Travelogue of a family thru Pakistan (Draft - work in progress)
Illyus, Daniel our son, and the wedding feast preparations.

Come to my wedding in Pakistan

Lahore-Rawalpindi-Murrie-Abbtobad-Mian Wali-Sarghoda


W'allahi please, you must!

Well then - that's it then... we just have to. Exactly where do you live, and just how far is your village from Rawalpindi? A few hours. You know, it's a long way to go for a wedding if it only takes a few hours. Oh no, in Pakistan the wedding goes for 3 days, at least. The same wedding? Yes. Where will we stay? In the village. Oh good, I've heard politicians, and even the US president speak of the global village so it can't be too bad. Uncharted grounds, adventure, the elements, an untouched culture, National Geographic. We're just have to go! Will the kids enjoy it? Oh yes, no problem. Ok.

Why us?

Not all our questions had detailed answers that day. We were invited to a wedding in Mian Wali, in Pakistan by a friend called Illyus, a 28 year old village boy working in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. This was an arranged marriage, set up by his parents to a girl he had never seen in a village called Sarghoda, about 200km away. The marriage would take 3 days. We decided that it was a good opportunity to support this man, and also, you need to know people in Pakistan to travel there so this was a good chance to see the country.

Getting there

Our original intention was to fly to Islamabad and tour in the mountains for a few days, then travel to the wedding. As the flights were filling as we approached the date to leave, we decided it would be safer to travel to Lahore for a day, then travel from Lahore to Islamabad the next day. Saudia would not allow us to board the plane because of potential passengers exceeding capacity in Riyadh. Without this info until the flight was closed, we had to urgently get tickets for another flight JED-RUH, fly to Riyadh and then chase the very same plane (we were originally going to catch an hour earlier in Jeddah) in Riyadh. This was successful and they let us on that flight, but managed to lose one of our bags we found out later. This bag had our all our shoes other than the ones we flew in, some essential food & Toilet paper, & nappies for a friend etc. We filed a report in Lahore and went to the hotel. The Pearl Continental, Lahore. It was a suprisingly good hotel, and we recommend their whole chain of hotels to anyone who needs to recover from the their travels.

Lahore! But there is no flights out of here when we need them...

The next day in Lahore we did some sight-seeing - Lahore Fort, Mosque and downtown. The city was extremely crowded, 28km from India on the Grand Trunk Road. This day in Lahore was the day of or after the Eid sacrifices - where there were carcases everywhere of sheep, goats etc. We saw them being sold for skin, rugs, wool, beds, and trucks full of intestines, lungs etc.

This was our first introduction to Pakistani traffic - you must have a horn, not just an average one, it has to beep like a strobe and you must know the language - how to reply to a horn call. Then there are the motor bikes... Just how many people can you get on a motor bike? Well for boys, it is illegal to carry more than yourself, so 2 up is common. For young families, you start placing children at the handle bars and you finish at the back rack. The rider needs to be able to reach the handle bars and the wife goes side-saddle and she can always carry at least one. With this configuration you can easily carry 5 - 2 adults and 3 children. Some claim to have seen 7 on one bike! We saw plenty of 3's and 4's and a few 5's.

Luxury bus from Lahore to Rawalpindi

Our only travel option to Islamabad was to take a local bus - the guide book said "Luxury coaches". We had the driver take us to the bus terminus to check on the state of the buses and the roadworthiness etc. I so often hear of these overcrowded or falling off mountains so I wanted to see what I was potentially subjecting my family to. The one I saw at the stop was Ok, looked like it was maintained, no A/C, average seats, not too crowded and looked as though we could endure the trip. We then wanted to get a meal because of a 5 hour trip - and we had nothing since breakfast and we were advised that there is no suitable food at the stops. We tried all the recommended Pakistani restuarants in the guide book and with locals, but they were all closed because of Eid - so went to Pizza Hut. We then raced back for bags at the hotel and then straight to the bus terminal to catch the next bus to do as much of our travel before dark. This holiday, we were alternating from good travelling conditions to cheapo to save costs where possible, and preserve our health. So we left an executive suite room in a truly 5 star hotel to travel by a local bus, one of the cheapest forms of transport in the country. Each ticket was Rs135, about SR13.50, or USD3.00.

