We stayed in Pathankot for a few days on our way back from Kashmir. Our hotel was actually just outside of Pathankot in Himachal Pradesh. It was great to be back in the range of cell phones and internet, let me just say.
From there, we went from village to village visiting the sites (those that were open at least) on our list.
Also, like many of these forts, there is a small mandir inside, near the back of the fort. It’s a decently maintained area with nice views over the valley below.
The fort is still a nice place to wander around for an afternoon though. There is no entrance fee and the entry road is a little hard to find but the locals were a big help in pointing us in the right direction. I probably wouldn’t have stopped here if it weren’t on our way to other places though, it’s a little out of the way, there are no bathroom facilities to speak of and the roads at the top of this mountain are very tight so Jagdeep had a bit of frustration getting around. Also, if the kids feel free to sell their drugs here so openly, there is no effective security to speak of.
Our next stop should have been Nagni Temple. This is a temple dedicated a variety of Hindu gods at the bottom of a valley – again on tight hilly roads. However, we were pointed to the wrong temple – a very small Hindu Temple about halfway down the road between the main highway and the actual site. I asked Jagdeep twice – are you sure this is the place? “Sure. That is what the man said.” There are no signs, the temple is tiny and there doesn’t seem to be soul around… “I’m sure. You can go in if you want.” Yeah, he was sure but he was misdirected.
I went in the smaller temple and was met by two priests who suddenly appeared out of nowhere. They asked me to pray inside the temple, I told them I was there to look at the temple and “is this Nagni Temple?” Yes, yes. They assured me in their very limited English. Okay then. They asked if I would have chai. No, no. I just had chai. Then they called someone with English language abilities. They were having some sort of program at the temple in a few days and wouldn’t I join them? I explained that I would not be anywhere nearby at the time. It is a good program. Okay, but I won’t be here. “Will you sign the visitor’s book?” Okay, why not. “Will you give your full address and telephone number?” Why would you want that? “We are having a program.” Yes, I know that but I won’t be here. “We are having a program with a big langar.” Okay, that is nice. Here is a donation for the food but still, I will not be in the area at that time.
They asked if I would buy 50 kg of rice from them. They are selling the rice to raise funds for their program. What?? What the heck would I do with 50 kg of rice? That’s over 100 lbs of grain. You must be 5 kg? No, no. They meant 50 kg of rice. The whole conversation was becoming a little surreal at that point. What would they think I would do with that much rice? You can take it with you, they said. We have it right here. Just what the h-e-double hockey sticks?
I gave them another donation to cover the profit they would make from the rice (by fundraising) and left it at that. Just as I was turning to leave the tiny little temple with the massive bags of rice, I asked the English speaking fellow “Is this Nagni Temple?” No, he says. Nagni Temple is another kilometre down the road at the bottom of this hill… sigh. Surreal, surreal, weird and more surreal.
When we got to the bottom of the hill, I took a walk around the outside of Nagni Temple, an impressive but smallish mandir with gods and animals on its sides, mainly cobras. After my experience up the hill, being mobbed for rice and donations and being misled about the temple that I was, I just wasn’t interested in going inside. It wasn’t even 1 o’clock in the afternoon and I was already tired of the mobbing and utter foolishness.
From Nagni Temple we turned back to find something to eat. Jagdeep told me he would try to find a nice restaurant for me. I laughed and laughed until he got a little concerned. “What’s wrong?” he says, maybe a little annoyance in his voice. “Not a thing my friend but it’s like we’ve never met.”, I told him. These are small villages in Punjab and HP, there are no restaurants here (at least not like the ones he is thinking about), only stalls and dhabas. I’m not fancy and any dhaba will do so long as it meets the rules – we pick one where the locals eat and which sells bottled water with the meal.
We ended up in the dingiest little basement room I’ve seen since I’ve been here. The chairs were old and rickety, the tables shaky and at best, wiped down with a dirty rag between customers. But it was filled with people. The cooks were outside and appeared to have the food under control. There were no flies hanging around the cooking area, so I thought, “what the heck, let’s risk it.”
We had to send the first plates and spoons back because they had food on them – not usually a good sign but they brought us back clean dishes. For some reason, as well, there was a whole tali plate full of chili peppers on our table as well (just our table so my guess is that someone had been sitting there cutting the stems off them before we arrived). I noticed that the server handled the rotis and naans with his bare hands and wondered how often during the day he cleaned his hands… The food though – aloo mattar, black dhal, and butter rotis was very good. Men stared at me the entire time I was in there but I didn’t care. There was a disabled boy inside who was clearing and cleaning dishes who kept pointing me out to other people, but I didn’t care. I ate three or maybe even four rotis down with that meal. It was awesome – despite the dingy basement, the pointing boy and the staring men.
The hotel was good too. Kay Kay Resort just a few kilometres outside of Pathankot, on the Himachal Pradesh side of the border. Jagdeep and I were the only customers there.
At first, the manager said that it would cost nearly Rs. 30000 for the two rooms for our stay. Ummmm… not a chance. The booking website quoted us much less than that and I was not going to give these people more than 3x the rupees for the same rooms. When I brought up the booking website, the manager said “Oh yes, yes” and quoted the correct price. What, did you get us confused with the other guests here? Did you think I would have forgotten where I booked the room and the price they gave and just hand over the pile of extra money?
This has to be the only reason that this hotel was so empty, given that Pathankot is a good halfway point between loads of destinations and Delhi. Everything else was good for the most part. The rooms were very large and clean, the bathroom was bigger than my first apartment. The area was quiet at night and had ample parking. The hotel was clean and the staff were friendly (though bored I think). The chairs in the hotel restaurant could use a steam cleaning and the food was just a little pricey for what it was, but other than that, the food was tasty and the service was very good.
While we were eating and watching cricket (Jagdeep tried his best to explain the game to me but he was really not getting anywhere), a whole load of army trucks began lining up on the famed GT Road outside. Dozens of army vehicles lining the road would normally have concerned me but I was tired and we had just come from Kashmir where that is normal, so I didn’t think about it until Jagdeep pointed them out. They left as soon as they were lined up though and nothing bad appears to have happened that would require their presence… still weird though.
Which means that I got to see about every other 12 seconds or so of “John Rambo”, the movie playing on the English language movie channel. Good thing that it was a terrible movie…It made me not mind the bizarre weather.
In fact, the weather would be bizarre for the remainder of our trip and, once back in Amrtisar, for another three or four days at least. Thunderstorms would be replaced by hail storms, to be replaced by a few minutes of sun before the rain would start again. Crazy, crazy weather.
Anyhow, that’s it for today’s post. It’s late and the host unit has visitors who (for only three people) are noisier than the crowd at the Super Bowl. Sigh.
Next post will be from Gurdaspur and Batala. As I am writing this, I have about a week left in India and by the time it posts, I will be back in Canada enjoying more time off there before going back to work.
Peace and love all,