Topic: Budget Bus part 4 the Final Capter
We entered Pakistan by way of the Khyber Pass a name famous in British army folk law. From the bottom of the pass is the Khyber Railway built over seventy years ago by the British just after the third Afghan war. It is considered an engineering marvel; it has 34 tunnels, 92 bridges and climbs 3,600 feet to the top of the pass. To go through the pass we had to pay a toll of 10 Rupees, this was suppose to protect us from the bandits and tribes people who command the pass. This was tribal area, and the Pakistan government does not have much control over what goes on there. George led the charge and drove like a maniac up the Khyber Pass; the road wound its way up the barren landscape often with a sheer 1,000-foot drop to our right. I craned my neck to look down the steep drop below, as we passed very close to the edge on many occasions with nothing there to stop us from careering over the edge to our deaths. We passed fort after fort; many had large cemeteries outside of them, a grim reminder of when it was the frontier outpost of Britain's greatest colony.
As we came into the market town of Landi Kotal a famous smugglers town in the Khyber Pass, we passed the largest fort of all with a memorial to the Khyber Rifles. Many a lancer or fusilier at the turn of the century would have paid in blood by a bullet from a Pathan tribesman. George stopped briefly at Landi Kotal, before driving on. The Pathans with big white turbans and fierce looking beards sat about staring at us. Soon we came across a check post with a barrier across the road. There was a Pakistan officer waiting to greet us, he looked so smart in his khaki drill uniform and shinning boots which made a complete change from his counter part in Afghanistan.
This officer's attitude towards us seemed dignified and proper, a legacy from the British Raj, a symbol of a stable and democratic system that Pakistan had. George gave him his passport; the official looked at it closely.
"Where is your visa?" he demanded. "I don't need one" George replied, "we have been through immigration already." "Where is your visa?" the official asked again. George gave him a startled look and then, he repeated firmly, "the passport is in order, we have been through immigration" "You cannot pass," said the officer "you have no visa." There was dead silence for a minute then George pronounced. "I am a British subject and it states here in the passport that;
Her Britannic Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary."
At this the officer had no reply, "pass" he said in a rough voice, and gave the signal for the soldier to raise the barrier, which was stopping us from passing. As George drove through the checkpoint, we all waved to the officer to show our approval. Peshawar was only 15 km from the eastern end of the Khyber Pass and is the capital of the North West Frontier Province. Peshawar was much of a frontier town as I have ever seen, yet it was a place of many changes from modern high rise to the romantic back lanes of the bazaar, where men smoked their hookah pipes and cooked curry in large pans on open fires. Beggars mingled in the bazaar wanting backsheeh.
Arrival in Peshawar was at 5 p.m. it was all exotic and strange, we checked into the Park Hotel at 70 Rupees a double. Some of the guys decided to stay at the Rainbow Guest house two doors down which charged only ten rupees for a wooden bed called a charpoy, which used crisscrossed strips of webbing in place of mattresses. Horse drawn carriages seemed the main mode of transport, just like in Herat. I could see some Pathans holding their rifles, while observing us unloaded our luggage from the bus. They are a proud people and looked very distinguished in their white turbans and baggy pants.
That night we eat in the restaurant downstairs, sheikh Mutton curry seemed to be the main choice with plenty of chapattis had thrown in. George told us not to drink the water as we could end up with a bad case of diarrhoea. Jamie and Esau had gone in search of more "hash" although George warned them that it was illegal here. They came back later with some morphine that they had bought in the bazaar, they had bought it for eight pounds.
The topic at the dinner table that night was what were people going to do once we arrived in Dehli? I wanted to go down to Agra to see the Taj Mahal while Russ and Steve would continue on to Australia. Helen was also going to go on to Australia as were Val, Maureen and Aussie John and Mick. Barry and Janet wanted to go to Kathmandu. Betty did not know he wanted to do. We understood that Jamie and Esua were down to sixty pounds each and their dream was to go to Goa to smoke dope. Who knows what would come of them after that? Russ suggested that I go to Thailand as he and Steve knew this travel agent called Subraj in Dehli.
He had promised them a favour, as they had smuggled some currency into India for him when they had met him on a plane from Burma to Calcutta. "I'm sure that he would give you a good price on an air ticket Charles." said Russ, it all sounded very exciting. We didn't see much of Peshawar; most travellers just seem to skip through Pakistan, preferring to get to India as soon as possible and we were no exception.
Next morning we were woken by Pakistani down the hall throwing a volley of throat-clearing sounds. Other splashing and gargling noises wafted up the hall. Ablutions are an important and apparently enjoyable occasion for many people on the subcontinent, Phlegm is cleared from the throat, noses are blown, and wind is broken. Every part of the body that can be cleaned, modestly, without removing a charwal chemise, is cleaned, particularly, for some reason, the back of the ears. Teeth are scrubbed with a twig, and then picked with a toothpick. Finally the beard is combed and trimmed.
I had an English breakfast of cornflakes followed by fried eggs and toast; I was going to like the Sub Continent. We checked out of the hotel and left by nine, driving past Pashawar's Anglo Muslim Mansions spread along broad avenues before joining the Grand Trunk Road and driving towards Lahore. No one was in a hurry in Pakistan unless he was inside a motor vehicle. Then they seemed to become maniacs. Careering towards each other, passing on blind curves, going through red lights, swerving to avoid Buffalo, horse and carts, women, and children. At twelve we stopped in Rawlpindi for lunch. Rawlpindi is the colonial city of northern Pakistan with the newly built but planned city of Islamabad close by. We passed a shop with a huge sign, "Internationally Recognised K2 King Size Filter." This famous brand of cigarette is named after the second highest mountain in the world K2, which is right here in Pakistan.
George said, "One hour only, kids." Steve, Russ and I set off to find somewhere to eat; soon we found a small restaurant where the menu read. Veg Stue
Bens on Toast
We asked, "What did the locals eat?"
"Mutton Curry," so we had mutton curry with rice. After forty minutes we were back on the bus, George and Ram soon were ready to go. Everybody was back except Pat and Amanda, where were they? Suddenly the bus leached forward as George put it into first gear, "you cannot leave," said John from Exeter. "Pat and Amanda are not back yet". "I gave them plenty of warning," said George. "But all their gear is here, their packs and coats. You cannot leave George," said Maureen. "Please wait for them?" "No, we are going," and after this statement he drove off down the road leaving Pat and Amanda somewhere behind in Rawlpindi.
The mood on the bus was solemn, how could he do this? To leave Pat and her daughter in the middle of Pakistan with hardly any money and all of her gear still on the bus. We thought that George had a heart of gold after he had bought Amanda that coat for Christmas, in Kabul. Now this same coat was on the empty seat where Amanda should be sitting, yet Amanda was left behind with her mum Pat. I wonder what they will do? I wonder what I would have done had it been me, one could only wonder.
At five thirty we arrived in Lahore and checked in at the Asia hotel on Macleod Road just down from the main railway station. A small hotel of a medium standard, better than what we had been accustomed to staying in. Beautiful double rooms with air conditioning costing 60 Rupees for a double (