The border-crossing to India is quite straightforward. I passed the gate, where the day before the border closing ceremony took place, took a last picture with a Pakistani soldier and his bomb-sniffing dog, crossed the line and there I was – in India. But from the gate to the Indian Customs building it is two kilometer trough an area full of barbed wire and watchtowers. The border is far away from being busy. I was the only person who wants to cross and the formalities were done fast. “Wait” said the bored woman behind the counter, when I started to leave. “We have to check your bags.”
Wow, that was something new for me. At the entire borders I crossed, they never checked my bags. Sometimes they asked what’s inside, and at the borders to Irak, Iran, and also Pakistan I always pointed on my water bottles and said “Whiskey”. Then the soldiers laughed, and it was ok.
So this was the first time and they were serious about it. I put my bags into the Scanner, and prepared myself for unpacking everything. All my tools and Spare parts for the bike, the petrol-cooker, it must look like a bomb or something. But the guy behind the monitor had only eyes for his mobile.
So, “Welcome to India” I said to myself, and started cycling. In the first city, Amritsar, I saw the differences to Pakistan. The traffic is doubled, the noise also, and what I recognized the most were the women. Women without scarfs, groups of schoolgirls in their uniforms, the long black hairs plaited to pigtails, women driving scooters and cars, women with sunglasses and tight jeans. After almost five month in muslim countries, this was an unfamiliar but joyful sight for me.
Amritsar is famous for the golden Temple. It is the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, and many pilgrims come here from all over the country. The Temple itself is built in a pool of water, it is said that his roof is made of 750 kg pure gold.
I saw women kissing the floor, people bathing in the water of the holy pool around the temple, and people praying with a smile on their face. All over this scenery, loudspeaker broadcast the continuous chanting from priests inside the temple. This was really something different from all the Mosques I saw in the last time.
I watched all this with curiosity and made my way around the temple. In that moment I couldn´t imagine, that just two days later I will do the same like all the Worshippers, but in a smaller temple: I would cover my head, wash my feet, touch the doorframe of the temple, and knee down in front of the guru…
That day I got surprised by the dark, no hotel in town, hungry and tired, and an old guy gave me the advice to go to the “gurduwala”, that’s how the Sikhs call their temples. Because the Sikhs believe in Equality of all beings, they offer everyone food and a place to sleep.
The next days I crossed Indian Punjab, and of course me and my bicycle attracted a lot of attention, but one thing is different from the countries before: The people here are only interested in my bicycle. So when I stopped, a lot of people gathered around my bike, but I was able enjoy my cup of tea and watched people watching my bicycle. Nearly no one asked me questions; they just stared at my bike, rang the bell and touched everything.
Finally I reached Jaisalmer, one of the touristic hotspots in Rajasthan. A big sandstone Fort is the main attraction, surrounded by hotels and guesthouses with “roof top restaurant”, and travel agencies which want you to sell a camel- or jeeptrip to the near Thar-dessert. Inside the fort are a lot of handicraft and souvenir-shops, nearly every shop sells also toilet paper and imported cigarettes for the many western tourists. This touristic thing was new for me, even on my first day in India, in Amritsar, I saw more tourists than in the last 3 months before.
So I wandered around the narrow lanes of the Fort, together with other tourists (Indians and Foreign), residents and some cows, watched at all the shops which nice stuff, clothes, bed sheets, leatherwork and antiques without the desire to buy anything. Also the food offer is big: Chinese, Italian, Tibetian, and of course Indian Food from all over the country are available, but prices are doubled or tripled if you compare it to the simple restaurants on the road, where I was used to eat the last days. Juices and Milkshakes everywhere, I still can´t say if I should like it or not – it was just different for me at that moment, a new experience.
I decided that I want to go to the Thar-dessert. But not on a camel or a jeep, which can be organized by almost everyone in Jaislamer. I want to go there on my bicycle of course.
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