The last of the pain in my legs disappeared overnight and I woke up feeling really strong. If today is anything to go by, I think I have already completed my settling in period. The 100km I cycled today just passed very easily. I even started considering cycling on to another town beyond Raikot, but a sharp headwind during the last 10km put an end to that idea. As I arrived in town, I made my way straight to the Gurudwara Tahliana Sahib to investigate whether I could spent the night in the temple’s pilgrim accommodation. I was parking my bike on the main street when I got chatting to two young guys who spoke some English. Luckily for me, they took it upon themselves to help me find out whether I could spend the night at the temple. As I learnt yesterday, you cannot enter a Gurudwara with your head uncovered, so I put my face cloth (a tube bandanna) over my head as I walked in alongside my bike and my two new friends, who began making inquiries on my behalf. We soon found ourselves in a little office, where I handed over my passport and got checked into a fan room, which was offered at the incredibly low price of 100r (AU$2). The room even comes with its own bathroom. My friends left me to it and I spent some time saying hello to the various people milling about who were curious about who I was and what I was doing there.
I was about to get settled and have a wash when a friendly guy asked if I wanted to take a meal. Not wanting to miss the chance, I gratefully said yes. We washed our hands, then entered the meal room where we took a seat beside other pilgrims and were served chapatti and curry into gleaming silver bowls. I learned that you have to accept the chapatti with two hands. When we were done eating, we took our dinnerware outside and delivered it to volunteer washer-up-erers. My meal buddy left me to it, so I returned to my room and had a much-needed wash. When I was more presentable, I ventured outside to better get to know the goings-on of the Gurudwara. I sat for a while with the dish cleaners. The dinnerware would get rinsed in water before being handed to other volunteers sitting around a sand pit. The dishes get scrubbed in the fine dark sand before being passed to a polisher, who wiped off the dust and rubbed them clean with a cloth. My meal buddy showed up again and invited me to visit the main temple with him. To prepare for entry, we took off our footwear, washed our hands and stepped through a shallow pool of water. The inside of the temple was set up the same as the one I visited yesterday, with a priest sitting in a central position within a decorated stage area, to the side of which sat three men who were playing music and singing. We walked a circle around the stage area before taking a seat. The soothing song and gentle atmosphere of the place instantly made me sleepy and I couldn’t help close my eyes as my friend prayed next to me. We sat for around twenty minutes. When you leave, you accept a sweet food offering from someone who I assume is a priest.
My friend then led me to a part of the Gurudwara that offers shoe repair and cleaning services to people entering the temple to pray. A line of guys were sitting on a mat surrounded by shoe glue, polish and brushes. I joined them and was handed a shoe to buff. All throughout these events, I continued to meet new people. Word had passed around about the Australian guy on a bike and everyone was keen to say hello. It slowly began to dawn on me just how much Gurudwaras mean to the Sikh people. People from all walks of life come to the temple to not only pray, but to offer their services to other members of their community. From the food servers, to the dishwashers and shoe cleaners, the place operates on the generous time being given by local volunteers. It was clear that everyone, no matter the age or personality type, comes to the Gurudwara to worship and help out.
Eventually, I returned to my room to get off my tired legs and have a lie down. Every now and then someone would knock on my door and I would open it to find several people wanting to meet me. I made friends with a gang of three ‘cousins’ being led by a super suave guy called Sabhi, who could speak quite good English. These guys are the quintessentially cool boy’s boys (rebels on the outside but a heart of gold on the inside) and they proclaimed themselves to be a bit of a famous trio in town, owing to their success on the sports fields and the fact they dominate the local social media airwaves. It was clear they were just a bunch of friendly dudes out to enjoy life and have a good time. Sabhi invited me to his place for dinner, so we arranged to meet once they finished their shift in the shoe-care centre. At 8pm I found myself on another Royal Enfield Bullet, this one being driven much more carefully than last night’s. We rode around town for a little before stopping in at Sabhi’s house, where I met his parents. The four of us were then treated to an amazing meal by Sabhi’s mum. We left Sabhi’s house only to visit the home of one of the other guys, whose mum had invited me to visit. In a special moment, I was gifted with a cloth (a turban wrap) in a form of blessing. I was made to sit down as the scarf was draped around my shoulders and then everyone serenaded me with blessing. I had told the guys earlier in the night that I didn’t want to say out too late and true to their word they had dropped me back at the Gurudwara by 9.30pm. I will see them again in the morning as they will be returning around 5am to offer their services to the Gurudwara once again.
|Accommodation||Gurudwara (Sikh temple)|
|Distance ridden today||100.7km|
|Average cycling speed||19kph|
|Total distance ridden||18,287km|