Rowan Castle - Travel & Photography
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The Lake Palace at Udaipur, India

India and Pakistan 1996 - Diary (Page 5)

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Day 51 - Friday 23rd August. - Currently unfinished (notes only) I set off on the walk back to Ayun at six a.m. Making my way out of the Bumburet valley, I saw two Hoopoes flying above a field and, at another spot, several golden coloured birds that were perched in a large tree. However, I found the most unusual wild animal that I saw on the track in front of me; a small dead snake. Turning it over carefully with a stick (even a dead snake can deliver a deadly quantity of venom if it's fangs puncture the skin) I could see that it had all of the tell tale markings of the highly dangerous Russel's Viper. These are very common in Pakistan, their bite is lethal to man and they often attack without provocation. The one I had found was only a baby, probably run over by a passing jeep. Having walked roughly halfway down to the police checkpoint, I was given a lift by a jeep that was heading down to Ayun. It was a hair raising drive along the narrow road, and on the way there were more great views of Tirich Mir. At Ayun I did not have to wait very long for a Chitral bound wagon, and I arrived back at the Dreamland hotel at about 10 o' clock. Rested in hotel for a bit, slept for a bit then put on clean clothes and went down to the fort to ask permission to be let in to the abandoned parts. Unbelievably they let me in – saw the old towers and a ruined subterranean jail, good views of the Kunar River, unfortunately Tirich Mir now clouded over. Went back to hotel, talked to the friendly Chitrali chap about the landowning system in Sind, Pirs and the farming in the Chitral region. News at 6 reports heavy flooding in Lahore – state of emergency, army called in, 7 dead. In the evening I listened to my Walkman while watching the third test between England and Pakistan at the Oval. England made 326 all out (first Innings) and at the time of writing Pakistan were 75-0 in reply. Day 52 – Saturday 24th August - Currently unfinished (notes only) Up early again, went to wagon yard next to hotel to get a wagon for Peshawar. Talked to Punjabi guys about cricket (end of 1st day Pakistan were 215-1) set off over the Lowari Pass but luckily there is little traffic and we have no problems but wagon does not go further than Timagarha, v. annoyed. Get new wagon, seat is at back with absolutely no legroom. Get to Peshawar at about 6. Go to Khans? Khams? Hotel but room will not lock from inside so go to Habib Hotel in Khyber Bazaar. Room is big, clean and cheap (Rs180) have chicken jalfrezi (v. good) and a pot of tea for total of Rs67. Day 53 – Sunday 25th August - Currently unfinished (notes only) First got a rickshaw to University Book Agency, buy 3 books – Kafirs of Hindu Kush, Breaking the Curfew and England and Russia in the East by Henry Rawlinson. Next I went to Saddar to the travel agency at Greens Hotel, rumours I had heard earlier were confirmed – The Khyber Pass is closed to foreigners but more unexpected is the fact that Darra Adam Khel is also closed to foreigners. Decided to double check this so I got a rickshaw to the Civil Secretariat and went to the Home and Tribal Affairs Office, spoke to the civil servant there, he said that both the Khyber and Darra were closed to foreigners because the government was conducting what he called a ‘clean up operation’ in Afridi territory. The tribesmen had recently kidnapped and murdered the Income Tax commissioner and so the government had arrested 300 people and taken other punitive measures, as a result tension in the area was high and there was a more serious risk than usual of death or kidnapping to foreigners. Because Darra is an Afridi village, the trouble meant that this too was off limits to foreigners until further notice. He added that even Pakistanis from the settled areas could not go up to the pass at the present time, only holders of a valid visa for land entry to Afghanistan were being allowed up the pass and then only with an escort of three gunmen. After this depressing news I went to the Arbab Road to do some more book shopping – bought 3 more books – Afghanistan by Sandy Gall, Between the Oxus and the Indus by Colonel RCF Schomberg and a one volume history of India by Stanley Wolpert. Evening – started to get my pack ready for the flight home so I could see if all the books fit, went to the restaurant and had a meal. I am going to be very bored sitting here in Peshawar for another five days with just the city to look around but I have no alternative and can only hope the time passes quickly. Day 54 – Monday 26th August - Currently unfinished (notes only) First went for a walk through Qisa Khawani Bazaar – cloth, book shops, end up at Chowk Yadgar – walk up the jewelers bazaar emerge at the Bala Hisar near the spot where our party waited in 1994, go there and there are still cart loads of fruit and the motorcycle shops. Go back to the Jewellers Bazaar buy a beautiful small wooden box with a miniature painting on it as a gift for mum. Went back to the hotel. Later got a rickshaw out to the Smugglers Bazaar on Jamrud Road, arrived by the border checkpost of the Khyber Agency (no foreigners allowed to cross), this is the end of my journey up from Bombay since the Khyber Pass is firmly closed. Take a look round the smugglers bazaar – toiletries, walkmans, ray bans and stereos. Next get a taxi to the quiet and peaceful (but smaller than expected) Khalid Bin Walid Bagh, next walk to the telephone office and make a very expensive telephone call home. Mum was worried that I may have been caught up in the heavy flooding in Lahore but I assured her I was OK. Went back to hotel. Later on I went back to the old city with my camera and visited the Mahabat Khan Mosque. Took photos of cinema hordings and exterior of M.K. mosque. Went back to the hotel for the evening and had a meal. Looks like England are about to be beaten by Pakistan