Sunday, January 15, 2006
Christmas till Birthday
The live Aid song had been echoing around my helmet for the week before Christmas, compensation for not having to brave Christmas shopping in England. I think my brain has reconised a lack of repetitive festive music! I don't know many of the words so have blended it with Cliff Richards 'mistletoe and wine'. Worryingly I remember all the words to that one, 'A time for giving and sharing'. The only thing Chris and I share is the smell of too many days on the road without a shower. Our socks now sleep outside, as they need the space to walk around. In any case we are worried they may attract mice. I keep a spare pair of warm clean socks in the bottom of my sleeping bag for the colder nights we have been experiencing, the only problem is, as usual with my socks I have managed to loose one of them.
Let me lift off where Chris finished, Christmas eve was a blur.....
Having no access to alcohol due to a local election taking place, we soon found ourselves bargaining with the owner of a local restaurant. Feeling slightly embarrassed by having one of his customers on his knees pleading for a bottle of cider, he let us drink under the proviso we hid the bottles under the table...... This arrangement worked well until the 5th or 6th bottle when I became confused and began hiding my full glass of cider under the table, drinking from the bottle.
We spent the evening in the company of ....erm...people...... I do remember one quite vividly. An enlightened Australian who 'saw ghosts' they came to her in the middle of the night, sat on her then asked her where to go? Sounds weird, well it is, she however was pretty down to earth and wasn't pulling our legs....
After studying under a Tibetan Lama she now sends them outside to a portal... Maybe she was on drugs afer all. Trying to understand I explained that, whilst in India, I have seen a lot of goats and will now send them to a portaloo..
Christmas day was great, Chris and I exchanged presents, I then went and exchanged his present for something I wanted 'the Dalai Lama's auto-biography' which Chris then exchanged and read before I had a chance to read the back cover. Christmas dinner was spent overlooking the Himalaya on a little picnic spot we found. We ate spinach tart, cheese and biscuits, drank fresh apple juice and listened to Chris' Northern Soul collection. Whilst missing our family's we rather liked being able to walk around without feeling bloated and too warm. Chris has spent quite a few Christmas' away from home due to his skiing career, this was my first.
We had been on the bikes everyday pretty much for 3 weeks and enjoyed the break.
We headed off to Amritsar on the NW boarder of India/Pakistan, the Punjabis were great and we spent a lovely evening marvelling at the Golden Temple. I think we both marvelled at it because we had no idea what was happening. The protocol of taking our shoes and socks off and walking around gave us cold feet but we were uplifted by the groovy live music they provided with a guy sat crosslegged randomly conducting with a fly swat.
Our socks had not run off on our return and we went back to our hostel to eat with a Norwegian scientist traveling in the opposite direction to us. He was riding an identical bike to ours, thus confirming we all made a great choice in selecting our Yamaha TTR 600's, we all felt very clever.....
The next day it took me 45minutes to get my bike started...Doh, and thus began the decline in my bikes ability to start without a jump start
**Boarder guard gets to know 'Stan'**
We missed the famous boarder patrol opening, the only passage between the two countries, because we are lazy and were not prepared to get up at 4 in the morning to join the 2000 Indians who shout obscenities at the equally large gathering of Pakistanis on the other side. Our crossing passed without incident apart from one official insisting to go through my wallet... He took 10 euros out and told me he would keep it as he collects foreign money. Strange he didn't want any of the Vietnam Dong or Cambodian money left loitering in my back pocket! The tables were turned when he left his office and I found 500 rupees by his desk (as luck would have it almost a perfect exchange rate). I spent the next ten minutes worried I may get my hands cut off.
We spent the next couple of days at the SOS village in Lahore, a huge city with infinite possibilities to get completely lost. We had to tow my bike through part of it due to my inability to get it started... That was very scary.
The village is set up exactly the same as all the other SOS's around the world with 10-15 children sharing a house, there was a school next door that as well as schooling the orphan children intergrates them with other children in the community. Big thanks to everyone at SOS for having us, Chris and I really enjoyed playing with the kids all day. Lahore SOS is the National head office so they were very busy trying to deal with hundreds if not thousands of recently orphaned kids coming down from Kashmir. They are temporarily being housed in Lahore while SOS and other NGOs work to build new homes for them in their own communities. SOS intend to build four new villages in Kashmir in the next 2 years.
We spent a great evening at the SOS youth home which houses boys aged fourteen and up. At this age (in Pakistan) they are segregated from the girls and housed in what reminded me of boarding school, a very happy place and it was great to eat beef again!!!
** Interrogation at the entrance to British Diplomatic Enclave**
From Lahore we headed North to Islamabad for a quick stop to celebrate New Year, that was the plan...
We could blame it on the bike and say because it was in need of repair we had to stay for five days but that would be a lie, really we stayed because we were made so welcome by the British embassy. Emma(Visa's) and Kevin (Narcotics) gave us their house, got us drunk, gave us cigars and we ate all their cheese...
They didn't know how to get rid of us. It was our first proper bed in months (actually I had a bed, Chris slept on the sofa claiming it was his 'natural habitat') We watched a lot of TV, Ricki Jervais' Extras ws the funnyiest series I have ever seen. Which reminds me Chris told Billy Connolly (see previous weblog) that he knew someone that worked with Ricki and he was a righ t*at...... I agreed with Billy and said I liked him, infact I agreed with everything Billy said, even when I didn't understand what he was saying...
