Thursday, November 1, 2012

No room at the Inn

We’re in Karachi and going to head north to Lahore and the Indian border. I have to admit, I’m a bit fed up with Pakistan and agree with David to head to India as soon as possible. This is not currently possible for Jeroen sadly, as his bike has been sick. The list of problems grows to include a slow puncture, overheating engine, faulty battery and charging system failing. I’m feeling a bit bad about heading off without him, but Jeroen is cool and insists he will sort a few things out prior to following us.

The target for the rest of us  today will be a place around 100kms south of Lahore, Okara. It looks nice on a map. The truth is slightly different. We can reach there before dark hopefully and be able to head straight for Indian border the following day. As always on this trip, that was the theory. Here’s what really happened:

last of the Murree beer
Martin & Richard on the KTM 650’s, David on the Beemer and my self head off fairly early around 6am. I’ve left Jeroen with the last of the Murree beer,since we had no idea what room he’s in it’s been left on his bike to heat up in morning sun. I do text him later so we’re not all bad.

We escape Karachi a lot lot easier than how we arrived, and for the first time in earnest we are without an escort thankfully. The road north is fairly straight forward and the usual routine of tea and fuel stops keep our bums from numbing out completely. The day drags on uneventfully and we start to think all is going to plan until late in the afternoon when we come across another mad traffic jam on one side of a dual carriageway. Following cars and bikes to diverting locals we change over to the opposite carriageway to make some progress through the usual chaos of people and cars going both ways. 

As we continue to struggle north a large crowd of men has gathered further on up the chaos and as I weave towards the road blockage I can see many of these guys have an attitude that isn't welcoming. Almost all at once, the large crowd comes towards me and the rest of the guys are behind me now, instinct says this isn’t right so I look to David who reads my mind and starts to turn also. I’m trying to look cool about it  but inside I’m not so calm. Watching my mirrors and the crowd around I’m plotting my master escape plan in case it turns really nasty for us. Luckily I never have to use my half-baked plan as we turn off the main highway relieved and calmed to be away from the madding crowd. We know we have to detour around this and manage to succeed despite the darkening sky and the familiar moans of “fucks sake, driving in the dark again” Were happy to be away from this madness for now.

Crowd gathering  Extract from video
We still have no idea what the crowd was about but David insists this is a tense situation and one he’s seen before in India when the mass hysteria takes over, the crowd looks for someone to blame for what we guess might have been a child’s road death or similar. In many cases the bystander pays for it and the blood thirsty crowd goes home refreshed and unpunished. 

Although I didn't notice at the time, David mentions these guys had some weapons.

Now relatively safely back n the road and within an hour of intended destination and hopefully a lovely hotel with nice clean sheets, cool refreshing beer, lovely food, a beautiful girl on reception to welcome our weary party to Okara. A clean bed would be nice at least.

No room at the Inn
We stop at the Pearl Inn hotel and David,volunteered by many of us to complete the room bargaining, sets  upon the reception whilst we wait for the results outside. As usual, we attract a large crowd of dirty looking pyjama wearing men, mostly young in 20’s or 30’s with dirty hands and need to poke and press all the bikes buttons. It’s difficult to stay relaxed in this situation but I’ve found its best to ignore as much as possible and answer the usual repeated questions with smile, “about $7000. Scotland.  Yes, Australia. From England. From Austria. Yes, to India” However this night is slightly different. We don’t know why but with the drama on the road just about an hour ago, the ever increasing crowd in the very dark dirty street of Okara outside this unfriendly looking hotel, we are all starting to feel anxious.

David squeezes his way through the crowd as I hand his salvaged bike key, over the top of some black heads which I removed earlier “so did we get some rooms”? I shout over the din of Pakistani noise, “No it’s full they say”!
This is a lie as the place is empty and there are several keys hanging up on the wall behind reception in the 1950’s way of doing things. I’m annoyed and poke my head in the door to say you’re all wankers but say nothing, stare at the hundreds of keys on the wall, look towards the line of moustache wearing puppets behind the counter and try to tell the one with the biggest moutache assuming hes the boss, I’m issed off. This has absolutely no effect on their dumb expressions as most people in this country look pissed off most of the time anyway.Walking to the bike, I’m secretly hoping the building burns own in the night and kills all these 1950’s pyjama wearing shitheads to death without granting them the usual 1000 virgins.

