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India to England Overland 
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Elisabeth Dening's Travel Journal

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Week Three: Srinagar (India) to Lahore (Pakistan)
Map here

Day 15: Wednesday, May 9th 1979
Srinagar to Pahalgam
Map here

Up early. The rain had stopped after an all night session and the sun was shining. There was a cuckoo shouting and all the trees were looking very English indeed. We are to move to Pahalgam, which is a valley in the mountains. We meant to go in the morning, but couldn't get away as planned because there was a delay in clearing cash.

Dal Lake, Srinagar The morning (which was sunny) was wasted for travelling purposes, but we went out from the hotel to see the 'Rest a While Gardens' and more of the Lake.




Dal Lake, Srinagar.

On the way back into town we were rammed by a lorry from behind. We had stopped at a roundabout to give way, which was obviously so unusual (although there was a policeman on duty) that the lorry behind just took it for granted we were going. He stove in the back of the car and we could not open the boot, but we proceeded on anyway, leaving the lorry driver being roundly abused by the policeman.

On to Pahalgam. A lovely run on surprisingly good road, past the usual moving flocks and some ancient monuments. Finally into beautiful Pahalgam Valley. Snow-capped peaks at about 18,000 feet. A delightful Bavarian-type valley with two powerful rivers meeting. Colder than Simla and trekking ponies everywhere.


Pahalgam car ticket



Went (on instructions from a young boy who ran beside us) to the Hotel Plaza, which proved to be a delightful choice.

Hotel Plaza

The Hotel Plaza had a very welcoming Sikh ‘Mine Host’ and a good room with mountain views and a bathroom. We went for a walk by the river and had delicious Chinese food for dinner, of ample proportions. There was a slide show afterwards of one of the treks which could be made to a holy shrine and cave 30 miles away. Also a very edited version of Mutiny on the Bounty. Met a nice South Indian couple called Cheriam and Thelma. He was an Italian Consular representative. The Indian ladies must be very cold I feel, as I was frozen. I actually had a bucket bath in nice hot water and then slept in a sleeping bag, nice and warm with rain bucketing outside.


Day 16: Thursday, May 10th 1979
At Pahalgam

A doubtful looking morning. We had a good breakfast. Did the washing, then set off to walk up the valley. Spasmodic rain, everything so green and fresh. Many mountain people on the road. They look Persian, wear cloaks and close-fitting hats, ponies everywhere. They smile and smile and greet you Salaam, Salaam! I must remember to forget my left hand in Muslim countries*.

We passed another large flock of charming sheep. The shepherd had one large old girl in a sack on his shoulders. I asked him if she was pregnant - no, sick, he replied. On looking closer we found her leg was broken, but very neatly splinted. She looked extremely relaxed and he had the prospect of a long hard climb with her to the high ground. Everything is much later here than in Simla. Tulips, daffodils. It was very wet by the time we returned.

We had a good lunch. Met a man from Scotland, retired here and come for the fishing, one MacDonald. It turned out he had been missing all night and there had been a great search. He subsequently turned up, apparently having got in the wrong bus and taken off to Srinagar by mistake. He did not think to inform anyone, which was naughty. Today he has caught a trout which we had for lunch.

Tim found a mechanic to mend the back car lock. I then set out for a walk, as he was proving to be what **Kate would have called ‘irritating’. The Indians eyed a lone woman with disapproval. It is largely Muslim here, but it was a nice evening for a walk. We had dinner with Mr MacDonald, who was still unmoved that he had put the proprietor to such anguish over thinking he had drowned. It is not uncommon here. There was a double fatality last year and the bodies were found 30 miles away. Again ate trout for dinner. The price paid was a long interesting, but terribly monotonous conversation. There was a slide show afterwards and so to bed with hopes of a fine day tomorrow.


* The left hand is used for toileting and is considered unclean.

** Kate is Tim and Betty's eldest daughter.


Day 17: Friday, May 11th 1979
At Pahalgam

It was a beautiful sunny morning and we went for a long walk through a very poor mountain village up the river valley, which was cultivated all along the banks. The road ended and we set off across mealie* fields across this very lush valley. Came on a base camp for the high mountain trekking and finally down into the second river valley. Crossed the bridge so Tim could catch butterflies. We saw many parties trekking on ponies - I wonder how some of the ladies stay on, but they think it preferable to walking. Late lunch, again with trout - delicious, caught that morning.

