Thursday, 23 June 2011

Golden Memories

Amritsar - Punjab

We arrived in Amritsar feeling surprisingly fresh and lively after our night train with the Canadians; Michael and David. We took an instant shine to the city, and wondered why the guide book had painted such a bleak picture of the city. The Punjabi people were most welcoming, and Guy was enrolled in a game of cricket before we had even found a guesthouse. Unfortunatly, he soon found that playing cricket with these boys was unlike that of playing with the kids of Hampi Childrens Trust, and the days of scoring 6 were over, indeed he was bowled out on the third ball! Emma was a hit with the punjabi males, attracting much attention so much so that one cycle rickshaw spent so long staring back at her that he crashed into another rickshaw!  

Golden Temple harmandir

The main reason that tourists travel to Amritsar is to visit the fantastic Golden Temple - centre to the Sikh faith. It is hard to describe the feelings we had as we put on our headscarves, washed our feet and walked through the magnificent white marble archway to be greated with the most spectacular sight of the temple. Set amid a rectangular pool of holy water surrounded by marble mosaic walls of the complex. It was a busy temple, but unlike the Hindu temples that we have visited, it was calm and relaxed and welcoming. Every Sikh should make at least one pilgramage to the temple in their lifetime, many spend days visiting the temple to pray and spend nights in the free accommodation of the temple. We found a quiet spot to sit and watch temple life pass us by; men bathing in the water (females had to bathe privately), people eating together at the communal canteen and queuing to enter the Harmandir.

Children of the welcoming Sikh family

We were welcomed by smiles and conversations with Sikh families, one family in particular were very excited to give us a whole tour of the temple complex. It seemed they wanted us to stay forever. Eager to learn more about the Sikh faith, we read the guide to find out more about these surprisingly welcoming people. Their ethos is admirable: No prejudice of any religion, colour or caste, they treat all people as equals. 

Dharamasala - Himachal Pradesh

After two days in Amritsar we took a government bus for 8 hours to Dharamasala in Himachal Pradesh. We then climbed 1000m in altitude to stay in Dharamkot, escaping the hustle of Mcleod Ganj - the main traveller hub; a confusing mixture of Tibetan monks, markets, neon lights and clubs. On our midnight arrival, the town was a far cry from expectations of a Buddhist town inhabited by the auspicious Dalai Lama. As we hiked up the valley that evening, we witnessed the annual Miss Tibet competition in full party swing! The region of Dharamasala consists of predominantly Tibetan people in exile along with many Nepali people. Indeed the Tibetan government in exile operates from this hillstation.

Beautiful views from high in the mountains

By morning we were awarded breathtaking views of the mountains overshadowing the town. Thick with forests, revealing monastries amid swirling clouds, the trees are strung with thousands of prayer flags and winding paths lead to remote buildings on steep valley walls. We took a short trek with our friends, new and old, to a nearby waterfall. The alpine water was near freezing, but we couldn't resist a swim in the beautiful tumbling pools, and were soon addicted to the exhilarating feeling in the water and the cleansed body and soul.

Pleasure or Pain?

The European climate is a major attraction to this town, no less than the second wettest place in India. We were treated to a daily downpour of such magnitude as to shame the fiercest of British storms, pelting great hailstones with a deafening roar upon the tin roofs.

Overlooking the Dalai Lama's abode (green roof on the distant hill)

Many westerners make a long stay in Dharamasala, as a result there are many activities to learn; yoga, massage, reiki etc, however we opted for less strenuous jewellery making workshops. Guy has enjoyed silversmith work, and Emma went for mala and macrame courses. We both have made some fine articles and invested in some materials to continue our work.

Emma's macrame and mala Jewellery showcase

Guy working with the Silversmith and Pia

There are many trekking possibilities in the Himalayan region surrounding the town. Unfortunately Emma was struck down with illness again (flu this time) and wasn't fit enough to trek. So Guy took the opportunity to enjoy a spot of fellrunning, reaching the snowline and back in 6 hours and gaining 1000m, a trek that most people spread over two days with an overnight stop at basecamp.

Guy (self portrait) at the snowy cloudy glaciery bit

Looking down the valley in the clouds on the descent

In Dharamkot we experienced our first fantastic sleeps in India; perfect cool climate, no noisy fans and no traffic. We knew that it would be hard to leave this wonderful, relaxing town, and very well may not have done. However, after two weeks and some influence from Pia and Ina, we booked transport to our next destination; Kashmir.

Bonus Pics

This fighter jet shaped moth reminded us of both of our lovely fathers

'PIG DOG' had eaten too many pizzas at the family pizzaria. He is a photographic slimming pill for any weight conscious lady!

The worlds most racist chocolate bar made Guy cry, and tasted like distant fish. Contact Sami - could this be the uber-snack?

Bonus passage: Guy wanted to entitle this blog entry as 'Golden Showers' due to the Golden Temple and the rain in Dharamasala. But Emma deemed it "too rude".

1 comment:

  1. love this guys :-) one of my favourite blogs yet!! i like the image of the man crashing his rickshaw and the waterfalls looks wonderful. plus you should totally have named it Golden Showers!! that comment made me chuckle lots :-D x