McLeod Ganj to Guradspur

We opted for a leisurely start and a shorter day today. Setting a target of around 150 km our plan was to split the journey to Amritsar, making the going more enjoyable for rider and pillion. Coming down from McLeod Ganj the heat cloaked us like a woollen shawl, forcing a stop just a few kilometres in to the day to remove layers.

Correctly arranged, we made easy miles towards the Punjab, covering two thirds of our mileage in just a couple of hours. For the first half of the day we passed through hilly forested area, tall, wide, gnarled trees lining both sides of the road, showing the ancientness of path we followed.

Later, the scene shifted to a flatter more gentle route with settlements at intervals following a familiar pattern. Each village we passed through mirrored the last; simple rural life lived as it has always been; a cow, a goat, a handful of chickens, fields of sugarcane or hay.

Beyond the outskirts but not yet in the centre of town there was old fashioned mechanised life; steel fabricators building gates and mending carts and rickshaws, workshops with a sawmills preparing wood for use in house building.

Then came the commercial centre of modern life; street traders, market stalls, shops, restaurants and hotels; all the essentials, distractions and more besides. The press of vehicles, people and animals was immense.

Slowly, as we exits the town, the scene repeated in reverse; commerce, light industry, farming. It’s about as ordered and predictable as India ever gets, like the symmetry of an open newspaper – the stories on each page are different but the cut of the paper the same.

The Punjabi people are intensely friendly – the first one we met at the roadside enthusiastically handshaking and encouraging us to tea at his stall – happy-go-lucky sort of characters with a distinct style and charm. Akash, which means sky, checked us into our hotel with swift easy strokes as confident and assured as his heroic moustache.

We’re just 10km from the international border with Pakistan and sandwiched between the rivers Beas and Ravvi. Guradspur is a lively place with a great deal of busy coming and going taking place along the colourful streets.