Had a sleep. An army jeep turned up with a captain who told us he had been detailed to escort us to the tunnel mouth tomorrow as there could be trouble. We told him we wanted to sightsee and he jumped at the chance. We are to go to the source of the Jhelum River. Talked with Mine Host, an interesting man, a really beautiful person. He has a sweet wife and a lovely little son he is desperately proud of. He has a house in Munich and spends the off-season there keeping open house for students who wish to meditate and also running a Kashmir tourist export business of local handicrafts. He has obviously made a lot of money but is not overburdened by it all.

We bought a lovely hand-embroidered Kashmiri poncho as a present for Dorothy** if we ever make it to Cyprus. Tim was cheated by the vendor over his change and it really annoyed him. Went off to town shopping for postcards, bought Water Melon as a present for the Butches***, sardines and sugar. Back for letter writing and dinner - again trout caught by Mr Mac. and so to bed.


* 'mealies' is an African name for corn on the cob.

** An old family friend from Zambian days, now living in Cyprus.

*** General Butch refers to General Buchendra Singh, who fought with Tim in the Second World War when Tim was in the Indian Army.


Day 18: Saturday, May 12th 1979
Pahalgam to Udampur (India)
Map here

We are to leave Kashmir today and set our faces for the realities of the trip. Up for an early start and away by 8 am. We have to meet the army delegation who are going to show us the sights. We met up with a very imposing array of warriors who led us to Martand Temple.

Martand Temple Martand Temple
Martand Tank Martand Temple is a Sikh Holy place. There is a pool full of fishes, carp etc. We also saw the Holy Book written in gold in very early times. We were given sweet sugar in lumps to eat. The Captain told us to take some to Butch, as he thought highly of it.

From there we went to extremely pretty Moghul gardens at Atchebal. The flowers were a blaze of colour, marigolds, pansies and gigantic red poppies.

The cross-country journey through villages to Martand Temple was very interesting. It is an old temple very like the Ceylon equivalent, including a form of guard stones. It also had nicely laid out gardens with pansies. How marvellously well they do here. From there we went to Kokenag ‘Cock’s Foot’ - a new garden named for the five-pointed spring. Lovely rose gardens, but not yet out. They will be a real sight in a month’s time. Had tea here with the Curator at the bungalow.

The next stop was up a mountain valley given over to forestry. Had dahl and chapattis for lunch and watched a bus-load of Indian tourists eating their picnic. Fortunately, it included a good many ladies for which I was thankful, surrounded by all these men. Last stop, Verinag and the source of the Jhelum. There were old Moghul temple gardens. The Jhelum source was astonishing. It, just bubbled up into a huge pond, very green and deep.

Tim Dening with Captain Predhan. Said goodbye and thank you to our little captain and gave him a colour film to show our appreciation. He was delighted as they are not easy to come by and he had a camera with black and white film.

Off again through the tunnel. As we entered the mouth, I saw a labourer remove a bottle of milk from a hole in the snow drift and look with such pleasure at it - the latest thing in deep freeze!

A long tiring drive down but we were given a wonderful informal welcome, supper and bed. Gave Butch’s grandchildren the cricket bat we bought in the valley. Our washing and dirty shoes removed, we slept in great comfort.


Day 19: Sunday, May 13th 1979
At Udampur

Tim Dening with Butch and his family. We had a leisurely breakfast and a look at the family photographs. Mandy, their son’s child, was obviously the blatantly adored favourite.  There was lots of discussion over the security of our trip and its feasibility. Butch was obviously full of doubts.

Bhutto’s mourning period is up today, so we wait to cross into Pakistan. There could be trouble. There is no chance of shipping the car. Bombay is fully booked for six months and no way is Tim going back to Ceylon.

After lunch, we had a  siesta and after tea, we drove to the club and sat by the pool in the warm evening. After dinner went to bed and felt very well maintained to face whatever now lies ahead.


