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brad’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 14 Jul 2007

Location: New Delhi, India

Map14th - 19th July

Epic Journey Part 2

I'm sound asleep in some room in a random hotel, hidden away in the rabbit warren of Delhi's streets. One of 15million people, one of 9000 per square kilometre of which i'm the only one who's trying to sleep. I'm woken by a rapping on the door, or more accurately i'm up and physically opening the door. Standing in the dim light of the hall is Pete. "PETE, awesome!" Somehow the madness of this city functions. You can navigate around the rubbish-strewn filth, people, traffic, abandoned flip flops (I counted 16 in 20m then gave up) to find a needle in a haystack at any hour of the night. We've made our planned rendezvous. Beautiful. Pete and I shared a place in Melbourne along with the distaste for a homogenised existence, afflicted with adventurous spirits from many years of travel. For a while we chat, but sleep becons and the many miles ahead of monotonous travel will allow plenty of time to trade tales.

The following day it's decided we shall waste no time and begin our epic journey. A trip that will take us to the Karakoram and Hindukush mountains of Pakistan. A utopic world for trekkers and those who find a sense purpose in the mountains. We plan to spend little time in cities along the way and focus on the objective ‘head for the hills’.

From Delhi we take an overnight train to the Pakistan border. We trade tales of India from the last 6 weeks of travel, Pete’s experience vastly different from my own. Many people wrote in reply to my story, stating that its not at all how they imagined India. Well, here’s the other side of the coin. Pete recounts his first India train journey from a couple of weeks ago and experiences in Varanasi.

“I spent 24hrs on this train heading from Mumbai to Varanasi, an interesting adventure to say the least. It made me realize the main problem with street food, it’s peoples hands touching the food. I’m keeping it simple for a while. f--k India is crazy. It’s a bloody filthy joint. I had to change trains at some insane hour of the morning at some rat hole of a station with a 3 hour wait. At 4am there are just people passed out everywhere. I was jumping over bodies with each step. Finally found my platform and f--k a duck it smelt like a sewerage farm. Shit everywhere. I observed some dude hanging a darky off the edge of the platform, he then wiped his arse with his hand, wiped his hand on the platform and then gave it wash at the drinking fountain where people where queuing to quench their thirst. Next I watched two rabid dogs hunt down a rat on the tracks, tear it open and walk away. The sun
came up and the flies where pumped! Go the Indians, got to love em!

Varanasi is a very cool joint. Some bloke came down from the hills for the first time in 30 years or something so there was this huge festival going on. Every 2nd person was rocking out in the streets on tablas or a sitar, the place was going off. The town is as old as old and holy as the hills, if you’re a hindu it’s the place to be. People come here to die so they can have their ashes spread into the mighty Ganges. Once they die their body is placed on a large stack of wood down by the banks of the river. There’s kids playing cricket, cows hanging out, rubbish everywhere and guys taking a leak. The wood stack is drenched in ghee, prayers are said and someone whips out a match. It’s really is quite the sight. The kids cricket match came to a grinding halt when the tennis ball was driven straight into the flames. ‘That’s gotta be out for sure’. I walked past one of the fires and spotted a leg that was sticking out, half burnt, flesh sizzling away. It fell onto the dirt and rolled away from the fire. A dog came over had a sniff but lost interest. Meanwhile an old bloke set up his line and starts fishing next to it……. anyways my time there was done”.

The next day we cross the Pakistan border and continue to cover as much ground as possible, heading for Rawalapindi the satellite city of Islamabad and transport hub for all rides going north to the mountains. Pakistan is welcome relief from the madness of India. India is a good place to define your personal boundaries, a constant battle where you are never really sure of someone’s underlying motives. But now over the border we feel an instant shift. People approach you with a genuine handshake and say “welcome to Pakistan, welcome”. In a restaurant a stranger bought us a round of drinks and gave a heartfelt welcome. There’s something to be said about the way of the Muslims. You don’t have to worry about fashion or chasing girls, just don the uniform, a shalwar kameez, know that your parents will hook you up with a good wife and then get on with life. Keep it simple. I am however, missing the Indian food. Pakistan is wheat, meat and dairy. Tough work for someone who subsists on rice, pulses and vegetables. Our first attempt at ordering a vego based dinner produced rice with chicken. A meal that has delayed our travels by 2 days as Pete and I embarked upon the Pakistani travellers weight loss program. For 24hrs we plowed through packets of re-hydration salts and hovered by the squat toilet. Now cleansed, feeling light clear and healthy we have a new lease on life. Awe-inspiring photos of this countries vast expanse of mountains are all we've ever seen, now the reality has hit home. They’re at our fingertips, a 16hr bus ride away. Quick! Let’s go!

For at least the next month we will be absent from the resources of the world thus expect no news for some time. I will return with stories of a grand journey and photos that will help you abandon opinions based on tabloid propeganda and re-define all pre-conceived ideas about this country, marvelling in its true beauty.