The bus that we actually get on was not as good as the previous one I'd seen and a bit more crowded - about 3 seats spare in total. The luggage went below and has not looked the same since. We were right in the back of the bus, with the 3 free seats on the back row behind us. This was good - and the bus took off. We didn't realize that they would pick up some more passengers. These squeezed in the last 3 seats and proceeded to fall asleep on Daniel beside them. He asked me to swap seats with him. When I did, I couldn't believe the state of the back seats - they had virtually no softness in them and the previous trip must have carried some sacrifice goats, because the back of the seats were covered in goat hair!

After a little while, the driver had his music going for the benefit of all passengers. Indian (Hindi) high-pitched love songs - and she never took a breath. This was to keep the driver awake, and those who weren't used to it. Eventually, after about 3 hours, we stopped at the "Skyways Roadhouse". Don't eat, drink or touch anything. We carried our food for this trip as advised.

The outskirts of Rawalpindi

Another 2-3 hours after the 'food' stop, we felt like we must be coming close to Rawalpindi. A few people started getting off around the outskirts of Islamabad. Then we went another 10 or so miles. We were in the middle on nowhere, no lights in the distance, no lghts where we stopped. We noticed a few taxis parked in the field that we pulled up in. Everybody gets off! We asked where was Rawalpindi - They said... "Over there..." pointing into the darkness. It is about 1:15 in the morning, cold and along with about 20 other people we're dropped in a field. Realizing that this was not a hold up, a mistake or a joke and that the taxis were diminishing by the seconds - we tried to find the largest. Well, we had 5 of us, and a bunch of gear. The taxis were all the same size - really small, like the smallest car you can rent at a car rental, 2 doors, and zip for a boot/trunk and a very compact roofrack. Well, with no options anyway, everything was piled on the roof, which now became the largest part of the car. This was considered an average load and of no consequence to the driver. Rope? Yes, no problem. We then packed in to the seats and amazingly the doors shut and the car actually moved. Glad there was no wind though, and thankfully he couldn't go that fast. We arrived at the Pearl Continental, Rawalpindi - another good hotel.

Rawalpindi by taxi

Once the ordeal of travelling is over, women can now concentrate on what they really came for - clothes, shopping, trinkits, fabric stores, having things made, more fabric stores, furniture, more trinkits, a place to get more cash and food - but food is only if it is absolutely necessary - you must shop until you drop.

The van in the center is the one we would have for a few days, and along with an unsuspecting driver and an endless supply of fabric shops and tailors, we were in the retail therapist's heaven.



A friend's home


By the end of the day, we had done much of the shopping to be done (I thought), and had moved into another friend's mother's house - where we stayed a for 2 days.

Her house was cement, one storey but with access to the roof, with 2 bedrooms, a lounge/dining room. Jenny was on the roof puting out the washing.

Electricians must adhere to a defined standard, because most poles were like this, very accessable and usually more connections and plenty of spare cable stored on the pole. These connections were very efficient for maintenance too - you don't need to carry a ladder. Just jump on the roof - your kids have access too.

Inside the house was a very effective indoor (but open to the sky) courtyard, which joined all rooms together. This was a reasonable temperature in the season we went, but would have been really cold in winter! Especially wet weather.

Lindsay and Benjamin are chasing some chickens inside the house. The stairs lead to the top floor which is an open top, usable rooftop space where the washing was hung out with the rocks on the ledge.


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Now we were really into the street life in an averge Pakistani township. You cannot avoid it - you're really part of the street's activities. The night is quiet, but when the first of the street's roving seller or buyer arrives, the noise and activities begin. At 05:00. They all use their distinctive sounds - horns, bells, whistles and each has a meaning. Then there is voices, haggling for a fair price or a nicer piece of bread, calling their household for help or more money. It is just like knowing your rubbish collection day and time on a much more prolific scale.

First the stale bread collector comes and collects your stale bread and actually pays for it. He takes it to places where they feed livestock.

Then, with a different sound (almost every house gets a beep) the bread seller comes with fresh flat bread. If you want bread, this is when you get it. If you don't get it now, you don't get it. Few people have cars to chase the nearest bakery and all bakeries are selling like this so they would be out of bread later. So it goes on for the day - fresh milk, yogurt, fruit, vegetables, animals, and then some more dubious hawkers.

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Later we venture out to the streets and see what is going on further away. Kids are blazing a trail to this stand (Left) where they are selling something that is edible. Up close, (Right) we find that it is noodles sweetened and flavoured by highly coloured syrup - this one is green, but there is other colours.

