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The Journey


May 2001

Sri Lanka immediately upon my arrival announced that it has nothing much uncommon with India beside the border line in between the two neighbors and a spicy food. Cute, little island, full of curious, warm people. Being with them was reminding me of Sikkim and Himmachal Pradesh, where cheerful Buddhists give the place such a memorable splendor. Walking smiles.

What got me straight away was, of course, traffic conditions. Much better than in India. And muchfewer participants as well.

One of the most memorable things from Sri Lanka will be the climb to Adams Peak. Starting in the embrace of hot night, at 2 a.m. collecting all kind of pilgrims at the top, well before the sunrise. After 4800 steps leading to the top and endless tea stands on the way.

April 14th is a New Year day in Sri Lanka. Tradition finds everybody hanging on the swings and swinging them into the better future of the approaching year. Including myself.

My time off the wheels in India was spent learning ayurvedic massage with an Indian couple in Southern India. It was great and productive although wasting much of the time to get my teachers going, being on time and keeping them interested in teaching (that tremendously subsided after the tuition fee was paid) was off the scale for my taste

Working every day, whole day was something my teachers were able to promise but never realized it. Too much for the Indian habits, I guess..

Practicing of the new skills was fun, especially after meeting shy sister and (less shy) brother Rouch from South Africa on a BMW GS 1100. Talkative Steven was brave enough to let me walk on him (just part of ayurvedic massage). Surely I removed my riding boots first.

It is always great to meet the bikers along the way. First 5 hours we were able to share nothing but frustration, being interrupted occasionally with the monkeys of the human features jumping on and off the bike, switching all the buttons they can find and pulling/stretching/twisting/grabbing/chewing all the imaginable and less unimaginable parts of the bike. When we partied he gave me a good bye present. 2 meters of BMW, good quality rubber hose, multi purposed stuff.

Back to Amritsar and ultra friendly Sikhs was a relief again. Nobody was pulling my sleeves and yelling at me "Madam, madam, buy this, buy that, Cheep, cheap. Why do not you like it madam? Look, export quality! No problem, no problem..Your country? Where is your husband, Madam? No, husband? Need a man? I can help..."

I did some little work on the bike and got ready for the future challenge in Hotel Amritsar International again. They were the same outrageously hospitable people as on our first meeting. They made me believe that the best came last so India would not incar completely dark colors in my memory.

Last days of my travels in India I was getting that horrible diarrhea every single morning, before boarding the bike. Worst than before the exams at the university. Surely not because of the spicy food or reading somebody's else stories from India, but because I was just about to roll all the experience in the terrifying traffic under my tires, in person.

Time to time I caught the glimpse of disappearing India in my mirrors. The hope I may survive all that agony was mixing with the profound fear all the way to the last ramp where was written on a big board, welcome to Pakistan.

In the border belt India customs attempted to serrate me but postponed the idea as they thought it was really special to see a single woman traveler on two wheels and they emphasized better believe me what I told them was in the language.

Pakistani customs, apparently made from different dough, served me first with the drink of my choice before attempting the formalities. It was easy and went smooth as always when border officials are not determined to fill up their boring days with an interesting foreign traveler.

Lahore is known among the motorcycle travelers as a confusing place with bad traffic. Despite the fact that I was coming from the opposite direction as most of the overlanders do, I felt immediate release from Indian super chaotic road conditions.

Soon I was off North to Islamabad. In a escort of Swiss travelers, I met while crossing the border. Globetrotting father and son were unique couple of outstanding people and we had much to share. The ride was easy, no morning diarrhea anymore, some stops on the road where Curt and Oli feed me kindly with a strong soup and icy cold drinks (such a luxury!)

That the mixture of good and bad reminded on Indian level, the bike started to overheat as soon as I crossed into Pakistan and my mind was surely enough with a water pump again.

Islamabad, the capital, made me confused. Too nice, too clean and too organized. Impossible to believe that place like this can exist just hours from India. I was astonished. Old exploration lust and keen travel blood return to my veins instantly. It was one of those moments I wanted to sit in the ditch (no rubbish there anymore, just perfectly manicured green grass), sobbing my grateful thanks to all the gods of the universe for taking me out of India safe, in one piece and bringing me here.

Days here in Pakistan are absolutely spectacular. Too good to be true and I keep pinching myself to check either I am dreaming or all that is indeed the reality. BMW Doctor (useful address for the travelers in need of any mechanical work : S.M.W. Waheed Zaib, Shop No. 8, national market, near Allah Wali Masjid, Satellite Town, Rawalpindi, Pakistan) was a release. He is dealing with me Red Boy while I am dealing with some body mechanic to get myself sorted out and good service done as well.

At the moment he is reconditioning the oil pump (apparently the reason of the accesive oil in the air box), will adjust the valves for me and balance the front wheel. Forgot to mentioned that among the other travelers I spent some days with a cheese/salami frick Tony who brought along the new battery and a new front Metzler Enduro 4 for me (on those magnificent tires can go in average 35.000 km on front and 25.000 km on a rare one). Old battery started to die slowly after 2 years time.

I am applying for further visas and extensively getting ready for entering Iran. Yesterday I bumped in Guzzy Mike and Rossy again (after Nepal). Needless to say we spent hours of criticizing Indian traffic again, before all of us agreed on greatness of Pakistan and its people. They, too report about successful recovering on this side of the border.

Yesterday afternoon I married myself (read bough the fake wedding ring to keep man away) and got me the cloak to be able to cover and look proper Muslim women.All in the preparation for remotes parts of Pakistan and Iran. Boy, you should see the photo I needed to have taken for Iran visa application. They sent me off as I showed up with the same photo that was good enough for entering over 30 countries. I borrowed a Saudi Arabian style of veil from Ayesha Shafi and got the funny photos taken.

While waiting for the bike and visas I am staying with Shafis who help me tremendously to get all sorted out. I am turning their house into the office, press hall, meeting place and using their facilities 24h a day. 12 years old Rabhia is the secretary when come to the point of my limited possibilities of speaking Urdu, Shoaib is a tireless promoter and Ayesha is dedicating most of her valuable time to drive me around the local schools where I have held a couple of meeting with the local kids. She is a superb guide and knows it all. For breaks Bhelal (7) is in charge. He allows me to pat his goat or give it a ride it on the bike. The eldest of the family, Mum is making my stay even sweeter as she never forgets telling me how happy she is I am part of the family and how much she loves me.

So, where does the road from hell goes? I would reckon back to the heaven.

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