Day 49 - Friday 31st March
I was very worried about the NZ girl and how she would survive without any money. So I negotiated with the manager of the hotel - a pair of my albeit old western shoes to pay for a few nights rent and some food. I left for the Ariana airline office for 8am. Most of my fellow passengers were Americans and Canadians. The proceedure through the airport was fairly slow. I noticed that two travellers were arrested (believed to be for drugs offences) but most people were not searched at all. We all sat in the lounge waiting for the plane - alas I did not have any Afghanis left and therefore could not buy a drink. As a near virgin air traveller, I found the flight quite unnerving. However we flew over the mountains of eastern Afghanistan and then the greener plains of Pakistan before landing at Lahore. After a short wait to pick up more passengers, we lifted off again for the fifteen minute flight to Amritsar in India. The girl next to me on the flight had met Michael and Heather at the Ariana office in Lahore but she did not know which day they had booked (M&H had travelled there from Kabul via the Khyber Pass - an interesting experience). The girl had hitchhiked for much of her journey except for central Turkey and had also travelled through Syria - I find my fellow travellers very inspiring.
My first impressions of Amritsar were "very green,roses,warmer sunshine and a drier atmosphere". The Customs proceedure was diabolically slow. My passport was signed but then you had to wait a long time for final clearance. Customs gave my shoulder bag a cursory inspection before I was through - no problem as I had nothing of consequence only a few Indian rupees which officially you cannot import or export (the exchange rate in Kabul was quite good and airports can be notoriously poor). I caught the airport bus into town and then headed to the bus station as I had decided to move north and not stay at the Golden Temple - everone else seemed to go there. I negotiated with a pedal bicycle taxi and off we headed. Sadly however the train station was before the bus station and hence a row broke out - the driver wanted an extra fare. I refused to pay and was quickly surrounded by a large group of inquisitive bystanders. Fortunately for me, I was saved by a British Indian whose home was in Nottingham. He discussed the problem with the driver, gave him a little extra cash and then showed me over to the correct bay for the bus to Pathankot - thank you to him. I showed the bus conductor my Student card for a discount and he initially thought that it might mean a free journey but he jumped off to check with an inspector - final cost 4 rupees. The journey time was four hours and as on arrival I found that the next bus to Jammu was already full, I had to stay in Pathankot overnight. The bus was pretty uncomfortable and added to this discomfort, the roads were extremely bumpy. However out of the window, the fields were green with abundant crops of what appeared to be wheat. The villages loked quite dirty and dusty and there were flies everywhere. There was certainly a lot more cattle in evidence.
I found a nice hotel and paid for a single room, which was clean and had washing facilities - cost 10 rupees. The hotel restaurant was expensive but OK considering that this was my only significant meal of the day. I ordered a curry and it was quite spicy. My waiter was especially nice but alas I did not feel as though I could afford a tip. The local roads were packed with bicycles and horse drawn carriages. There was a reasonable presence of soldiers probably because I was still close to the border with Pakistan. The streets had electric lighting. There was a strange atmosphere though and people seemed suspicious of me. There were no other westerners on the bus or here in Pathankot.
For the first time on the journey, I was hot and not cold. I would certainly need the fan in my room and also my sunglasses would become essential.
Tot: 1.681s; Tpl: 0.022s; cc: 7; qc: 56; dbt: 0.0258s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb