So, I'm a bit behind, but the Blogger app wasn't cooperating, as it freezes when I try to upload pictures. Maybe I can add some later, for now here's the third installment!
Amritsar pt. II
There's a good chance you'll meet your best friend here. He'll offer to carry your water bottles, tell you all kinds of stories about things you do not care about and even dismiss any plans you might have for later (because you want to spend the day with your new best friend!). There is, however, also a good chance you won't get rid of him very easily. When 'no' and 'I'm going, goodbye' don't ring a bell with your new companion, walk to your hotel and have the Sikh porter throw him a glance. Works like a charm.
Back home I would never leave the house without my iPod, here I never take it with me. It's not just that your not safe when your not paying attention with your eyes and especially your ears (remember the honking part of the previous entry?), but there's also the fact that you would miss so much when you exclude one of the senses. Allright, the (occasional) smells of urine and cowshit are not my favourites either, but it's part of the assault on the senses that makes this country so unique.
You can't beat the prices in Amritsar: only Rs100 for a real Abidas watch! Wasn't even worth it to take the price further down. I might have done so though, because the little stop watch clocks have no buttons to operate them (they're glued on) and when receiving a shock there is a chance the watch will start running backward. Most of the time it works though.
So after a day and a half in Amritsar it is time to head in the direction of the Himalaya's. However you don't just get from Punjab to Himachal Pradesh, without some remarkable encounters...
Amritsar - Dharamsala (by car)
My driver is a quiet, but honest man with a face as solid as a rock. Most of the time we don't talk and half of the time we do talk, we don't understand the accent of the other (Indian English is a language in itself). Other than that we get along fine. And he means well. When I was declining his offer to eat some of the cashew nuts he kept on offering, he simply told me to hold up my hands and subsequently emptied half the bag in them (while still driving of course). He's a good man.
A few miles kilometers after you hit the highroad (20-80 mph, bad state, a lot of small to very large potholes) there's a sign warning for pedestrians crossing. Really? You need a sign for that? Look ahead and tell me who is not crossing the road. They should've put signs everywhere if they're even remotely serious about warning drivers. But then again, nobody pays any attention to them anyway. There's a flow and you go with it or get out of the way.
When passing through a village/inhabited area, you don't reduce your speed. You honk and keep honking. If the road conditions allow it, go even faster and don't stop honking.
I get why they call India a developing country: construction is going on everywhere. Or, at least the material is there. Most of the times the work seems to have stalled at some point. And that point was long ago. Just like a lot of things here, at some point you stop to wonder why, you just accept it as part of the scenery.
My driver has a police siren as a ultimate warning to other vehicles he is serious about them having to get out of his way. Just in case honking, going at them with full speed and flashing your lights isn't enough to get the message across. Costs rs2500 a month (paid to police) but it works like a hot knife through ghee (Indian butter).
Have an empty bottle, wrapper or any other type of thrash? Open a window and just throw it out. Problem solved.
Driving against the flow of traffic is quite normal, also on the highway. You can do it by car, by motorbike or by bike, but please do stay on right side, which is your left side. Dogs, horses and especially cows can do as they please, though brakes are only actively used for the last one.
The Golden rule at the train crossing: if you can crawl under the poles you do it, no matter whether you're on food, on a bike carrying a load, or on a heavy motorbike. Also, it's perfectly acceptable to wait in both sides of the road, thereby blocking the other side's passing, which blocks our passing. But it works out, every time. It just seems to be the Indian way of doing things.
Remarkable. Where Punjab ends, the hills begin. You don't need a roadsign to tell you you're in Himachal Pradesh. The first monkeys have made an appearance as well. And there are more cows here, which in far better shape than those in the cities. These are well fed cows, feeding off the green in HP and which are not trying to digest plastic and other rubbish. Even the dogs are in better shape.
I got the parts 'my taxi not allowed in Dharamsala' and 'I get you other cab, yes?'. Thank you kind sir, I forgot your good name, but I won't forget your person that easy.