Post details: Driving in Pakistan pt I

2006-05-02

//Permalink 12:06:32 pm, Categories: Pakistan, 1820 words  

Driving in Pakistan pt I

Except for that little stretch of dust and gravel between the Pakistani border and Lahore, I was quite impressed by the standard of the roads in Pakistan. All the way southwards from Lahore were two-lane freeway in each direction. I asked some people I met in Lahore about what to expect and they only replied, "...well, everything is under construction". Turns out it is, so every few kilometers you have to switch lanes and team up with oncoming traffic. No problem, the surfaces are smooth and Pakistani truckdrivers are not as eager as their Indian counterparts to arrange your meeting with the great beyond.

[More:]

...And whoa!! What is this??! A couple of gents dressed in slick uniforms by the side of the road. One drinking water and scratching his head just below the brim of his hat, the other waving his arms in explaining to a (seemingly) puzzled man why he is no longer on his way to his destination. Beside them is a fancy looking shining white car with sirens and green letters spelling the words "Traffic Police" on the side.

It's not the heat getting to me (eventhough the heat IS getting to me) - Pakistan actually have a Traffic Police. They are 1) doing their job 2) mobile 3) polite & (most often) helpful 4) not out for bribes 5) all over the place (see 2).

I had three encounters with Pakistani traffic police. The first time I ran into them, they were the ones who ran into me. I had pulled out to the side of the road to check my roadmap when I suddenly heard a car pull up behind me. "What is your problem, Sir?". I didn't know I had a problem, but they were very eager to solve it anyway. First a lot of handshaking and explaining of the ususal WWHW (- Whom where how's and why's) I suddenly found my map covered with fingers - "THIS is where I come from", "..and THIS is where I come from", "THIS is OUR police district", "THIS is the neighbouring police district", "I went to police academy HERE", "THIS is where my WIFE's family is from, but they now live HERE". Aha! ummm yes, Oh really? Do they now..?. Policeman: "hmm, where is your country?" Me: "It's a map of Pakistan!"

Then Finally: "THIS is where you are going". There was only one road, so unless I had turned around and went back to Lahore - I would probably have ended up where I wanted to. Just looking at your map to check out names is not a good idea unless you don't mind spening your afternoon listening to the entire family history of the local police force. They happily waved me off, and I happily waved GOODBYE. Too much help can sometimes be a nuceanse.

Bear in mind that I'm all geared up in my heavy leather, my bike is radiating enough heat to melt the polar caps and it's 40 degrees celcius out. AAAAAhhhhh! Fresh Air once again!

The second police force stopped me because they was wondering what I was doing. At the time of the incident, I was riding along with my head cocked towards the engine to listen for alien noises. When riding an Enfield, there is generally ALOT of sound - kind of like a Heavy Metal concert. What you are listening for is if the band is playing a song you can recognize or - (scary) have added guys on new instruments. Every now and then you will find that the latter is the case and you have to stop and sort it out. Like in the mountains on the way to Shimla when an extra drum beat turned out to be a skewed rear wheel.

They can understand the Helmet. The Helmet they can understand. It looks familiar, they've seen it around on the occational (overcautious) Pakistani motorcycle driver. Looks like a paperbasket tuned upside down. On the head. Protects the head kind of like a paper basked tuned upside down. Would not save the life of the wearer, but at least one could say that he was not reckless - he was after all, wearing a paper basket at the time of the incident (..sorry, Helmet).

Nobody here wears additional safety gear when driving motorcycles, that is - except me. How to spot the tourist? (In Urdu) Check out his rediculous outfit! Hey man, do you KNOW how hot it is today? What are you wearing ..leather???!! The police can hardly believe their eyes, and they have to check out the thickness and texture of the leather with their fingers. They must admit that it looks very cool, but only in the fashion sense of the word - definetly not the in meteorological sence.

I have to explain the physics to them, how leather - in the case of a fall - would protect my skin enough for me not to end up looking like a meatball. I have already tried it once, skidded along the asphalt in northern India after being run off the road by a bus - it really works ;)

But even so, the gear needs to breathe and for it to breathe I need to be driving. I need wind and then it is ...tolerable (- and definetly recommended for anyone doing a similar trip). It does not work very well when you are standing still - but then again - the risk of motorcycledriving is not great when not moving. The cops have a great time, again checking out my maps, my gear, listening to my WWHW's.

Why don't you stop your motorcycle if you want to listen to the engine, it's easier!? I have to explain that some part of the bike only make sound when the bike is moveing ie. chain and tyres and the great Sherlock Holmes mystery solved, I'm can ride off again.

Wait!! Not yet, mind you! You like sprite? You know, soda? Sprite? One of the cops run off to their car and comes back with a large bottle of sprite, a couple of glasses. I'm melting in the heat and the Sprite is evaporation in my mouth. Glass is empty and - yessirdrivesafely! - I'm once again on my way.

