Quetta to Islamabad

Trip Start Apr 06, 2007
1
13
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Trip End Nov 18, 2007


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Flag of Pakistan  ,
Monday, June 11, 2007

At 2pm (10am GMT +1) today we arrived in Islamabad. I am upstairs in a net cafe just off a main drag, cricket is on the telly and I can hear a call to prayer over my headphones. I sit beneath a fan but still my eyes sting slightly from sweating. Its so hot and sticky, dont know how Im going to sleep in my tent tonight. Im completely knackered after 3 truck days and the heat today. But let me tell you the Pakistani story thus far...

In Quetta I picked up a Shalwal Kameez (native dress) in the bazaar and spoke to the locals, who all seemed to be Afghans. Unfortunately, whilst in the bazaar, nature called. (I warn you that the description that follows is revolting so if your eating lunch maybe read this later.) The toilets appeared to be down a lane, but rather than a toilet it was just on the ground. Men were scattered along the lane squatting. The sight and smell of shit was disgusting. I realised that there was indeed toilets but with a 5 pence levy I could understand why locals chose outside. But the toilets had no plumbing and as I releived myself I could see and hear the distant sound of pee hitting a mound of excrement that had been piling up in the basement below amongst concrete rubble. Pakistan is filthy! After this experience I was happy to spend the rest of the day in the Serena Hotel swimming and scoffing on a Pakistani buffet before heading back to our hotel, past open sewers and piles of rotting food.

After Quetta we headed first Southeast to flatter roads and then followed the Indus North to Peshawar. Armed gaurds escorted us the whole way which was a huge pain. They were eager to get rid of us so whenever we stopped they rushed us to get going again - one day we ended up driving for 19 hours! Though we did get a laugh out of their 'uniform': tshirts with 'No Fear' written on the back.

Peshawar was chaotic and in your face. The first day I hired a taxi to the Islamic College. Strange seeing Victorian architecture in a place thousands of miles away from Britain and without a single Brit there. From there the taxi man took me to the Smugglers Bazaar on the outskirts past an Afghan refugee camp. Here I saw AK47s in every shop window and pistols being filed and assembled. After holding some gun parts my driver decided it was time to leave (the locals always know best).

The next day we travelled along the Khyber Pass - the gateway into Afghanistan. The area West of Peshawar is tribal and the police have no say here. Unlike the armed gaurds thus far (which was over the top and unneccesary) here they were required. As we drove Westwards along this track men sat on the hillside casually with their guns at their sides. We drove to a point 5km from the border to peer into Afghanistan (mountains and plaines!) and take photos. Signs along the pass read 'Shoot to Kill' and 'Khyber Rifles Welcome You'. On the way back along the narrow passage we could see a group of men setting up a tripod which was a tad unnerving. Though give these men a wave and they respond with a wave and the biggest smile you can imagine. Strange lands. Again Britain's impact could be seen as a British built railway line runs parallel to the Khyber Pass, built in the 19th century for the first Afghan war.

Peshawar was the first place I have felt overwhelmed so far. Women in colourful headscarfs grabbed your arm as you passed looking for charity. Just walking down the street me, Lorna and Will were watched by everybody and followed by a group. People here must have seen white people just a few times before - our presence was a spectacle to them.

The Karakoram Highway was next and is without doubt my favourite place in Pakistan upto today. Built in the 60s by the Chinese and Paks it took 20 years to complete and is said to be one of the biggest engineering feats since the pyramids. Although still sceptical of this claim it was still amazing. Two and a half days drive through the Karakoram Range, along a road that had been etched into cliff faces many metres above the Indus river, and only half of its distance had been covered. Here we stayed at Karimabad where we hired a jeep out to a glacier in Hoper Valley.

We retraced our steps South through the Karakoram to Islamabad, which I will venture tomorrow.

Pakistan has been like a series of countries. In the south nomads somehow survive in the dusty scorching desserts. Further north in friendly Quetta, a city that sells virtually anything, friendly Afghans have found refuge and a place to make ends meet. Peshawar was chaotic, just watching rickshaws negotiate pedestrians negotiate scooters from the hotel roof was nerve-racking. Being in it was a little too much. In Karimabad literacy was 80% - overall Pakistan has 50% literacy. Up there people beleive in a different type of Islam where women should be empowered and schools are everywhere. Just 300km South of Karimabad in Chilas women are banished from public and an all male humanity appears to exist. Here I spoke to a man from Lahore who had spoken to a local. He asked the local why his wife had not accompanied him to the market. 'She is mine and I wont have other men looking at her' was the gist of the answer. 'What if your son is fatally ill and requires a doctor? How will your wife get the doctor if she cannot leave the house?' Answer: 'No doctor would come - she is not to leave my house.'

I would say it is apparent the Pakistanis on the whole are not an educated bunch. Full grown men crowd and stare at the truck for ridiculous amounts of time. I appreciate the fact that men hold hands with one another in this part of the world, as in Iran, but in Iran it was minimal. Here, in some places (eg tribal regions of the Karakoram) men couldn't keep their hands off one another. Their behaviour was childlike. Not to forget the beleifs in this region were simply backward.

Pakistan for me has been a shock. Experiencing poverty at first hand is tough. The filth and the ignorance that comes with it is astonishing. Flies cover any fruit/meat/rice you buy. Chickens are kept alive right up until they are bought because refrigerators are expensive. The rivers are viewed as rubbish bins. But I do not dislike Pakistan - it has amazing scenery in the North where the three largest mountain ranges on earth meet: Karakoram, Himalayas and Hinukush. Also the people are friendly! Perhaps not like the Persians but still.

Anyway, I still have Islamabad and Lahore to take in so I shouldn't really summarise yet - they are sure to be just as different as the other places are to one another.

IN OTHER NEWS...

I will be cutting my stay in India down to 1 week. Catching a flight from Delhi (hopefully after seeing the Taj) to Kathmandu! Signed up for a 2 week trek from Lukla to Everest Base Camp.

At the end of 10 weeks I am missing friends, family, Glasgow and western culture now. But the trip far out weighs out and I hope it does right to the end!
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Comments

marzzie
marzzie on

Just keeps getting better..
I can't believe all these things you're seeing! Totally agree with Grant, it must suck to be a woman over there! I can't believe some guy would let his son die before letting his wife get a doctor. Just goes to show HOW different things are! Loving the photo's too...amazing!!!

grantrough
grantrough on

Pakistan
I didnt relise the scenery in Pakistan was so great, but i suppose i didnt think about it, being near the himalayas and all that; the rivers look well nice too. shame about the lack of smarts and cleanliness though. And oh my god, what is with the men, i mean really, he would actually stop his wife seeing a doctor, just so other men dont look at her.....what a tard

talk to you later marty

mum-n-dad
mum-n-dad on

...turning into a bit of a road blog...ahead!!
...or road movie as bad as Two Lane Blacktop (one of the worst improvised movies ever...'we're on the road' with reply 'yep, we're on the road' said repeatedly filling 50%+ of the dialogue!! At least you get to shit yourself...precipitously at that!! Email you later.

bigsis.sarah
bigsis.sarah on

Not My Cup of Tea
I think out of all the places you've told us about, Pakistan sounds the least appealing. Not just for the approach to women, but just in general I couldn't think scenery could make up for the negatives. Though I suppose to really judge I'd have to make like little bro & experience it for myself. Something tells me I'm not so keen to judge it fully!

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