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Losing my religion – An end of an India

Posted by on May 31, 2013

Amritsar
It was inevitable that the world famous Delhi belly would come and get us, and that it certainly did. With Danny suffering badly and first hand experiences of his previous small accidents keeping her awake at night, ‘Claire Bear Gryll’s’ had no choice but to put into practice studied survival tactics. ‘Borrowing’ a towel from the hotel Claire quickly whipped up a make shift nappy and off we waddled out of a taxi, on and off two trains then a bus, finally making it to Amritsar with a nappy still so tightly intact any sumo wrestler or origamist would have been proud. You’ll be glad to know the nappy had just about done its job minus any new fan-dangled elasticated sides or Mickey Mouse water absorbent lining. Despite of feeling secondary to Danny’s new J-Lo booty, there was no doubt Claire’s light bulb moment saved both us and Indian Rail from a pretty hefty laundry bill.

Amritsar lies close to the India Pakistan border within the state of Punjab and is home to the most important building in Sikhism, the Golden Temple. Fetching in more tourists than the Taj Mahal, it rakes in over 100,000 visitors per week day alone! Despite the Turban to Tarn ratio being very much in their favor, we donned the obligatory ‘tourist turbans’ and headed deep into the masses.

The final leg of the long journey
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Pushing through the PunjabisIndia Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 065

The future of Britain?
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Someone please call the fashion policeIndia Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 007

The Golden Temple, home of the Holy Scriptures and men with knives in their hatsIndia Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 082

And the winner of the biggest turban ever goes to………….
India Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 060

So, what becomes of all these visitors after paying their respects to the Jubi tree, washing away their sins in the holy waters and praying to their gods that they will be lovingly reunited with their ever faithful flipflops after frantically searching through all 200,000 of them left at the entrance? They eat!

The Golden Temple kitchen cooks up a mega feast of over 60,000 free meals per day. Fair do’s, there’s no menus, wine list or meat in sight- in fact there ain’t even any chairs but heck, this is one mean task. Of course Danny couldn’t wait to get his hands (and feet) dirty in probably the biggest kitchen in the world.

Cauliflower Station
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150,000 chapatis are made per day
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If Carlsberg did Curry CauldronsIndia Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 097

More Salt Mr Singh? Yes Mr Singh
India Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 113

 Danny the Dinner Lady
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How many more to go Mrs Singh? Only about 120,000 Mrs Singh
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Feeding time at the zooOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Any chance of a romantic table for two?
India Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 157

Waiting for his grub
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Old bendy legs getting stuck into her snap
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Every women’s nightmare……….clearing up the aftermathIndia Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 041

Now that’s what we call a joint effortIndia Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 173

What time’s the next tram to Fleetwood?
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No trip to Amritsar would be complete without a visit to the infamous Wagah India Pakistan border closing ceremony. Sharing the passenger seat in the front of a dilapidated rascal van, we were chauffeured up the dusty highway by a suicidal Sikh whom had a suspicious passion for not only whizzing in and out of whatever dared to be ahead of us but also, given Danny’s uncompromising position, slowing down and changing gear.

Back off brother from another mother
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Behind enemy linesIndia Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 180

This official gate closing comedy spectacle takes place every single day at 4.15 sharp. An opening drum roll echoes around the purpose built stadium declaring the onset of the comradaray and the entrance of the designated crowd coordinator. Complete in his all in one white shell suit and dark shades, Indians answer to ‘P Diddy’ gets the crowd jumping up and down, jeering shouting and hollering as loud as possible towards the much lesser Pakistani crowds over the gate. Of course it would have been rude not to join in.

Team IndiaOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Team Pakistan…….. Booooooooooooooooooo!!!India Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 186

Long live Hindustan!!India Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 198

The women were the worst
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And then i’m gonna drop kick that Pakistani like this
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Once the audience has satisfactorily warmed up, out stomps the Indian Border security force. With crazed eyes and moustaches waxed until they resemble a cross between circus ringmasters and John Cleese in Monty Python’s ministry of silly walks, off they stamp and snort towards the gate, kicking their legs higher than imaginably possible until they reach eye level with the similarly stupid looking Pakistani Rangers. What follows is probably the most funniest display of high kicks and YMCA inspired dance moves we ever saw. Once both sides of the security forces are within an inch of splitting their pants and demonstrating a whole different level of ‘ I’m bigger than you are’, the flags are lowered and BOOM, the gates are nailed shut. You couldn’t buy a ticket for a more enjoyable show.