From Lahore I drove to Bahawalpur, where I stopped a few days and did some sightseeing. I was nearly run off the road a couple of times, ALWAYS (more or less) intentionally - a couple of young guys in a car offering me cigarrettes at 80 km/h. They hung around for ages. I could not loose them and they were becomming a hazard by driving dangerously close and yelling so I eventuallly had to pull over. They smiled and greeted me, offered me tea - would I maybe like to visit them in Karachi? I politely replied that it was a little out of my way, that (thanks but no thanks) I did not smoke - and that I really had to be on my way. We said goodbye, and just as I was about to take off - I noticed the wobbeling - my front tyre was flat!

I had a hypothesis. It went like this: The reason for most flat tyres is not the bad quality of Indian tubes - it is most likely driving with wrong air pressure, ie not enough air thus making them subceptible to punctures. So I had checked my air pressure often - Aaron had supplied me with high quality tyres in Delhi - you'll see that this chap makes it back to Norway without a single punchure to his name..! I will be hailed like a king upon my arrival. My hypothesis will be the new Law among overlanders!

Alas - not so. Here I was having only made it a few days into Pakistan and already I had my first flat tyre. Now, out of all my luggage - that stuff you see in my metal cases in the pictures of my bike - I'd say 65% are tools and spare parts. I'm Mr Fixit! Yessir, this boy has enough spare parts to build himself a brand new bike! I have new tubes. I have tyre changing tools. I have the pump! I have the equipment! The knowledge! The time! The ability! Let's go! Bring it on!!

So I roll the 50 meters to the nearest gas station where the people at their 'Tyreshop' fix my punchure while I wait. That will be half an hour and 20 rupies Sir (3 NOK or 50 cents), thank you very much! The cause of the punchure was a 3 cm long screw, right up through the rubber of the tyre and the tube. I'd say my hypothesis still stands, you have to have iron wheels to not punchure on somehing like that.

Then I was run off the road by three guys in a huge truck, also headed for Karachi (What's with Karachis and their hospitality?)

They hung around for a quite while, I had the feeling of an insect who knows it's just about to get smeared all over your windshield. They honked their horn, thumbs up (meaning I have ONE FINE bike), one hung out of the passanger window and mimicked either a sword swallower or someone pouring something into their throat - I opted for the latter. As soon as I made an 'OK' sign - they raced on and led the way to one of the many roadside joints you'll see along the highway. I was served a coca cola. You want tea? I was served a cup of tea. More? I had some more. You want food? They ate while I watched.

Their english was poor, so there wasn't much of a conversation - at least not in the traditional sense. Fingers were used to point out little boys and girls, digits used to explain how many, hands and arms to explain this and that. I've understood that some believe that speaking Urdu S L O W L Y and C L E A R L Y also helps (really. It doesn't). But what does it matter - these are great people, they've politely terrorized themselves to stealing a pleasent and enjoyable hour of my life and I'm having a good time every minute of it.

Their hospitality is so genuine and intense that it is almost threatening. They genuinly want your company. They REALLY want you to drink tea with them. They want to buy you lunch. They want you to meet their families, and they would really really like it if you would stay a night at their house. You get overwhelmed - because it is not something they just say - (as we politely do in the west) The really mean it, all prior plans discarded! Anyday is a fine day to invite a total stranger that you will never see again into your life, family and home. I have gradually learnt to except these invitations (when I have the time) - and I haven't regretted it so far.

I'll be on the lookout for japanese tourists when I get home this summer. No one is safe.

Permalink

Comments:

No Comments for this post yet...

Comments are closed for this post.

ONE YEAR ON THE ROAD

Max is currently: Bergen, Norway

September 2017
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
<<  <   >  >>
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30  

Search

Categories


Linkblog

b2evolution

  • He insisted.... ;-)

    Check out the website of my brother, Ib Knutsen! He is currently working at a UN office in Nairobi, Kenya - and he is a bit more advanced as a webmaster than I am. You will find photos, videos, essays and articles and loads of tips and tricks.

    One of his latest projects was the making of a rap video for Nairobi rappers - definetly worth checking out!

    Max

    Permalink
  • Visa to Russia

    Well, those Russians are giving me a hard time.

    ]more

    Permalink

MySQL error!

Table 'wno73218.evo_hitlog' doesn't exist(Errno=1146)

Your query:
INSERT INTO evo_hitlog( visitTime, visitURL, hit_ignore, referingURL, baseDomain, hit_blog_ID, hit_remote_addr, hit_user_agent ) VALUES( FROM_UNIXTIME(1506202835), '/blogs/index.php?blog=2&p=93&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1', 'invalid', '', '', 2, '54.144.21.195', 'CCBot/2.0 (http://commoncrawl.org/faq/)')