Tuesday 9th August. Today was our rest day between the two halves of the trek. It was also a Tuesday which meant I had to take my weekly dose of two chloroquine anti-malaria tablets as well as the daily requirement of two proguanil tablets. The combination of the foul tasting chloroquine and water with a heavy dose of iodine in it very nearly made me throw up.Yesterday, as we had raced into the village I had caught sight of fantastic views of the Ishkoman valley and river and so after I had washed my hair under the nearby tap, I went back along the road with just my camera to take some photos. The river itself spread out across the flat, rocky valley floor like a silver carpet. On either side atop small cliffs were green and yellow fields and slender trees, and above these rose the dry and barren mountains.Walking back the way I had come, I reached a shop selling biscuits, and bought a packet. The shopkeeper didn't have any change and so he gave me a packet of glucose powder energy drink instead. Energile, as it was called could be added to drinking water and its fruity taste eliminated the taint of the iodine. As I walked through the village some of the locals approached me and shook my hand or offered a friendly "Salaam" as I passed by. On my way back to the compound I stopped off at the chai wallah's shop where a few of the others were already waiting for a cup of tea.Looking down the Ishkoman Valley towards Phakor.The inside of the shop was black with dirt. Against one wall were a couple of seats from a truck and a low wooden bench. Stuck to the wall was a poster of Saddam Hussein, palms outstretched to Allah, while Iraqi tanks and troops filed past in the background. The chai wallah sat in the middle on an old tea chest. His table was a larger chest, which was covered with German spaghetti bolognaise packets which had been carefully stuck together to make a table cloth.Eventually a boy (perhaps his son) emerged from behind a grimy curtain with two flasks of tea. The chai wallah poured us each a cup of sweet, milky tea and just as the day before, it was marvellous. A large group of children had gathered at the wide, open doors to watch us drink.When it came to paying I found out that the tea cost just two rupees a cup! I bought a loaf of bread, we thanked the chai man and made our way across the road to the compound.I made for my tent, where I tried to make up for five days of meagre rations by eating as many biscuits and as much bread as possible. In the end there was quite a lot of food left over for later, even though I was full and the whole lot had only cost the equivalent of £1.50.Sitting on the steps of one of the rest houses, writing my diary, I noticed that someone had got hold of a bucket so that we could wash our clothes. This was not an opportunity to be missed and so I joined the queue and readied my concentrated clothes detergent (which I had also been using to wash my hair).I managed to wash my shalwar suit and a couple of T-shirts with reasonable success (despite the tap water being gray with river sediment) and hung them out to dry on the tree by my tent.After lunch of chicken and tea I talked to Ali and Dr.Shaheed about Pakistani politics and also about the more lawless south of the country, where travel in rural areas requires an armed escort.I then set off to the bank where I was greeted in good English by the staff. Someone had told me that it was possible to change travellers cheques but from my conversation with the bank clerk it was clear that they were mistaken.Following this, Rev. Morris, Mr. Owens and I went for a swim in a river which was a twenty minute walk away. Then it was back to the tent for more food.Staying in one place for a whole day meant that the tent had become much more messy than usual, with food and equipment all over the place. I was not looking forward to cleaning it all up the next morning.
The view across the Ishkoman Valley from Chatorkhand. At night, thecultivated valley in the distance was dotted with small camp fires.