So we’re off to find another hotel, the second of only 3 places to stay in town. Once again the crowd disperses and reassembles at our new destination. Same results. No rooms for us. This is not good and the crowd still getting larger starts to bother all of us. There is one hope left so we get local tuk tuk driver to show us the way to the last hotel in Pakistan.

Another large crowd to welcome us
Once more, David takes the lead and heads inside to get our rooms sorted. Thankfully he succeeds this time at 1000 rupees per room. It’s a shithole and we know this but the ever increasing noise and size of the new crowd gathering makes us even more nervous than before.

The bikes are driven straight inside the small dirty courtyard of the dirty guest house whilst a dirty crowd of followers assist to shout directions to whoever is listening. We’re trying to get all bags off loaded and hide in our room until the din is calmed but this is not to be for now. 

Once inside our dingy disgusting dirty rooms were told the price is now 2500 rupees. The owner is chancing it and tries to increase this again, to which David finally loses his cool and explains in Glaswegian that they can fuck off, although he’s not from Glasgow so I’m impressed anyway.

It wasn’t just the horrendous noise from the hallway below from around one hundred dirty pyjama wearing locals, the dirt in the depressing rooms, the scare we had earlier at the road crash or the fact that it was dark and dirty and we were a long way from home this time with no police escort, the police don’t even know were here, but the almost tense atmosphere from the crowd, in and around the building that was bothering me.

I still have a half filled plastic bottle of Scotch whiskey from last nights hotel so offer some to David whilst we’re have a small conference to discuss how the fuck we arrived here. It’s disgusting and smells more of paint stripper but cocktail room service was not an option available. If it was, they’d probably get it wrong anyway.

Later, I can’t settle in my room as the noise from the floor below is bleeding through the small dirty windows of my room and in concern for my baby parked below I’m curious to see whats going on. Im nervous but the the young guys crowded around my bike are fairly friendly and simply pleased to see me. After usual questions for around 5 or 10 minute they ask me if i know cable TV?
Strange question but they then lead me to me a server room in this guest house with racks of electronic boxes with forty TV channels being repeated from satellite to local subscribers, all illegal of course. They also think it funny to show me internet porn showing naked blondes performing all various things whilst several of the crowd have their hands on their dicks over their pyjamas. I cant help but ask, “so would your Pakistani girl friend or  wife do this for you”?  to which the consensus is generally, “Oh no they would be killed for this” I felt like going for a shower but the room toilet is disgusting, I washed my hands and finished the rest of the shit whiskey feeling better that I was doing something illegal almost. I’ll keep the rest of my thoughts to myself.

Last guest house in Pakistan
I unpack my own mattress and sleeping bag as there is no way in hell I’m sleeping on any bed here and gain some comfort from the fact I’ll have no bed bugs crawling over me in the night. The paint stripper does its job and I’m sleeping like a cave dwelling Taliban dreaming of his promised virgins.

I’m up really early and step over some sleeping bodies to reach my bike. I don’t care if I wake them, they want to sleep in reception, that’s their problem. I’m over being polite to these people. We all rustle bags and load up all gear, start engines and we’re off much relieved after the anxiety and madness of the night before.

Last pose for pictures
At a tea stop we say our goodbyes to Martin and Richard who are heading to Lahore and the KKH further north. David and me are heading to India and the Wagah border. Meanwhile, further South, Jeroen and KTM leaves Karachi in a pick- up truck.

After and easy ride and very easy border crossing into India, we’re greeted by very smartly dressed girls, yes girls, we’d not seen any in ages and here we’re confronted with pretty young things in uniforms. We do see their hair and stare at something we’ve been denied for weeks for at least 1 or 2 seconds but unlike the pyjama wearing crowd to our West, we don’t lose control of ourselves, rape the fine young things and manage to have a civil conversation with many, one even brings us tea. Welcome to India, I hear and I nearly kissed the ground although I could have kissed the guards too, even the men but thought this is best left for prisoners fleeing the real Taliban’s clutches.

Jeroen is just behind us on a pickup truck with his bike. He can’t get the bike working for the remains of Pakistan and manages to push the ever troubled KTM Adventure the last 100m through the gates into the arms of India. “So undignified” he exclaims! I thought the bike was living up to its name but don’t mention this in case I get a smack.

Incredible India. Incredible brakes, Plaster and Vodafone


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  2. Damn, Steven! Now I understand why we hadn't heard from you in a while. Glad you got through all that with no real incidents. -Russ