We had only left Pokhara that afternoon and we were already pining for the mountains. Our drive had taken us on a pretty twisty route through the hills with waterfalls and gorges before descending into the Terai, the plains of Nepal.
It was here the heat hit us. The thermometer rose rapidly and even at 6pm it was 35 degrees. It was getting dark so we decided to pull into a petrol station to camp. Unlike a few months ago, at that temperature we needed to have all the windows and hatches open to let what little breeze there was in. Not to worry we thought as we have great mosquito nets.
That evening though as we lay sweating in the heat all of us were bitten all over. The next morning there were hundreds of mosquitos in the truck, where had they come from? This seemed to repeat itself each night for the next few nights and no matter how careful we were they always seemed to be there in the morning. We sprayed the truck each morning before driving to kill them and were pretty confident this many were not getting through the nets. Were they breeding in our waste tank? We closed up all the plugs but still they came out.
We had decided to drive to the Western end of Nepal to maximise the driving in Nepal and minimise it in India and we were glad we did as the road was good and traffic a lot lighter. Crossing the border was straight forward and whilst other vehicles were waiting to cross the bridge we were just waved through with them even unlocking the gates to let us across. The border guard proudly stated “we are open 24 hours for international visitors”.
Mind you the bridge is nearly 800metres long and is only just wide enough for the truck. I waited for a gap in the foot and motorbike passengers and flashed my lights to say that I was coming. To no avail nobody paid any notice and tried to cross anyway. Meeting in the middle of the bridge the foot and bicycles squeezed past, as for the motorbikes, well I wasn’t reversing!
After the relative calm of Nepal, we soon descended into the chaos of India. This is most evident from the driving where you need to be on constant alert to avoid either hitting something or someone hitting you. We had a lot of kilometres to cover to reach Amritsar so we’re not too impressed when we were held up in a traffic jam for over an hour especially as the jam was caused by impatient drivers refusing to queue up and then consequently blocking everything as nobody could get through.
It wasn’t long until we hit the Grand Trunk Road. This was a modern motorway with three lanes so you would think that driving would be easier. Except everyone drives in whatever lane they wish regardless of speed so sometimes tractors are in the outside lans, sometimes in the inside land and sometimes people just straddle a couple of lanes to make life difficult for everyone.
As we approached Amritsar it got hotter and hotter, hitting 42 degrees. We were only 50kms short of our destination but as it was getting dark we sort refuge in a petrol station again. They may not be the most glamorous spots but they are generally clean and the staff friendly. That night the heat broke. A storm came through with nice cooling winds and when we woke up in the morning it was a lot more bearable.
The next morning we headed to Mrs Bhandari’s Guest House. This is an overlanding institution as it’s been looking after overlanders for 50 years. In fact Gilly had stayed here before 23 years ago when she had travelled to Asia on the back of a truck. It’s a lovely place, a tranquil oasis in the outskirts of Amritsar and a great place for us to prepare for the next leg of the journey. We gladly parked our truck in the garden of the colonial guest house, there was even a pool to cool off in as the days heated up.
You may recall we were in Amritsar a couple of months ago with Gilly’s mum. As tempting as it was to just sit around in the guesthouse gardens we decided we still needed to go and see again some of the sights. The Golden Temple is just magnificent and especially when it is lit up at dusk so we headed down there to walk around the lake that it is set in, admiring the views and watching the locals who were either bathing, praying or also just out for a stroll.
We also had to go back to Charming Chicken, a restaurant we had visited on our previous visit. It is a simple place but the food was just as juicy as the first time and we left very full.
On our final day in Amritsar it was time to get ready for the next stage of our journey. For Gilly and the girls this meant packing as they would not be coming with the truck for the next few weeks. Instead they would be jetting off while I drive the truck across Pakistan and up the Karakoram Highway before hopefully us all meeting back up in China.
For me it was time to load the truck with goodies so I would have everything I needed for the next few weeks.
It will be strange driving alone and a bit stressful especially as I am still on the “wrong” side of the road for my steering wheel.
I say I will be driving alone, we never did find out about those mosquitos. For the last few days they seem to have disappeared. I hope they are not coming along for the ride with me!