Wednesday 10th August.I got up at first light, cleaned up the tent and packed away all my equipment. By seven I was ready, but Mansoor had gone to make a phone call and so the whole group was kept waiting.A while later a tractor arrived to take the other group to the start of their next half of the trek (the end of our last one).We waited another half an hour and had some tea brought to us by the chai wallah.To kill time, a few of the others and I went across the street to a shop which was a kind of general store, selling cloth, biscuits, sweets and sunglasses. I bought a packet of `Nice' biscuits, orange wafers and a small packet of mixed fruit Energile.When we got back to the compound our packs were being loaded into a large trailer which was attached to a tractor. We all had to sit on top of our packs, crammed in like sardines. The whole arrangement was very dangerous.We lurched and bumped our way out of Chatorkhand, with every ditch and pothole bringing howls of pain from all of us, as limbs were crushed and bodies contorted. The road took us down to the river, over a rickety wooden suspension bridge and several miles up a steep road in the mountain side. As we went we handed round biscuits and mineral water, sometimes with disastrous results.Nearing our destination, we hit a heavy rain shower. We had nowhere to hide as the big, cold drops descended on us. This journey was becoming less and less fun by the minute.The start of the trek was at the foot of a green and occasionally cultivated valley, with a clean and powerful river running through it. The donkeys were loaded up and we set off up a fairly steep track. The walk was strenuous but pleasant, although the mountains above were arid there was nothing dry or barren about the valley floor. As we ascended, the Ishkoman valley below receded until it was just an emerald rhombus of fields between the arms of the mountains.We came to our campsite at exactly the same time that a violent storm struck. Powerful winds howled down the valley and I had to call for help to put up my tent which was very nearly blown away. I threw all of my equipment into the tent, dived in, and then sat out the ensuing thunder and lightning.When the rain subsided and we heard Mirzadad call out that supper was ready I raced out of the tent. We were all amazed to discover that Mirzadad had sat outside throughout the storm to cook our supper and he had also set light to a nearby tree in the process!As we ate, the weather was still grim. The mountains above were shrouded in cloud and it was very dark for the time of day. No one was particularly eager to stay out in these conditions and so we all went back to our tents.Thinking about all the unforgiving terrain we had crossed, it was hard to believe that two countries had gone to war three times in forty seven years over this land.
Thursday 11th August.Breakfast was porridge and tea, plus something we all looked forward to, the handing out of the Jubilee chocolate bars.The trek continued up the valley and involved steep climbs in places as well as frequent river crossings.A break came when we stopped at a small village of stone huts, where Mirzadad bought a locally grown vegetable, a type of kale. A villager brought out a bowl of natural yoghurt for Mansoor and a couple of people, including me, tried it as well. The yoghurt was very nice and I don't think anyone suffered any after effects!We stopped again, just on the other side of the village for lunch. This was a small helping of one sardine in tomato sauce, three minute squares of cheese plus as many digestive biscuits as you could lay your hands on without appearing to be greedy.We carried on for just two hours and arrived at a flat green site. The place was almost perfect but to our dismay the porters insisted that we camp a bit further on over a hill. The second site was short of space for the tents and I think everyone was quietly annoyed that the porters had intervened.Our camp below the Asambar Pass.Tired after the days walk, I slept in my tent. When I emerged just before supper I was in for a shock, it was getting very cold. I put on all the warm clothes I had, my fleece jacket and hat, as well as my fingerless gloves and tracksuit bottoms. Despite all this, when night fell and we were still waiting for food, I was bitterly cold.Supper was definitely worth the wait. Mirzadad had added spices to the kale, heated the whole lot and served it up with chappati, as well as chicken and mushroom soup as a starter. The spicy kale was extremely tasty.That night was very chilly, despite wearing all my clothes inside my sleeping bag.
Friday 12th August.The breakfast that Mirzadad prepared this morning rivalled the kale as the most delicious meal on the whole trek. It was an omelette made with onions and spices and although we only had a small piece each, when wrapped in half a chappati the result was both tasty and filling.Today was the big walk up and over the Asambar pass at 14000 ft. The track was steep, and like the Naltar pass, the green slopes we passed were dotted with tiny flowers. After trudging over a brief snow slope we arrived on the red coloured ridge that is the top of the pass. Rev. Morris and Richard built a snow hole in some nearby ice, while the others sat by the summit cairn and admired the view.There were no prayers this time and soon we were making our way down the other side. However, the going ahead was treacherous, large scree slopes and a rocky outcrop which ended in a small precipice. It took a long time to descend only a short distance but after a while the path levelled off to a wide grassy area with a stream. This was where we stopped for lunch.We passed through a village and a bit further on we came to our camp, on a ridge by a small blue lake. I, like most of the others, went for a swim soon after arriving. The water was quite warm but infested with small red creatures and the lake bottom was squidgy mud. I didn't stay in long and was soon drying off in the sunshine.It seemed that this half of the trek was a lot easier than the first stage. We weren't walking far each day, we stopped often, water was more plentiful and the campsites were much better. I didn't envy the other group who had to trek up the glacier we had descended using the rope.After a supper which included three portions of custard type pudding I headed for my sleeping bag. The sun always set at around seven o'clock and after that there wasn't much to do so I always went to bed, ensuring a good night's sleep before the next day’s trek.
