After another lazy morning, my day only really got interesting in the afternoon when I set out to explore Patiala’s old town. I used the compass in my watch to maintain a southern bearing as I navigated my way through the maze of narrow lanes. When I thought I’d walked enough, I started asking locals as to the whereabouts of the Qila Mubarak, aka The Fort. It turned out I’d come to within a few hundred metres of it. The fort was first built out of mud in 1763 by Baba Ala Singh, who founded the Patiala dynasty and became its first Maharaja. I walked around the outside of the structure, which has more recently been constructed out of bricks, before heading further south to Baba Ala Singh’s tomb, which is located through the crumbing ruins of what is still a spectacular gateway. Three guys were hanging out in an ‘office’ just through the gateway and one of them let me into the grounds of the three-storey tomb. I walked a lap around the bottom and then climbed onto the second story where I walked another lap. It’s in a bit of disrepair but it’s not hard to imagine the grandeur of the place.
I was taking a long route home when a guy stopped next to me on a scooter and said, ‘Australian, do you remember me?’ He was a big Sikh man who I recognised from two days ago, when he had pulled up alongside me on his scooter as I was approaching Patiala on the bike. Back then, he had asked me my name, where I was from and if I needed any help. I said I was fine and he rode on. ‘Come to my shop’, Gurcharan now said. I jumped on the back of his scooter and was taken to the business he runs with his father and two brothers. They make and sell air conditioners, metal storage cabinets and metal trunks. I sat and chatted to Gurcharan and his father for a while and was treated to a fresh lime drink. When asked if I had seen the Sheesh Mahal (another palace that once belonged to Patiala’s king), my negative response was an invitation for another ride on the scooter. Security at the palace initially had a problem with the fact I was carrying my video camera but Gurcharan called his friend who was some kind of authority figure and we were promptly let in without any issues. After exploring the grounds of the palace, we went to the Gurudwara Shri Moti Bagh Sahib, through which I was escorted by Gurcharan. Before we entered, we had to remove our shoes, I had to don a scarf to cover my head (Gurcharan had his turban) and we had to walk through a shallow pool to cleanse our feet. Inside, locals were praying while a couple of musicians and a singer performed. From there we visited a fabric shop belonging to a friend of Gurcharan’s. I was treated to a sweet lassi while they caught up on the latest gossip. Next we stopped in at Gurcharan’s home for a cold drink, before returning to his shop. There, I met Gurcharan’s youngest son, who was on the back of Gurcharan’s scooter when we first met. I hadn’t noticed then that his son, who is eleven years old, was blind.
While Gurcharan worked, I hung out with his son and had a really nice time interacting with him, mostly through touch – he enjoyed taking my watch off and putting it back on, and we managed teach each other how to count in our respective languages using our fingers. It actually got me thinking I could enjoy working with blind kids for a job. Later in the evening Gurcharan’s older son, a 27-year-old free spirit, rocked up with a roar on his Royal Enfield Bullet. He asked me if I wanted a ride so I jumped on the back and started praying hard as we hurtled through the streets at breakneck speed. It was just on the thrilling side of recklessness. Any faster and I would seriously have not enjoyed the risk to my life. We returned to the shop and I waited patiently while the place closed up for the night. Then I joined Gurcharan back at his house for dinner with his wife and youngest son. The food was delicious and it was a very special experience being able to share it in the home of such lovely people. Gurcharan had repeatedly suggested I could stay the night, and I had repeatedly, and regrettably, declined, explaining that I needed to get away early in the morning to continue my journey. It’s a shame I hadn’t bumped into him yesterday. We took a bunch of photos before I found myself back on the Royal Enfield getting taking home to my hotel. It is now 11.40pm, which fills me with dread, as I know that being tired on the bike tomorrow is not going to be fun. No matter what time I get to bed, I still need to get up at 5am so I can make decent progress before the midday heats stops me in my tracks.
|Distance ridden today||0km|
|Total distance ridden||18,186km|