in the final test and therefore lose the series. Day 55 – Tuesday 27th August - Currently unfinished (notes only) Had breakfast, got rickshaw to the foreigners registration office to sort out potential problem over ‘Form C’ – no problem, Britons don’t need any of the forms, registrations etc – that was a relief. Go back to hotel, sit in restaurant and read. Read in ‘The News’ newspaper that a surge of water is expected to pass close to Multan in the next 36 hours hours and that widespread devastation could not be ruled out. I have been very lucky not to get caught up in the floods. After a bit I got a rickshaw out to Arbab Road, wanted to buy dad a book on wild flowers of Pakistan but photographs were small and of a poor quality, I had similar luck trying to buy my brother Tom a cricket book – could not find a single one! Had a burger then went back to Hotel. Read, drank tea and pepsi then had the evening meal at 17:30. I finished reading ‘Breaking the Curfew’ and started to read Sandy Galls ‘Afghanistan: Travels with the Mujahideen’. Day 56 – Wednesday 28th August - Currently unfinished (notes only) First went to Habib bank to change £20, they told me to come back at eleven when they had received the telex of the day’s rate from Karachi. Went to reconfirm my flight with PIA, then went for a chicken burger. Went back to PIA to check flight times hadn’t changed – they haven’t. Went to the newspaper stand outside the bookshop to read the latest about the flooding. A terrorist had blown up a protective artificial embankment at the height of the danger and 1000 villages in the Punjab had been destroyed. The flooding had annihilated 30% of the regions cotton crop and it was feared this could rise to 60%. Went back to Habib bank at eleven, they still had not received telex, told me to go to Bolan bank but they didn’t change TCs at all. Finally went to the Punjab bank (past two guards each armed with pump action shotguns) and changed the money. Went to the Khyber Agency checkpost to take a photo of the end of my journey. Bought some very cheap AA batteries. Went back to the hotel. Day 57 – Thursday 29th August - Currently unfinished (notes only) Tried to reconfirm Intl flights from Hotel, nobody was answering, took a rickshaw to the telegraph office, still no joy, so I telephoned Mum, asked her to reconfirm flights and times with London and said that I would ring back later. Went to Khalid-Bin-Walid Bagh for a burger and 2 pepsis, then I went to the British Council Library to catch up on the newspapers from home, went to the Punjab bank and changed some more money. Came back to hotel, read and rested in room. 20:00 rang home to check the flight reconfirmation. Day 58 – Friday 30th August - Currently unfinished (notes only) Spent the day in the hotel, listening to music, reading more of schomberg’s book, readying my backpack and drinking tea and pepsi, not exactly exciting but I have no choice. Took a look at my original itinerary, if I had stuck to it I would have been passing through Lahore at the height of the flooding and would probably still be there now. This is effectively the last day of my journey since the next two days will be spent travelling back to Britain, thinking back over the last two months it has been incredible how much I have seen and done and I hope that all my photos come out OK. Day 59 – Saturday 31st August - Currently unfinished (notes only) I had arranged a taxi to take me to the airport, it turned up earlier than expected at about 6, and we set off, over the railway line, through the Cantonement and out to the airport. The terminal was quite modern and fairly clean. Long wait before I checked in for my PIA flight to Karachi via Lahore. As we taxied out I could see that the airport had scarecrows rather than hi-tech bird scaring devices. After take off, when we were clear of the city, it was amazing to see just how brown and arid the ground looked, and then we climbed above cloud level. As we came in to land at Lahore I could see the extent of the flooding, although the airport was of course dry. I stayed on board the aircraft at Lahore. We took off again, this time heading for Karachi, as we overflew Sind, the desert was occasionally visible far below. When we landed at Karachi it was about 3pm and I collected my luggage and sat down in the waiting area which was housed in a sort of ‘porch’ which was neither inside or outside the building. I had to wait until 6 am when I could check in for my flight to Frankfurt. During the wait I spoke to a Pakistani chap, probably in his 60s who had lived in England for the last 20 years. He had travelled several times overland between London and Quetta, and in the ‘70s he had been to Heart and Kabul in Afghanistan. Eventually I had to get some sleep and managed to doss down by leaning forward and resting my head on my pack. It was a very long night. Day 60 – Sunday 1st September - Currently unfinished (notes only) I checked in just before six, and went through to the modern departure lounge of Quaid-I-Azam airport. Unfortunately, the aircraft waiting for us was an A300 and so I knew we would not be going straight to Frankfurt and I guessed that we would stop at Dubai, I was right. We overflew the Arabian sea before reaching the deserts of the UAE and Dubai perched spectacuarly on the shore. To my dismay we had to leave the plane at Dubai but at least I could do a bit of duty free shopping and bought a 1 litre bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label. I reboarded the plane and we flew over the Persian Gulf, over Saudi Arabia and then over Jordan and northern Lebanon before heading north across Turkey and then West, over Budapest to land at Frankfurt. Here I had a fairly lengthy wait for my flight to Heathrow which didn’t take long. We touched down at Heathrow and after a long wait I collected my luggage and made my way through to Mum and Dad who were waiting with the crowd at the Arrivals area. I was exhausted and glad to be home after 2 months.
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