The view of the route ahead, from the top of the Asambar Pass.
Looking back down the valley towards Chatorkhand, from Asambar Pass.
Saturday 13th August. Unusually, when I got up breakfast was ready immediately. We each got two jubilee bars today which was a very welcome surprise.As we trekked down the valley I realised that once we had cleared the Asambar pass yesterday, we had reached the beginning of the end of the trip. From now on the walk would be an easy descent to Yasin, the village at the end of our route. After that, a week would be spent travelling back down to Islamabad and seeing some of the cities and towns on the way.Lots of small trees were growing in the valley and the fragrant aroma of bushes and herbs filled the air. Soon we were walking past fields of wheat.When we stopped at a small village called Gamas, a bowl of natural yoghurt was again produced for Mansoor and the guides. While they ate, the local children gathered around to see the strange people who had suddenly appeared on their doorsteps.Further down the track, I was walking behind Rev. Morris when he suddenly leapt into the air with a cry of terror. He had almost trodden on a dead snake, stretched out on the path. Mansoor said that he knew of the snake and had seen one like it before, but he did not know the name of the species. What he did tell us was that its bite was lethal to humans.Later on we had lunch under the shade of a tree, just by the river bank. Some of the group took the opportunity to escape from the incredible heat by taking a dip in the river.A long, hot trek down the valley followed. There was talk of missing out a night in the village of Sandhi and walking straight to Yasin but this plan was abandoned in the end.Mirzadad preparing our lunch.The camp at Sandhi looked idyllic, a walled and grassy site, shaded by apricot trees which were heavy with ripe fruit. I joined the others, who were sitting round plates of ripe apricots. I also ate a delicious fruit, the name of which was pronounced as "toot" although someone said that they thought they were mulberries. Whatever they were they tasted superb, especially with a sprinkling of salt. To top off the feast coffee was made. I'm not usually a coffee drinker but like the tea it was more mild than usual and was very good.A short while later and supper was ready. It was clear that Mirzadad and his assistant cook, Mardansha had excelled again. The starter was chicken and ginger soup and the main meal was a very filling potato curry with chappati. By now it was dark and I made my way out of the compound and down to the river by torchlight, to wash up my cutlery and cookware set (from which I ate all my meals).Once in my tent and sleeping bag I soon went to sleep.
Sunday 14th August.This was the last trekking day, and being just a one and a half hour walk to Yasin, it was hardly even that.For breakfast Mirzadad had made the spicy onion omelette again but this time he had bought enough eggs for us to have half an omelette each!Early morning sunshine on the mountains at Sandhi.The walk was down a hot road and across a wooden suspension bridge. As we neared Yasin a group of youths were coming along the road in the opposite direction. As I drew near, one of them approached, shook hands and with good English started on the usual questions such as asking my name and which country I was from. His name was Dedariman and he went on to tell me about his family. One of his uncles was a Colonel in the Navy at Karachi and another was an Engineer in Islamabad, while a third was a Colonel Doctor in the army at Mardan.Dedariman asked if James and I would like to go to his house when we arrived. He walked with us for the remainder of the route, until we arrived at the government rest houses in Yasin. He waited outside the compound while we rested for a few minutes, then James and I set off into the village. Turning off the main road (a wide stony track) onto a path that ran through the trees and was dissected by irrigation channels, we passed his Grandfather's house. A while later, we came to a small door in a high stone wall, which lead through into a yard and the house.Crossing the suspension bridge on the way to Yasin.We were shown into a dimly lit room which was bare except for a small, low shelf covered with books and a hunting rifle and padlocked ammunition box in the corner. The floor was covered in rugs and cloths and small cushions were propped up against the stone walls. We sat down with our backs against the cushions. No sooner had we arrived than we were each given a cup of lumpy goat's milk/yoghurt as well as a plate of delicious apricots each. A water container and basin were produced so that we could wash our hands. We were then given tea as well as a fried egg and thick chappati. These were eaten with the fingers although I was careful to use only my right hand, because in Pakistan the left hand is always considered to be unclean and is not used to bring food to the mouth.After the meal we were shown a picture of the Navy uncle while he had been studying at Peshawar University and we talked with another uncle who lived in the house. Dedariman explained that they followed the Ismaili faith (a sub-sect of Islam), and a picture of the Aga Khan hung on the wall.James and I were both stunned by the hospitality and generosity of these people, who had very little to give. What stranger arriving in the average British village would receive such