In which the bus journey
begins in earnest through the checkpoints
to the foot of the Moghul
200km north of New Delhi,
Himachal Pradesh Province
fell and the bus stopped at one of the countless outdoor restaurants at the
side of the road. Right beside the traffic, these restaurants consisted of a
string of tables perpendicular to the road lined with chairs covered with a
patio roof on legs of wood. The slow trucks with water, fuel and military
supplies to the front lines at the India-Pakistani border pulled over to the
side of the road, ate at these restaurants and slept in their own foldout beds
in the front seat of their rigs. The kitchen, in the cement box at the back of
the building, served the main artery to northwest India. There was an entire
road culture that existed here in the mountains because of the war going on in
Kashmir. These roadside patios were where these men ate their meals and drank
their tea who lived in their trucks to stay warm and to earn a living.
Back on the road the bus
drove all night until it reached the Kashmir border. The border guards came
onto the bus and looked in bags and then proceeded to untie all the carefully
tied up large pieces of luggage on top of the bus. They turned over someone's
couch but didn't find any signs of foul play and then left it there for the bus
driver to pick up and repack. One gentleman across the aisle had to pay duty on
a new CD player.
"I hadn't realized it is a
separate entity within India, I mean to this degree," said Hellmantle,
shaking his head and the tight security.
"Perhaps its independence as
a state reflects the value of its hidden treasures?" Nathan had a mystery to him.
Mossad maybe, thought Hellmantle.
it's from the border Britain imposed after they gave India independence. They
created Pakistan for all the Muslims in British India and India for the Hindus
but for some reason made Kashmir Valley part of India when it was about 85
percent Muslim. Countless millions have been killed since 1965 because of that.
And it's one of the world's flashpoints. Nuclear War is a definite possibility
between Pakistan and India, who both have the big exploding device. But our Abrahamic
family originally came from the Indus Valley thus we speak an Indo-European
language. Though it must be said that Abraham was born in Sur in modern-day
Look it up."
while we're at it, the Quran was written because Rome fudged the message of
Jesus the prophet. It is clearly stated that it is the untainted message from
the same Hebrewic God and is the last. Muhammad was a direct descendant of
Issac's brother Ishmael so it's all within Abraham's chosen bloodline. Talks
about Moses and Jesus and Muhammad as all prophets of the same God. My guess is
Jesus' original message would have been the same or pretty darn similar to
what's in the Quran."
to hear you saying that."
and the killings and whatnot. Not very Holy if you ask me."
press. What about all the compassionate and friendly Muslims? The Koran is
a beautiful book. You must read it. The Jihad discussed in the
mainstream media is hermeneutical extremism. It doesn't mean to kill
those who are not yet enlightened. One passage says: ‘Let there be no force or
compulsion in religion: Surely- Truth stands out clear from error. Whoever
rejects evil and believes in God has held the most trustworthy hand-hold that
never breaks.'" Nathan shook his head as if a fly was buzzing around inside it.
surprised you're quoting the Quran, that's all."
"Keep an open mind Nathaniel
and see all the references to Moses and Jesus and the chosen family. They urge
the Israelites to come back into the fold, saying they understand why we went
House of Israel did but not us." D'Aqs nudged him. Only when he looked in his
eyes did he understand why.
back to Kashmir, it really is the cradle of civilization if you omit Sumeria
for a moment. The Indus Valley is the breadbasket of the Indo-European family
of languages, which of course includes English and French and Spanish and
Hebrew, etcetera. But I can't stop lamenting at the loss of opportunity
of not motorcycling this geography. Motorcycling in the Himalayas would be very
"It would be great riding if
there weren't any checkpoints," said D'Aqs. "But Pradeep was right. There's no
way we could've ridden our bikes up here. Too many guns."
"Yes, there are many fortified
lines to cross."
It was cold when they stood
outside the bus at a checkpoint. Just behind it was an old castle-fort built of
rectangular bricks with a big turret on either side of the entrance. A steel
fence protected the narrow passage to the front gate. It was a mysterious old
"It's definitely European
built," said Nathan. D'Aqs could smell his breath from five feet away.
"It looks like a Crusader
castle," said Hellmantle. "Look at the lines. Look how the stones are cut. It
employs sacred geometry that was discovered in 1106 in Jerusalem."
"There's no way to get in. They're using it." Nathan spoke calmly
as D'Aqs shivered in three layers of shirts. Nathan was only wearing a yellow
T-shirt and shorts. "I've seen one like that in Tel Aviv."
"Now we begin to climb,"
said a bearded Indian man who was standing among them.
"How much longer from here?"
asked Nathan. "Only two or three hours you think?"
"From the India-Kashmir
border? No, more. It's four-thirty in the morning and we will be here for
an hour." He rubbed his black-bearded chin. "Nine," he said, after thinking.
The man with the beard smiled. He was a big man.
"Nine hours!" Nathan was
feeling the liquor. "No way. Two." The Indian only smiled at him.
"The road is slow. First
time in Kashmir?" D'Aqs and Nathan nodded but Hellmantle kept that card against
"The journey is 22 hours,"
said Hellmantle. "I calculate it should be another five hours plus this hour at
the border crossing, perhaps six hours."
"Who told you it was 22 hours?"
said the Indian. "With the military checkpoints it will be longer." Hearing
this, Nathan raised his arms and stretched out his legs all in the same motion.
"The mountains are too big.
I should have flown!"
After departing from the
castle and guards, they proceeded through a maze of roads and turns and
roundabouts for the next fifty miles. Just as the Indian man had said, they
began to climb. With each few hours they moved north, the mountains evolved in
form and vegetation, from the palm trees to tall pines that stood proud like an
army of green-clad soldiers. Dwarfed by massive ridges of rock they followed a
river coming from the north, its current swift, monkeys at the roadside in
clusters. The military was all over the countryside after the border crossing,
with jeeps and sandbagged pillboxes on strategic mountain points. The troops
were decentralized by working in twos covering a vast stretch of territory in
the beginnings of the valley of Kashmir. Camouflaged and covering countless
little stone lookouts were small stone pilings that used the natural jutting
shape of the rock to its advantage.
"Without a clear system of
road signs and with all the nameless forks in the road, navigation on a
motorcycle would have been a crapshoot," Hellmantle finally conceded. After
crossing the border he realized that there was no way on earth they could have
motorcycled up to Srinagar and back in seven days.
"Preferable vehicle of
choice may still be the horse."
Like the monkeys perched on
a precipice that fell away like a wall, they could look down from miles above.
As they inched closer to Srinagar Hellmantle finally had to ask the question
burning in his head:
"How on earth did Thomas and
Jesus trek this far, and over this terrain?" D'Aqs was quiet. "Without the
British-built bridges and tunnels, how could they journey 2000 years ago from
Jerusalem to Srinagar?" The moonlight shined on the mountainsides and kept
D'Aqs awake through the night.