It sounds strange I know but it’s a lonely journey despite always being surrounded by crowds of people. And then there’s the things I miss…like a good cup of real coffee, fish & chips, a meat pie, and a familiar accent. So when Tahir & Tina invited me to dinner in Lahore & meet with a couple of Kiwi expats I was only too happy.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve met many wonderful people, still there’s something about hearing a voice from back home that stirs those feelings of all things familiar. It’s why people create new communities when they move overseas. Our tribe, whatever it is, is important and I’ve noticed it more on this journey than in the past, because this time I’m traveling mostly without my other half.
I enjoy sharing what I’m doing with other people, especially showing them the workings of the bike, as it’s a fascinating machine. Just start her up and everyone is as amazed as I still am. She sounds great. But it does get kind of old hat repeating the same thing to everyone. Still, that’s part of the experience. When Lynne & I meet up every now and again there’s plenty of stories to share but there’s something else. I’m not the Old Bloke on the Bike, I’m just me.
So for the next few weeks I’m on my tod til Lynne meets me in Iran. Despite only covering relatively short distances a day it still gets tiring. Not just because of the discomfort, but the concentration. The traffic in Pakistan isn’t nearly as challenging as India, except in areas where people congregate, but it’s all relative. When you ask directions anywhere in the world you have this expectation that what you’ll be told is correct. And you’re willing to believe it every time from the next half dozen people you ask. And of course chances are they’re all wrong! This can get pretty frustrating despite knowing everyone only wants to help.
I’ve just wasted a whole day in Multan after having traveled a total of 250kms searching for an address I’d been given in Australia. I finally had to give up as I wasn’t getting anywhere and it was nearing the end of the day. I’d had no luck finding a hotel the night before as each one I tried was full, but a young guy offered me his place for the night. This turned out to be a 4×4 room with only one bed. I wasn’t about to have him sleep on the floor, so spent the night stretched out on a pile of sugar cane!
Seems things weren’t destined to get any better the next morning. Battling through the market on my way to Bahåwalpur Effie hit a pothole resulting in broken spokes. From then on things turned to crap. Everyone wanted to help & despite my insistence I could manage they carried on regardless. The result – 3 ruined tubes!! Finding replacements & getting the spokes replaced in a strange place with a language barrier soon became farcical.
By now with a pounding headache I was totally pissed. Having a policeman tell me I would offend people if I refused their help didn’t improve matters. He also insisted I couldn’t stop where I was but with the bike in pieces it was obvious I wasn’t going to be riding anywhere in a hurry. The FN was loaded on a truck and with no-one speaking English it was getting increasingly frustrating trying to make myself understood that I just needed to get to a hotel. After my experience the night before, I didn’t like my chances. Fortunately about that time Lynne called from Oz. Within minutes she found me a hotel close by & booked a room. Thank god for modern technology! The bike was stowed away safely & I was dropped off at the Sindbad Hotel. The hot water was now working after the usual power daily cut. A refreshing shower made all the difference and although the bed looked enticing, getting a meal was a top priority.
So what did I fancy? Fish and chips perhaps? The one page menu didn’t include that, but there were milkshakes. Well at least that’s what it said. “What flavours do you have?” I asked. “Sorry sir, no milkshakes”. “But it says milkshakes.” “Yes, but no milkshakes.” “What about the iced coffee?” “Will take 15 mins to get the milk cold,” was the reply. Well, do you have the chips?” “Yes sir, we have chips.” Hooray, so a big plate of chips it was. Jamie Oliver wouldn’t approve, but then he’s not in Pakistan or had the day I’ve had!
So just where could I find a good meat pie….