treatment? Having been accorded the honour of an invitation to their house, it was a tradition to give some sort of gift. James gave Dedariman his old watch. I genuinely had nothing on me of any value that I could give and so I promised that my gift would be to post the photographs I had taken of the family to them, once I got back home. Dedariman was clearly pleased by both of our presents.Dedariman’s family and I. In the back row (left to right) are: Dedariman’sfriend, Dedariman’s uncle, myself and Dedariman.We then went to see Dedariman's friend's house, whose father was a local policeman. When we arrived an older member of his family (his Grandfather I think) was ill and lying on the porch. He greeted us when we arrived and filed past him into the house. We didn't stay long and soon Dedariman's friend presented us each with an edible necklace of dried apricots and their stones. I took more photographs and then Dedariman showed us the way back to the compound.Following a short rest, Rev. Morris took us to see the ruins of Yasin fort. It was built by Gohar Aman, a celebrated ruler of the Yasin valley. He was the father of Mir Wali, the man thought to be responsible for the murder of George Hayward during "The Great Game". Only a small central building remains standing, but the ruins around it clearly show that the fort was once quite large. Having seen the fort, we walked back to the compound.As the evening light faded, the jeeps that would take us to Gilgit arrived.Just before supper, Dedariman returned with more goat's yoghurt, apples and dried apricots. Mirzadad had been working over a ferocious looking gas stove in one of the buildings. The air smelt slightly of leaking gas and the temperature inside was formidable.When supper was ready it turned out to be dahl (a lentil dish) and chappati, which I did not like very much but most people seemed to enjoy it.Today had been Pakistan Independence Day; celebrating the creation of Pakistan on 14th August 1947. If we had been in the cities we would probably have seen some sort of celebration taking place.
The ruins of Yasin Fort.
Monday 15th August. I woke up at first light and packed away everything, including my tent, before most of the others were awake. After a quick breakfast of porridge and tea we loaded the jeeps for the journey to Gilgit, which it was estimated would take nine hours. We had to push start the jeep before we could finally drive out of Yasin along the main road. From there we bumped our way along, over rocks and irrigation channels until we emerged on the main Gupis to Gilgit road. For most of the journey the track was high above a huge gorge, with a grey river way below. As we passed through small villages there were often police check points where each of us would have to write down our passport number, visa number, profession, destination, nationality, date of arrival and date of departure. We stopped in a small village for some tea before setting off once more. For the whole journey the driver played his favourite tape over and over. One side featured the current hit song in Pakistan, "I am very very sorry" which was sung part in English and part in Urdu. The next time we stopped was for the driver to buy some peaches for us from two boys on the roadside. We were given two each and they were very juicy and ripe. He stopped again a while later to wash in a water channel that ran by the roadside. When we reached the outskirts of Gilgit the road was metalled and free of potholes. As a special treat our driver took us to see the Buddha that is carved in a rock face on the edge of town. The visit didn't take long and was very interesting. Soon we arrived in the centre of town and passed the hectic Bazaars and the striking main mosque. It was only a short drive after that before we reached the Park Hotel.Rock carving of Buddha, near Gilgit. I had lunch, dropped off my stuff in Rev. Morris' room and shaved off eleven days worth of stubble. I looked a bit better but I didn't have time to change before setting off into town and my T-shirt was filthy. Dr. Shaheed had agreed to show me around the town while he searched for a Chinese silk carpet. Gilgit was awash with Chinese goods, which are imported directly over the Khunjerab pass a short distance to the North. Most of the shops in the bazaars sold cloth, fruit, hats and shawls or cheap short wave radios. A couple of shops were full of bags or bowls piled high with colourful spices. We went into the China Centre, a shop selling Chinese silk carpets and rolls of silk. I tried to buy a ready made silk shirt but the one I picked out was too small, and they didn't have it in a larger size. Back out on the street I took some more photos as we passed the Moti mosque (the main mosque I had seen earlier). Dr. Shaheed continued his search for carpets but he never did find one in a colour that he liked. He advised me that if I was interested in buying a Pakistani or Afghanistani carpet (which I was) I should wait until we went to Peshawar later in the week. This came as a surprise. Rev. Morris had been continually saying that he would like to go to Peshawar, a city near the legendary Khyber Pass and border with Afghanistan. However it always looked touch and go and most people thought that we would not have time. At a nearby stall I bought a handmade wool hat, of the type worn a lot in this part of Pakistan, for Rs70. I also bought a bottle of refrigerated Pepsi, which