Day 20: Sunday, May 14th 1979
Udampur to Amritsar (India)
Map here

Left at 9 am after fond farewells, for a hot and very dusty drive to Amritsar. There was a real dust storm blowing. Picnicked by the side of the road and saw the young German couple Tim has been seeing ever since he crossed on the ferry from Talamannar. He also saw them in Nepal and they propose to drive back overland. We asked them if they had any further news from the campsites, but they said they were just pushing ahead as they had no option.

Bad deviations on the last stretch of the road. There are huge Water Buffaloes as draught beasts. Just outside Amritsar stopping for coffee, we met up with an army cyclist come to guide us into the city, where we are to stay in a guest house frequented by army personnel and tourists - all arranged by Butch. Just as well, as we would never have found our way to it and know by now bitterly, it is worse than useless to ask the way.

The guest house is a huge old house with a mother and daughter running it and also very Raj era. The room was air conditioned after a fashion and we had a shower.

Met the British Defence Advisor and his wife. They had been holidaying in Kashmir from Islamabad. We spent the evening with them, picking up lots of information. He was the first man who took it for granted we might have a chance of getting through! He had been in Kabul at the Embassy when they had the coup and an English couple had had to batter on the gate and ask for asylum, very reluctantly given! We are to see them in Pakistan and as Butch had arranged that we should have no trouble crossing the border from India, we did not anticipate any trouble until we were across.

So tomorrow is the big day and Day 1 of the journey home and the real adventure. Managed to get the washing done and water put through the filter for the next day. This is hard work and to get half a gallon, we both have to have a go. And so to bed for 8.30 am start.


Day 21: Tuesday, May 15th 1979
Amritsar to Lahore (Pakistan)
Map here

A hot night but still a good sleep. All the washing was dry. We had breakfast in the cool with the British couple, also a French diplomatic couple there with a small child. Very impressed by Mrs Defence Advisor conducting sprightly conversation with newly acquired French! Yours truly remained humbly dumb. An army captain arrived. He is to show us the Golden Temple, THE holy place for the Sikhs and then to escort us to the border. First he took us to a post office to post all the ‘Thank you’ letters I had somehow managed to write the evening before. Though I say it myself, they were masterpieces and genuinely meant - so many people had shown us such marvellous hospitality.

The Golden Temple, Amritsar. From there to the Temple, which was very beautiful and impressive. We followed all protocol, ate wafers and bread soaked in syrup - by this time I was past caring whether dysentery struck. Tim had to wear a hanky on his head and me a head scarf.

All the buildings were encrusted with gold inlay. There were three Holy Books and a marble surround to a huge pool for purification.

Also a Holy tree, well supported and still bearing fruit at 300 years old.

After that, we drove through to the Grand Trunk Road. Amritsar is an amazing, straggly, untidy city, full of the history of the old North West Frontier days. About 12 kilometres to the border. Horrors! I have lost my lucky piece of wood which Tim swears was from a funeral pyre, picked up on the South West coast in Ceylon - replaced immediately by bamboo.*

No trouble and very little wait at either border. We were through in about 1˝ hours. On into Pakistan. Everything was immediately different, although still agricultural. In no time, we were in Lahore. A huge straggling city, where inevitably we got hopelessly lost due to at least four misdirections, although one, if we had followed it correctly, would have been right!

We eventually arrived at Falletis Hotel, which was old fashioned, but had the first comfortable spring beds we had come across and good fans. We had a nice meal in the coffee bar and found a good bookstall.

Tim went off in a trishaw and insured the car. He got back courtesy of a lift on an old man’s bicycle! We also found out that the long distance buses were going through, but flying their passengers from Kabul to Istanbul. Super petrol is available here. Stayed in all afternoon, dust and thunderstorm. To bed for a 7.30 start.


* Betty is superstitious (a legacy of her Irish blood!) and touches wood to ward off unwanted happenings thought of or spoken about. In order to facilitate this, she always carries a small piece of wood with her, readily to hand.


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ŠE.G.L. Dening
Images and text are copyright E.G.L. Dening 1979/ 2008