Islamabad and another Indian Embassy

The next day we rode to Islamabad in four hours.

The escorts left us, clueless and lost, at the city outskirts.  Oh. 

It was up to me, the world’s worst navigator, to find the campsite.  I did it!  I was very proud, until I saw the actual camping area.  It was a dusty patch of ground, with soldiers around it with mounted machine guns.  I was getting a tad miffed with all the guns, and reminded myself they were there for our protection- until I noticed the guns were pointing inwards, towards the camping ground. 

The campsite had a revolting toilet block with no electricity, no water in the taps, and very large insect creatures lurking in the shadows.   There was an odd armoured monster truck parked up, belonging to a Swiss man driving home from his Cambodian workplace.  Long commute if you ask me.

We put up the tent for the night.  I went inside.  Ten minutes later I came back out, with my clothes stuck to my skin.  It was going to be far, far too hot for that sort of thing.  I crept outside with my sleeping sheets, and tucked up onto a bench on my mat.  The mosquitoes gnawed at my flesh until I couldn’t take it anymore.  I crawled back inside the tent.  I could hear everyone else trying desperately to sleep too.

The next morning we unanimously decided, without even discussing it, to move to a hotel. 

Islamabad is a strange capital.  It is basically an extended suburb, with different sectors, named in numbers.  The central area is called, weirdly, ‘Zero Point’.  It didn’t have enough soul for the capital of a place like Pakistan. 

We watched kids playing cricket across the dual carriageway today.  I wondered how they picked the kid who had to stand on the central reservation wall, ‘fielding’.  I guessed somehow he wasn’t the most popular kid.

There was a slum area with lots of little street kids who shook our hands and said Hello. 


We found the German.  He looked very ill.  He had been on a 35 hour train journey from Quetta, with passengers who distrusted him and ignored him all the way.  He had found a mechanic in Islamabad to fix the broken bearing, and took us with him to see them in their workshop.

They were a father and son team, and had lived in Yorkshire for years.  They were really good blokes, and we spent a while chatting to them.  They made him the part for 100 Rupees. 

We went to the Indian embassy and marveled at the sandbags piled up to chest height in front of the counters.  

We schmoozed the official.  He promised to try and get me my visa by my birthday, and told us to come back in four days.  (The normal wait is 10 days, so we did ok!)

We waited.  I wandered around and stared at the gasping, blind chickens in their wire cages.  I pleased myself with the thought that at least I wasn’t born a Pakistani chicken.  I tried not to look at the severed bloody goat heads with their little eyes open, in rows outside the butchers, and the punnets full of goats trotters. 

The monsoon began, and the first rain was a big release.  Little kids danced in it.  I went out and walked round in it, smiling, fetching icecream and parantha wrapped in newspaper. 

Everyone started getting ill.  The Uruguayans took it in turns.  We fetched them drugs and initiated them into the rejuvenating properties of Oral Rehydration Salts.

They left, having got their visas sorted, and headed for India immediately.  The German moved into our hotel.

We went out for a decent meal to celebrate my birthday, and ended up in the middle class suburb, with all its glass-fronted shops and cafés.  We watched the young Punjabis cruise around in their BMWs and Mercedes, their stereos booming out Bhangra tracks. 

Dinner was excellent, and we even drank mocktail Pina Coladas in true 80s style.

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