tasted very good after eleven days of water with iodine in it and a few swigs of very warm coke.Street scene, Gilgit.Tourists were a fairly common sight in Gilgit and quite a few other Europeans could be seen, either sitting in tour busses or in jeeps. To accommodate them there were a few tourist inns and even a mountaineering shop. Back at the hotel, I changed into my shalwar suit. After it came to light that there had been a mix up with the rooms I was given a room to myself with a ceiling fan and an air blower! The room had a couple of chairs, candles and matches (to be used during the frequent power cuts) and a very clean bathroom. After the hectic dash round Gilgit with it's traffic, noise, dirt and pollution, I was happy just to relax in my room for a while. Up in the mountains I had felt that although the scenery was spectacular, I had seen little of the cities and towns and time was running out. However, even the short glimpse of Gilgit had changed that, and if we made it to Peshawar the whole trip would be rounded off very well. After supper, I went down to reception to try and phone home, unaware that the rest of the family were still on holiday in France. The man at the desk informed me that a phone call was impossible at that time because the exchange at Islamabad was busy and I should come back at eleven. At eleven I tried again and this time the hotel operator dialled the number, but then put the phone down and explained that the lines were now down between Gilgit and Islamabad. There was now no way I could even make the phone call.
A fruit and vegetable stall, Gilgit.
The mountains provide a barren and dramatic backdrop to the small shops.
Moti (Pearl) Mosque, Gilgit.
Tuesday 16th August.We had to make an early start, getting up at 4 a.m., breakfast at 4.30 and we were away by 6. This was the start of the Journey back down the Karakoram Highway to Abbottabad. It eventually took 17 hours to cover the same distance as that between Cardiff and Dover and easily surpassed all other journeys I had made in terms of discomfort and inconvenience.On the outskirts of Gilgit ( which actually means bad mud according to Dr. Shaheed ) we had to stop at our first checkpoint. Unfortunately the bus in front carrying the other group had a flat tyre and so while Mansoor had to fill in everyones details in the police book, the other driver was busy jacking up the other bus. We all had to sign the police book by our names and then wait for the repairs to be carried out. The police checkpoint mainly consisted of a hand operated barrier with several beds positioned by the roadside.The repairs took a long time, with every minute adding to the hours it would take to reach Abbottabad. At last we moved off, but hadn't gone far up the road before there was a loud hissing sound and we found out that our bus had burst a tyre. We drove on until we came to another police checkpoint where we had to stop. The bus was parked about three quarters of a metre from a sheer drop of about two hundred feet down into the River Indus. Our driver jacked up the bus and replaced the tyre while we signed our names against our details in the police book. We had suffered more delays and the journey was becoming increasingly infuriating.There were about five police checkpoints in all and at each one Mansoor had to get out and write the details of all thirty of us into the book. It took an absolute age and we all dreaded the sight of a metal pole across the road, signalling another checkpoint.The next stop was at Jaglot, to repair the old tyre so that we still had a spare. We parked by a ramshackle row of shops and straight in front of the garage, with its grimy interior and bits of machinery.While I was sitting in my seat, the driver came over, undid the engine hatch in the floor and started revving the engine by hand. The fumes from the low quality petrol made me nauseous and so I decided to take a look at the shops. The fruit and vegetable stall nearby was an interesting array of colour, and the piles of grapes had attracted unbelievably large hornets. These are the insects whose sting has been described as like being punctured by a hot rivet, and can be fatal.Shops at Jaglot, where we stopped for repairs.When we arrived at Chilas spots of rain appeared while we drank tea opposite the Shangri-La hotel. The fields behind the shops were full of healthy looking crops.We had been travelling for hours and the road just seemed to go on forever. The disheartening thing was that one stretch of road looked pretty much like any other, distance markers were a rare sight and so there was an illusion of little or no progress.The monotony was broken at one point, when an eagle was sighted flying in the gorge at the same level as the bus. As we approached it flew alongside us and because we couldn't see the road, just the sheer drop, it was as if we were flying along with the bird. It had a massive beak, magnificent pale yellow hood and a huge wingspan.The bus rolled into one of the dirtiest and most grim looking towns I had seen in Pakistan, this was Besham. Dodging a cow standing at the side of the street and stepping over the trash in the gutter, I followed the others into a courtyard and up a flight of stairs. The room that we entered contained a large table and a television on a wall bracket. While we watched Star TV, some tea was brought out for us. It was at this point that I started to feel ill, my stomach was