The groom takes us for a trip to the mountains


Illyus and his friend ---- hire a bus/van and a driver to head to the hills. We sight-see around Rawalpindi (left). This picture shows our driver in the center in Shawal Khamis. The foothills of the ranges are visable as we progress north and really start climbing. Our destination is Murray at 8,000ft, where there is yet another Pearl hotel with a great reputation.

On the right, this is our van and the payload at about 6,000ft.


We stayed overnight at the Pearl Continental, Bhourban. Yes, the hotel was good, perched on the north face of the mountainside and with incredible view (Below right) of the Himilayas. Now this is a very nice and respectable hotel too. I had paid to have Illyus stay with us in there as it was possible to house six in the room, with extra beds for kids plus him.

Our driver and a few hangers on (who seemed to kind of appear from no-where) made themselves at home in our room after a little while. They just stayed whilst we were unpacking a few things. After a while, we realized that they thought that there would be enough room for them - because there was enough floor space for them to fit, so why not? Wall to wall people, mostly strangers. Now we had 9 people in the room, and in a few seconds, we could see the scenario, stares as we do anything, telling jokes in a language we don't understand, a great line up of 9 for the bathroom with a European loo, bath, then wear the same clothes again toomorrow... We had to explain that we could not do this in this type of hotel. Also, I had specific plans for Illyus that night.

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Illyus was marrying upwards. The girl he was to marry came from a larger town and he was from a farming village. At this point though, we did not comprehend the differences, and still don't fully. One of our gifts was for the both of them to have the opportunity to go to this hotel on their 'honeymoon'. A little stretchng to call it a honeymoon. We had decided that we (especially I) would need to teach him how to book, check-in, use the room, order room service, and conduct yourself at the resturant, pay for the meal and the hotel room, check out and impress his new wife. Then there was the long needed opportunity to talk about family planning, and the whole pre-marital blitz. I have no idea what was understood by the whole session, but yer gotta do it.


The next day, we head off again, climbing above the 8,000ft mark. (Left) We have already passed some snow - it depended on what side of the mountain you were. Oncoming trafic was rare.

(Right) Local traffic is colourful. This is a really typical truck that you find outside the cities.

Did the boys at Bedford ever expect that this would be the fate of the trucks that went to Pakistan? You expect this hippie or Californian to jump out with hair down to his waist and invite you in for tours of his cabin.



What's the hold up? A truck (like above), carrying flour has fallen off the side of the mountain and way down a gully.

The driver is surprisingly Ok and these passers by are salvaging parts of the truck - maybe for the driver, maybe for themselves.

The most important ones come off first - the colourful decorations of course.

Another dubios aspect of this 'flour' is that many drug sheiks live in these hills and the 'helpers' might have been looking for hiiden treasures in the flour bags.



Ever wanted to get that real earthy food, that is also inexpensive because of low overheads?

Food stop here we come! In the darkness there, (Right) he was making us a cup of tea.

Not too sure about the twigs and other natural things on the menu. This is where adventurous takes on a new meaning, and dieting is suddenly more appealing. The tea was good.


Ben our son, on a painted tractor beside a painted train, near some painted trucks.

On the way back we get to see some more of the trucks, buses, tractors and trains that are highly painted and decorated. It seems to be their pride - you cannot own a vehicle like this without doing the decorating art. It is hard to believe that most of these owners do not have a lot of spare cash, but it is obviously disrespectful and poor business to not paint and decorate. Maybe it helps in keeping theft down.

They are complete with unique combinations of colour, bolted on pieces, extra seating on the roof, hearts, reflectors, chains, extra lights, a stero system that plays Hindi love songs, and do not forget the horn - the language of the mountain or anywhere outside of the cities.

The use of the horn gets more pronounced in the mountains, Peshawar, towards Afganistan, Bhourban and further north.

Now a horn is not just a simple beeping thing, not a single tone one - a series of 8 notes is fairly standard and built in tune processor so that you can communicate more than one message. The tunes seem to peel out frightening messages like this conversation captured for one of the first times in history - between a fully laden bus and a loaded truck...

"I'm coming through"
"I was here first"
"I don't use brakes on hills"
"and you better believe it"
"I'll move to the edge"
"That's more like it"
"Thanks and bye"
"Till next time"
A typical painted bus winding its way up the mountains. Downhill corners would be my all time favourite.

Next page - On our way to the wedding which starts in Mian Wali. This is the groom's village about 300k by road, south of Rawalpindi/Islamabad....
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