The crossing into Pakistan via the Grand Trunk Road went pretty smoothly despite taking several hours for all the paperwork to be completed. I’d been told the only road border between the two countries opened at 8.30am, though on this occasion the Indian side didn’t begin until 10am. A huge line of trucks bringing goods in from Pakistan delayed the proceedings and with only one official on the counter formalities took time. It’s a bit nerve wracking making sure every box is ticked and every stamp applied to the carnet especially when the official has to go tend to a busload of transit passengers & then remember where he left off.
I was reminded that it was here in 1947 that the bloodshed of the partition and the exodus of millions of people took place. Between Attari and Wagah at sundown each day, soldiers from India and Pakistan march with rising nationalistic feeling in the ‘Beating the Retreat’ ceremony. The highly skillful display is said to be impressive but I wasn’t hanging around til 6pm especially as a power cut in Pakistan had made the process through customs and immigration even longer and I could always come back given the city was not far away. Five hours later, after several cups of tea with officials & the bike wheeled into the office for inspection we were cleared to enter the country. Everyone from porters to officials posed for pictures before I was back on the road, looking for the signs to Lahore. A very kind taxi driver, without knowing a word of English, offered to guide me to an address I had, and on arrival, refused payment.What a lovely welcome.
Looking back, I’d really enjoyed India. The warmth and generosity of all the people I met, the colourful costumes amidst dust, the grime and the chaos, and of course, the great food. Already though I had a feeling that Pakistan was going to surprise me even more. The countries less visited always seem to have that special something. On past journeys, Colombia & El Salvador were like that for me and here I was, in for another great adventure. How good can it get for one old bloke?