hurting and my head felt as if I had the flu. As I felt worse and worse the stop in Besham just got longer. We had had to stop because the fuel tank in the bus was leaking. When the busses finally returned (and that took a long time), no one could find Mansoor. When he appeared there was some problem with the driver, I never did find out exactly what, but it seems he was demanding to rest or stay longer to talk to his friends. The driver was at last persuaded to return to the cab, but as he climbed in he slammed the door angrily behind him.A decorated truck at Besham.As darkness fell, the farcical journey continued. I was not feeling at all well and to add to the gloom, it started to rain.We then embarked on a colossal climb up into the hills, past woods and fields. The harsh singing of insects was audible even above the noise of the labouring engine. As is often a danger in Northern Pakistan, the rain was now starting to wear away at the road as it streamed across it in fast rivulets. At one point we were held up by a painted truck coming in the opposite direction, which had become lodged in the mixture of mud and water. Luckily for us we got past and were able to continue.The road continued its climb and very soon the whole valley below was illuminated by extraordinarily bright flashes of lightning. Little sign of habitation could be seen outside.As we neared Abbottabad we saw a car parked in the road ahead. The boot was open and was being searched by a group of police from the Frontier Constabulary, all armed with Kalashnikovs which glinted in our headlights. For a couple of awful seconds I feared they would flag us down and make us unload all our backpacks for them to be searched. However, our driver paused and was waved on by a policeman.Reaching the town of Mansehra we knew we were getting close to Abbottabad. The flu type of feeling in my head had started to recede but my stomach was no better and the joints in my knees were aching from the seventeen hours of almost total inaction.We rolled into Abbottabad, and within a few minutes we were turning into the drive of the Adventure Foundation bungalow. Wondering if I could still walk properly, I climbed out of my seat, relieved that the worst journey I had ever undertaken was over.Mercifully, the baggage was unloaded quickly from the roof and I put all of my things into the long room I was to sleep in. I was soon reunited with my small travel bag, which I collected from a room full of skis. I then remembered with delight that my bag contained two completely clean T-shirts, something I hadn't seen in a long time.
Wednesday 17th August.Feeling better, I had a good breakfast of cornflakes and warm milk, fried egg and bread and a mango custard pudding.We all boarded the bus yet again, but this time we were only going down the road to a local public (independent) school, run by the army.The Army Burn Hall College was a visually unimpressive building, but the gardens were neat and well kept and the whole site was very clean. We were shown through to the reception room, given tea and addressed by an important looking army man who may well have been the headmaster. He gave us a potted history of the school, explained how they catered for both day students and borders and revealed that all pupils eventually studied either medicine or engineering. With a grin, he recalled the visit of a group of teachers from Britain who had thought that the timetable for students was somewhat harsh. He went on to say that borders were expected to get up at 4.30 a.m. every school day and then attend a games class until 8 a.m., when breakfast is served. They then had a whole day of classes and supervised study, which ended at 10 p.m. There was however, no school on a Friday and the pupils had the weekends to themselves, during which they could organise picnics and outings. The whole school was run along very much the same lines as a similar English institution. We were then taken on a guided tour of the school grounds and shown the competition squash court, the swimming pool and the school mosque. During a stop in the school tuck shop, I bought some polos in the hope of calming my stomach, but I had no success. I had to abandon my bottle of Pepsi because it just made me feel too ill.Returning to the reception area, presentations and speeches of thanks were made and then we departed in the bus. The visit had been interesting and showed a different side to Pakistan that exists only to those with money. Having said that, it still cost as much to send someone to Monmouth boys school for a week as it did to send him to the Army Burn Hall for a year.The Adventure Foundation bungalow at Abbottabad.I skipped lunch and also, unusually for me, opted out of travelling to the SOS children's village because I was feeling too ill. I spent the rest of the day uneventfully, playing cricket if I felt up to it and then I watched the star wars movies on the television.The others arrived back late because the Bhutto government had deliberately organised traffic jams to stop people getting to Islamabad to attend a demonstration. The protest had been organised by the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif on the anniversary of the death of General Zia ul Haq. Zia was the country's last military dictator, and died in a mysterious plane crash in 1988.During the traffic jam Reverend Morris had got out and assisted the police officer in clearing the road!