♫ Young man, there’s no need to feel down ♫
India Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 232

Chauvinism at its most camp
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RipperIndia Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 253

Claire begging for an audition
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Mcleod Ganj
With the heat quickly soaring in Armitsar we escaped as far north as we could get in search of somewhere a bit cooler. Mcleod Ganj sits in Himachal Pradesh a whole day and four bloody long bus rides away. By the time we got there every muscle ached and all we wanted was a nice brew and, owing to the recent toilet escapades, something non curry like whatsoever.

The most Non-Indian place in India
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Apparently the guitar and rock memorabilia was on loan to the New York branch
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We were in heaven
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Now Mcleod Ganj unknowingly to most of us is the home of his holiness the Dalai Lama. He has been in exile here since the 1950’s when he escaped from the Chinese invasion of Tibet. Not only did he make the grueling  and continuously dangerous trek over the high Himalayas through Nepal then across the border into India, so do  2500- 3000 Tibetans of all ages each year. Without having too much political know how, we hopped it down to the local community centre to find out about the history and plight of the Tibetans.

The Temple Forest along with Buddist flags
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A fitting statementIndia Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 329

More prayer flagsIndia Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 330

‘Monk’ eying around in the woods
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Monks outside the Dalai Lama TempleIndia Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 352

Monks in charge of the continual temple flamesIndia Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 379

Apparently his Holiness has a soft spot for McVities digestives – wonder if he dunks?India Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 383

Candlelight vigil held for the 123rd Self Immolation victimIndia Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 464

The Buddist temple in the centre of townIndia Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 385

Danny woke up that morning with a new lease of life and decided to adapt a ‘yes man’ approach to the rest of our time in India. Little did he know that at 4pm that day when a little Tibetan woman asked us if we would like to teach English to some refugees, we would have no choice but to play tutor for an hour. We entered the classroom to approximately 20 pairs of expectant very non Indian looking eyes staring up at us ready to be taught how to speak a unique form of English. The hour went faster than we both expected, and afterwards in the staff room, we discussed what  topics we taught to our students. While Danny spent the hour trying to explain that there was more than one league in English football, Claire had managed teach her students two new words, ‘gall bladder’ and ‘deficiency’. We don’t quite know how or why Claire got on to these subjects, however what we do know is there are now 3 Tibetans running around with the vocabulary of welcome, please, thank you, deficiency and gall bladder. Whilst writing this blog, both so called tutors had to google Claire’s words of the hour as neither of us could spell them. God help the Tibetans.

The lease of life didn’t last long, and before we knew it we were yet again condemned to the squatter for another bout of Delhi Belly. The next week or so saw us hobnobing from bed to squatter and not much else. Usain Bolt’s 100m 9.58 seconds record was certainly under threat as Danny flew through as much toilet roll in less than 24 hours.

Thankfully they were on BOGOF
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The one day we made it out
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A different kind of waterfall
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Shined and stitched up ready for Nepal, all for 300 rupees (£3.61)
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Bobby Dazzlers – a job any Dad would be proud of!India Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 389

The local Royal Mail, sewing and waxing the homebound souvenirs
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Coming to a home near you, hopefully…..India Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 428

Dozens of organisations are set up aiding the plight of refugees, many of which maintain their traditions and local cultures. Ladies organisations encourage century old handicrafts which are lovingly sold all around the world, or to any passing tourist in need of a rug. After notourisly dodging every carpet seller possible for the past 4 months Claire succombed to a Tiger rug which was being stitched up by an adorable 65 year old lady who promised it would be ready for the 30th May, lying b!tch 8) !

That’s the xmas presents sorted
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The con man at work
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Look away now little doggy- your nextIndia Amritsar, Mcleod Ganj 448

Everyone say ‘gaaaaaaaall bladder’OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Varanasi
We knew at some point we would have to get immodium’d up and leave McLeod Ganj so, eventually we set off to the last place on our list, Varanasi, home of the  Ganges and the most spiritual place in India. Our journey consisted of a 3 1/2 hour bus ride and a 22 hour crammed train journey which was speeded up by once again by being papped by a 10 year old kid ramming a camera phone in our faces. Danny made sure he gave them something to photograph, attempting a last ditch effort to get fit for Nepal by performing sets of lunges in the station with his 20 kilo backpack.

Varanasi is unlike anywhere else on earth, it is holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and walking along the banks of the Ganges you’ll encounter bathing Buffalo, men doing laundry, naked Babas and loved ones being cremated. Probably the filthiest place we’d been to in India, it’s got a unique charm to it which you can’t help but enjoy, in spite of the 46 degrees soaring heat.

