We left the city of Amristar on the next leg, this part by vehicle. Our experience on the train, and the view from the road shows extensive flat lands in this part of the country. Not the wide open fields of Canada’s western provinces where the only sight across the long span of wheat is a grain elevator; rather, here the expanse is divided into numerous forms of vegetation, checkerboard fashion, defined by a furrow of dirt or a cropping of greens to walk in between. It is a country of proportions which can be managed with manual labour occasionally aided by an animal driven cart. Trucks are used; farming machinery exists; but the work is completed with the hoe and the knife and the shovel.
In between the roads run through small towns where the shops hug the edges; people and vehicular traffic navigate through the narrow passage, checking the wares, the blindspots, the gaps in flow, the opportunities for passing, the chance to make a move, the avoidance of the lights coming at you. Cows are more abundant, taking their rest here, there or in the middle, where it stares at the vehicles, not blinking, and cars swerving, not slowing.
Our vehicle emerged from one such village, and they appeared: the mountains. Suddenly, without warning, the flat lands colliding with the snow topped peaks in the distance. Now the trees appeared closer, the view was shorter, the roads more rugged. Slowly we began our ascent, winding along an increasingly rugged road crossing the border into another state, greeted by monkeys.
The first glimpse of our destination burst upon us crossing the dam; to the left a vast open valley divided by a river; to the right a broad span of water dotted with islands, back dropped by the Himalayans; above us wide open sunshine. Then the turn into, seemingly, a dirt driveway, except it kept going, and going. The road became a path, washed out in parts from the just finished rainy season, marred by rocks and holes and branches; curves around corners, teetering close to a precipitous drop, the van banging, rocking, swaying, inching forward. Stop, reverse and there, the sign, Basunti Lodge. Greeted warmly we found our spot for the next eight days in our room with a view.
We have arrived.