Lahore (Pakistan), 29.06.2013
Well relaxed we left Islamabad in the morning, in a neatly packed car, without security concerns. We entered the city fearing the worst, listening to security forces that had escorted us. A day off and everything seemed so completely normal, safe, that we just packed and drove onto the highway that leads from Islamabad to Lahore. It was so hot in the morning that we needed to jump into the pool. But the refreshing effect was short lasting. After packing the car on the hotel’s parking lot it felt like just getting out of the same pool.
The highway out of the city revealed a flat, rather residential town, unlike the other capitals we crossed where the urban area is one of houses with several floors, the big roads out of town lead through inhabited areas. Driving out of Islamabad felt like leaving a park. And then came a perfect motorway with a 120km/h speed limit (and plenty of police checking that it is respected) leading through a vast, flat land. We drove for hours without complications or excitements. There was not much to see either. At lunch we stopped at a service station and fueled up. We went to eat across the motorway at a KCgrill. The short walk from one side of the motorway to the other over a bridge exhausted us, it was too hot. The seven huge AC machines in the restaurant were very welcome. It all felt a lot like back home, just with less traffic. Everything was so modern and western. Except the food maybe.
Hours later we reached Lahore finally. We left the motorway for the city highway, that at some point abruptly got us into quite dense afternoon traffic along a canal dividing the two directions of the road. The water was chocolate brown, but plenty of people of all ages seemed to appreciate a swim, jump or sleep in or along the canal. Some washed their clothes. The children seemed to have most fun of all. Strangely and contrary to other countries here few people seemed to notice our car.
Somehow we made it through the chaotic traffic to the Grand Trunk Road, the main highway to the border. All along the GT road, as the locals abbreviate it, there were a myriad of shops and people walking and driving around on every possible vehicle, in every direction.
At around 18:00 we reached the border, a huge crowd was already walking towards it. We parked the car and followed the people through a couple of checkpoints. Shortly after we reached what seemed like a small stadium. Past the initial gate, left and right of the road are seats, women on the left and men on the right, although we found several guys on the women’s ranks. The “arena” was packed, and shortly after a MC started firing up the crowds. A second MC joined, and then a third guy with a drum. The Indian and the Pakistani side exchanged cheers and shouted at each other. Then the border guards in parade uniform started to line up. The Pakistanis in black, the Indians in khaki uniforms. Both had hats with a high crest, the Pakistanis again in black, the Indians in red and yellow. To the tune of the choirs of the spectators on both sides the soldiers marched in goose step, saluted. Thirty minutes lasted this awkwardly retro, nationalistic, militaristic show. The crowds loved it, sang all kinds of nationalistic anthems, while e MCs made sure the atmosphere kept close to the boiling point. In the end the flags were lowered, the gates closed, and the parade ended. Videos to be uploaded ASAP.
We were soaking wet when we left the border. Back at the car several families saluted us, shook hands, took pictures. We were overwhelmed as we drove back into town. Somehow we found the way to our hotel, and were exhausted, sweating, tired. We had planned to see the families that had invited us to lunch at the Altit fort in the Hunza valley, but we simply had no force left. Hungry we walked out of the hotel, up the street for a couple of blocks. There were lightnings in the sky and it seemed like heavy rain would pour down any minute. The wind blew the dust and dry leaves through the streets as we found a roadside eatery. We had some chickpea or lentil cakes, one in yogurt, the other with egg and chilies, both with fresh naan bread, very tasty. At the last bites the first thick raindrops started falling, and we ran to the hotel. And that was it for this crazy day.
Trip data for the day
– Km driven: 450
– Hrs on the road: 9,5h
– Diesel l/100km: 9,5