No room to swing a cat on this trainOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Breakfast Samosas en-route
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Welcome to Varanasi India Varanasi 313

Enjoying the river cruise – at a quid each, we went three timesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Steve Redgrave looking worst for wearIndia Varanasi 028

Avin’ a weshIndia Varanasi 035

Our mate Baba, the heat was too much for him too
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Dodging the dead Dogs
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The Laundry GhatIndia Varanasi 080

Looking down the Ganges
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Sunset on the GangesIndia Varanasi 024

Varanasi has nearly 100 ghats, basically steps leading to the banks of River, some of which are purpose built cremation sites for burning the dead. Indians come from all around the country to be cremated on the ghat, where approximately 250 corpses are burnt daily. Wood is sold per kilo, with a scientifically calculated amount of just over 300 kilos being needed to totally incarcerate a corpse. While photography is prohibited up close and personal at the burning ghats, it didn’t stop us joining the families for a closer look and to pay our respects, the only thing missing at the wake was the potted meat sarnies.

Weighing the woodIndia Varanasi 121

Chopped to order
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Claire and Benitez
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The burning Manikarnika GhatIndia Varanasi 272

Life goes on around the burning corpsesIndia Varanasi 011

View from our shoebox 46 degree roomIndia Varanasi 018

Nothing to see here – just a normal day on the Ganges……
India Varanasi 173

Utilising the drive by facilities
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The Lassi maker rubbing his wooden stick, creepy pervertIndia Varanasi 153

Escaping the heatIndia Varanasi 163

Local Stag PartyIndia Varanasi 166

Varanasi charmIndia Varanasi 266

Danny just rowed us round in circlesIndia Varanasi 268

Ceremonial evening blessing of the GangesIndia Varanasi 191

Egged on by the numerous bendy people we’d witnessed all over India, Danny made a pact to touch his toes before he left, one to tick off the bucket list. We tried to make it clear that we weren’t interested in ‘connecting with our spiritual side’ and would prefer some moves from Ryan Giggs yoga DVD. However, not long after we were sat crossed legged, chanting the words ‘aum’ and releasing our chakras (in more ways than one). What better way to finish any yoga workout than a nice soothing massage? Well, Danny was in for a big surprise when the 13 year old tea boy also turned out to be the masseur. 15 minutes later, Danny was laid face down on the yoga mat in nothing but his pants, being punched over and over in the back, not quite the ayurvedic treatment he was wishing for. After 5 rounds with Mike Tyson, Danny had to cut his massage short, quickly leave the building, and we never returned again.

Danny still can’t touch his toes.

What follows are probably the most embarrassing photos we’ll ever post on this blog
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After packing in the yoga Danny found a new pursuit, mastering the Sitar. Our previous yoga lessons didn’t seem to help as he continuously needed to take a 5 minute break to regain the feeling in his legs.

Sitars on standbyIndia Varanasi 254

The Indian Jimi Hendrix
India Varanasi 255

Despite Danny’s Grandads advice, he couldn’t pass up the chance to take a bath and cleanse his soul in the holiest river on earth. With instructions to keep his mouth firmly shut, he had a brief dip and was out quick sharp only to be blessed by a Baba who was conveniently waiting by the riverside armed with face paint.

Pre cleanse
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Partial cleanseIndia Varanasi 215

CleansingIndia Varanasi 229

Post cleanse – as good as newIndia Varanasi 232

40 rupees pleaseIndia Varanasi 234

So, that’s that. After almost three months in this diverse, colourful and culturally different place we had to leave it all behind and move on. India was shocking, entertaining, beautiful and crazy beyond belief but, like Sri Lanka, the people are its best charm. Unfortunately for us, India didn’t just leave us with unforgettable memories, ‘something very Indian indeed’ crossed the border unknowingly deeply embedded within us………….OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our route on this post:


Destination Arrival
1 Amritsar, India April 11, 2013
2 Pathankot, India April 14, 2013
3 Gaggal, India April 14, 2013
4 Dharamsala, India April 14, 2013
5 Mcleod Ganj, India April 14, 2013
6 Chakki Bank, India April 26, 2013
7 Varanasi, India April 27, 2013
8 Gorakhpur, India May 1, 2013

2 Responses to Losing my religion – An end of an India

  1. Victoria

    I loved reading this – you have such a great way of writing! Everything looks brilliant (apart from the chronic diarrhea of course!) x

  2. Cynthia

    Well I must say you both look to have lost weight.Pics are brilliant keep up the good work I have to laugh or im sure would have a good cry Miss u lots love mum ps keep up the yoga and I hope you didn’t buy a sitar Danny xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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