I let the morning pass slowly as I washed my dirty laundry and did some research into Central Asia. In the afternoon I left my guesthouse to find the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Panorama, but not before spying the attractive sign of a Subway restaurant. I’ve got consistent diarrhoea at the moment so I am happy to spend my last Indian rupees on Western-style food to make myself feel a little better. The panorama was nice. Like many of India’s minor tourist attractions, the entry fee was dirt cheap (10r, AU$0.20) so it wouldn’t matter if the place was uninteresting. But I have grown to like diorama displays and I liked the ones here, as well as the grand paintings that adorn the walls of the buildings ground floor. The dioramas and paintings depict the major events in the life of ‘The Lion of Punjab’, who in the 1800s united warring confederacies in the Punjab region to create the Sikh Empire. It is this guy who had the Golden Temple built, which I visited yesterday. According to local accounts, the Maharaja was a kind and just man who was sensitive to the plight of those he conquered and controlled. His enemies would say he was a bloodthirsty plunderer. Whatever the case, he is a pretty impressive guy. Even as a teenager he had major successes in leading his charges on the battlefield. Also impressive is the fact that he is reported to have had 46 wives and mistresses.
My Central Asia research has encouraged me to consider attempting to cross the Kulma Pass between China and Tajikistan. Apparently only about ten foreigners (non-Tajikistanis and non-Chinese) have ever managed to cross it, as the border officials on each side generally refuse to let foreigners through. As well as being a fun adventure, crossing it would mean not having to ride all the way north into Kyrgyzstan before coming back southwest. My plan to get across is to ask the Australian Embassy in Beijing to get the Chinese Ministry for Foreign Affairs to contact the border control office on the Chinese side of the border and tell them to let me through. Attempting to cross won’t be too much of a hassle, as it won’t involve any kind of detour (the Chinese border post lies right near the Karakoram Highway, so I will be passing it anyway). Also, if I get the Tajikistan e-visa just before I attempt to cross, but my crossing attempt fails, then the e-visa would still be valid by the time I make it onto Tajikistan the long way. The thing to keep in mind is that I will need to have enough cash on me to last 2-3 months on the bike (due to the absence of ATMs through much of Central Asia). My original plan was to sort out the cash I need in Kyrgyzstan, but if I attempt the Kulma Pass then I will need to have it sorted beforehand. I would hope that if I can manage to convince China to let me out, then Tajikistan will have to let me in.
|Accommodation||$ Backpacker hostel|
|Distance ridden today||0km|
|Total distance ridden||18,445km|