Thursday 18th August.Before leaving for Peshawar, we assembled for group photos on the lawn. I climbed into the bus and found my usual seat, by the window behind the driver, where I knew I would have a good view during a remarkable journey.From Abbottabad we headed almost directly west along the Grand Trunk Road through the towns of Haripur and Hasan Abdal. Bright busses overtook us regularly, and at one point I saw two camels being lead along the other side of the road. The town of Attock is where the Indus and Kabul Rivers meet. Crossing a wide expanse of water via a bridge, we were treated to a view of the ancient fort built by Akbar the Great.After the bridge the road passed under a huge arch which announced that we had re-entered the North West Frontier Province. From here mountains could be seen on the horizon.A bus on the Grand Trunk Road.Gradually the countryside merged with the outskirts of Peshawar. We passed a huge fruit bazaar, teeming with people and edged by the same lines of concrete shops that we had seen everywhere. Soon we were driving down a wide road, the city could be seen ahead through a cloud of exhaust pollution. The road was a sight in itself, it was a river of honking busses, carts and vespers all spewing noxious fumes while they broke every traffic rule in the book.In Peshawar the hint of danger is not obvious, but is always present to a certain degree. West of the city lies the tribal territories of the fierce Pathans, who were never conquered by the British. In fact, the tribes were so difficult to control that the British left them more or less to their own devices, while the tribes let them hold the Khyber Pass. This arrangement was maintained by the newly formed Pakistani government after independence and therefore, west of the city, tribal law applies and no authority in Pakistan is likely to be able to help the unwary traveller. My travel guide that I brought with me also revealed that now and then, westerners are kidnapped in the suburbs, usually to draw the government into a dispute with the tribes. So far all of them have been released unharmed.The other major factor in modern day Peshawar are the Afghan refugees. These have poured into Pakistan (and particularly Peshawar) since the Russian invasion and ensuing civil war after their withdrawal. During the occupation, the city was used as a base by large groups of Mujahideen fighters. As we approached the city many jeeps and trucks passed us bearing inscriptions like "Gift of the people of the USA, for Afghan refugees".We were dropped off near the Jeweller's Bazaar which was an interesting and chaotic sight. It ran through a narrow alley, overlooked by a minaret of the Mahabat Khan Mosque, the city's finest. The mosque was built in 1630 by the governor of Peshawar. All of the stalls here sold jewellery, some made of bright newly cast gold and some were old tribal adornments, such as intricate bracelets. Here all signs were given in the Urdu script.The Mahabat Khan Mosque, seen from the Jeweller’s Bazaar.Kids trying to sell towels, hats and knives continually hindered our progress. Soon our tour of Peshawar degenerated into a disorganized dash around the streets, following Rev.Morris' white sun hat as he disappeared into the crowds. As we wandered around we occasionally came across a leper begging for money outside the bazaar alley ways.We arrived outside the famous Bala Hisar fort, a striking edifice with large ramparts that looked impenetrable. The fort is now an army base and so unfortunately it is off limits to everyone else.A jeep was despatched to the restaurant we were to have lunch in so that the food would be ready when we arrived.The restaurant was situated in the middle of a concentration of shoe shops and reached via a staircase that was hanging at an angle to the wall. Once inside we sat at a long table and watched star TV including a program in Chinese. I wasn't very hungry so for lunch I just had nan bread which was dipped in a bowl of delicious spicy milk / yoghurt.Continuing our tour, we were driven past Edwardes College, which was built by the British and still run as a secondary school. We then arrived at Peshawar Cathedral. We had to wait for the Chowkidar (caretaker) to open the locked front door and then we filed into the cool, dim interior.