** Camp 1 of rather a lot...**
With a bit of umm'ing and rr'ing we decided it wouldn't be bad taste to head North through area struck by the earthquake 3 months earlier. We took a kind of back road to the Karakoram Highway that passed through a place called Murrie, our first encounter with snow. About 40Km south of Muzaffarabad we happened upon the first full scale camp on our route. It was a Turkish Red crescent camp that houses around 2,500 people (approach 275 families). In an act of kindness we were invited to stay the night. We were shown around and gained an insight into the day to day operations of a camp of this scale. To say that Kashmir people are hospitable is an understatement, everyone was very friendly and welcoming, so welcoming that they fed us twice that evening, which left Chris in real pain (for days!).
It would be understandable for people to take offence to us as the British were responsible for splitting Kashmir in two halfs (Indian and Pakistani). You can understand their claim when the 'K' in Pakistan stands for Kashmir, but there was no resentment displayed to us. People were very interested in finding out how Pakistan is viewed in the UK and were worried that the media was distorting Pakistani people into being viewed as extremists and terrorists...
We left feeling guilty that we hadn't done anything significant to help but vowed to return on our way back to Islamabad, (Chris left still feeling bloated). Needless to say from then on we saw many, many camps.
The next night was spent at a Cuban field hospital. We were both very well and in no need of treatment but were invited in by a lovely Pakistani couple, although things could have turned out differently......
We had just driven through Chattar Plain on our way over the top of the pass when our first 'accident' struck. As accidents go it was fairly minor. A driver in a beat up old car (are there any others)slid on the ice and went straight into a truck coming in the opposite direction, I in turn went straight into the side of him.... I was traveling at about 5 mph and the bike was already on the ground when I hit the car, so no damage, plus I was fine. The only damage was a carton of orange juice exploded in my bag covering my dirty cloths in stickiness, and my beloved wooden scull (aka Stan) that was displayed on the front of the bike had broken into three parts. When asked by a policeman if I was alright I explained I was fine but 'had broken my scull in three places and was still missing 3 teeth'. He looked at me with a puzzled grin and waved me off with his highly polished stick
The couple we stayed with were very much in love and obviously respected each other. They were expecting there second child, their first having unfortunately died the previous winter. Chris and I were in total admiration of them and as Chris said 'they confirmed that not all men treat their wives badly out here'
In total we drove about 600Km North on the Karakoram Highway to Gilgit. To say it was cold is rather like asking if the pope wears a hat, at night it got down to -25 degrees (although we don't really know). The cold weather caused a phenomenon inside your helmet when without warning all the snot in your nose suddenly comes gushing out all over your screen...nice. We followed the route of the river Indus all the way with jaw dropping scenery and neck breaking cliffs at every turn. We were dealt a good card in the fact that that it was 'Eid', a Muslim holiday rather like Christmas, meaning not too many people were travelling. This gave us a chance to travel the Highway alone and marvel at Nanga Parbat, the 9th highest mountain in the world, in complete serenity.
After taking 4 days to travel up we made it back to Muzaffarabad in 2! On arrival it was getting dark and, having heard the Americans were in town and in possession of the best Philipino cooks around, we decided to call in and meet the troups. Now I knew Chris wasn't keen as throughout the trip everyone had been slagging them off, but I figured they will be cool, glad of friendly visitors....... They told us politely to sod off as it was 'against protocol'? Like they have protocol for two British bikers anyway. The encounter left a bad taste in our mouths, especially when in response to our reason for being there one of the officers couldn't hide his disdain for us and looking down his nose said "so you guys are just travelling around on bikes eh....That's all?" .... 3 days later the Americans bombed a village north of Peshawar, missing their intended target and killing 13 innocent civilians. I guess they are just killing people.... That's all
We found friends and tireless kids back at the Turkish camp where we stayed for about 40 hours. We were hoping to help put up the new winter tents, but instead were put to 'work' with the Children as it was still Eid, doing the 'Hokie Pokie'. That's what they call the 'Hocie Cokey' out here, have you ever tried to do the whole song with more than 50 kids, it turns into a battle, a fierce battle.
All the children in the camp had just been given a present ranging from footballs to building blocks and within seconds the camp erupted into a huge game of volley ball with thousands of players and hundreds of balls. It led them to be introduced to basic 'Rugby' which in turn led them to injure each other........ me bad
On our way back we decided to visit 'Bagh' the town that three months previously was shaken to its foundations and was in the unlucky position of being at the epicenter of the quake. They were celebrating Eid when we arrived, slaughtering scores of cows and goats for the feast.
The town had been badly struck and there were wrecks of homes everywhere you turned. The aid workers were still busy building temporary accomodation and fixing the roads, accompanied by the thumping noise of helicopters travelling to and froe between the more cut off villages nearby. The roads, whilst OK, were incredibly difficult to travel with mud and ice added for a little fun!!
We have now returned to the bosom of the British Embassy, well actually Sandra (visa section), who unwittingly put us up after bumping into us at the 'British Club' planning an imminent departure to Quetta and then Iran..... Again we got delayed by the comfort offered to us here, Chris and I watch a whole 24 episode series of 'Lost', bloody great! Along with pizzas, steak and lashings of alcohol we are stronger than when we arrived. Our Birthdays were spent in two halfs, the first up until 4 am at the British club celebrating 'International night' (we could barely walk). Some guy succeeded in beating the odds of 1 woman to every 6 men and ended up having a threesome in the toilets, he has now felt the wrath of the committee and has been banned for life.... bet he's gutted. The second half, a Thai evening at Kevin and Emmas house with all their friends.
until next time, enjoy the bad weather, and your jobs, but don't forget to text 'KARRIOMOR' to 60999
Love and flowers
Rory and Chris
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Dear Chris, I am a friend of your mum & dad and have just read your latest news. What an adventure you have had - terrific -well done both of you. Safe onward journey. Best Regards John Margaret Iceton.Post a Comment