India – the first two weeks

September 1, 2012 in India, On the road

The first 14 days in India passed really fast. We have seen a lot, and we had quite some experiences – some were nice, some not so pleasant. But it definitely wasn’t boring so far.

The border crossing from Pakistan to India held no problems for us, and we could finish all the paper work pretty fast. But we also had the impression that we were the only ones that wanted to cross the border that day – at least we didn’t meet anybody else apart from the officials.

The first stop in India was Amritsar, where we wanted to visit the famous Golden Temple – the most important temple of the Sikhs. And it was really worth a visit. The temple is quite impressive, and the atmosphere is rather special. For a long time we were just sitting there, and watching what was going on around us. A rather special experience was also the communal dinner in the temple, where everybody is offered a free meal, no matter of which religion, nationality or financial status. And by the way, the food was not bad.

From Amritsar we went further north towards the mountains, with our first stop in Dharamsala, where the Tibetan Exil-Government is sited. It was not only an interesting insight into Tibetan politics and culture, but we also enjoyed that it is one of India’s backpacker hotspots, and we could get for the first time in months a decent pizza and spaghetti.

We then travelled on to the city Srinagar in Kashmir. On the way we were confronted once more with the terrible and murderous traffic in India. After Filippo already had a very close contact to a truck a few days ago, where he was knocked over on his bike – luckily without any damage – it was Heike’s turn this time: a bus bumped into one of the panniers, while she was standing (!) in a traffic jam, and the bike fell over, which the result that a piece of the aluminum handlebar broke off (quite a problem now), and a bent break lever.

Even though we got used to the Indian traffic by know, it remains a nightmare. It seems that the Indians as soon as they sit behind a steering wheel change into some kind of mad Formula-1-driver with only one goal: to push all other drivers from the road, no matter how much damage or loss this will cause. And the technical condition of the cars corresponds not really to the speed with which they drive….

The old military road from Srinagar to Leh in Laddakh led us then through some unique and beautiful landscapes with a few passes over 4000 m. In some parts we were reminded of the landscape in the neighboring Pakistan, in some parts it was again something new and completely different from what we have seen so far. The closer we got to Leh, the central city in Laddakh, the more Buddhist monasteries and colourful prayer flags we could see beside the road and the Tibetan-Buddhist influence became apparent.

About Leh and the surrounding landscapes we will write in a separate blog post – you just have to wait a little longer. We definitely spend 14 exciting days in India so far – including accidents, impressive attractions, spectacular landscapes, stomach problems, eye infection, and finally some European food….