food I had been able to stomach since that awful bus journey, and listned to "don't worry, be happy" on the radio. It was an omen.
The train journey to Amritsar was only marginally better than the bus journey from Srinagar. Without my lonely planet to guide me, I was under the impression that 'sleeper class' would be luxurious, rather than the cheapest ticket you can buy, with no air-con and definitely no room to sleep. 7 hours later I arrived in Amritsar ready to collapse. I surprised myself by waiting for the free bus rather than taking a rickshaw to the temple - i think because I was feeling so lightheaded that if I passed out I didn't want the only person present to be a rickshaw driver. I found 2 very nice men (genuinely nice, not sleezy i'm-about-to-con-you nice) who helped me with my rucksack on to the bus and into
the temple at the other end.
THe accommodation I'm in is totally free (donations gratefully received) and exclusively for foreigners, which means i'm meeting lots of lovely people. I seemed to have arrived on a changeover day - most of the people I met last night left very early this morning - but I'm sure that more will turn up, and some of them were heading to Dharmshala anyway, which will be my next stop (in a few days - i need some chill out time and time to recover from the travelling).
The temple itself is stunning. Once inside, no-one hassles you for anything, which is quite simply wonderful. This morning I bathed in the sacred pool (the women's bathing area is completely enclosed, while the men do it anywhere they please) and saw the inner part of the temple. I am going to go back to see it at sunset, and again at 10.30 when the daily ceremony starts. I love it here, and could easily stay for weeks if it wasn't for the heat, which is so oppressive that I'm already longing to be back in the Himalayas. Three days then, to explore, acclimatise and relax,
before getting on another dreaded bus...
There are more photos below