I go on tour to the North of Pakistan....

On the way back to Lahore I noticed a Internet cafe on the side of the road, so I had the driver stop and I went into the cafe, or I should say small shop with about six computers in little booths, and after trying about three computers he got one up and running for me, gave me a diet 7 up, and then refused to take any payment whatsoever for anything.

I found the people incredibly friendly, I was a wearing a New Zealand cricket hat, no one yet has commented on it, so much for that giving protection! However once I'm talking to people they are aware of New Zealand and that we have a cricket team. Almost every piece of vacant land you see the children playing cricket. It is certainly the national sport.

There is certainly lots of horse and carts, and donkey carts, they do constitute a large percentage of the travel vehicles outside Lahore, some of the horses looked pretty desperate, I think if they got one good feed it would be too much for them, but I still see them being lashed by a stick to keep them on the move.

The horse and carts were of course dwarfed by the numbers of Asian tut-tut's, the three Wheeler that will carry any thing and almost go anywhere, they were basically thousands of those weaving in and out of the traffic. And of course an equal number of motorbikes, again carrying almost anything, I saw the pillion rider on one balancing three large sheets of glass as they weaved in and out of the traffic, and another pillion rider carrying, or I should say balancing on his head holding it with both hands a large sheets of plywood probably 6x4 feet. Not sure how he would get on if a truck when by and created a draft!

Tuesday 11th May
Today we went out to Gujranwala which is about 65 kilometres north of Lahore, a lot of the route we did we did yesterday. That's the problem of not having an English speaker on board. We cruised through the town, I got out and walked a couple of times, you make lots of friends when you walk, everyone wants to talk to you, give you hospitality, and wants you to spend lots of time with them, which of course is not possible.

Have had a photograph taken with a camera that uses a paper negative and he copies the negative and makes a positive or inside the camera, I think they said it was 1874, whether the camera was designed then or made then, I'm not sure of what he is trying to tell me, I'm sure it had to be designed at that date.

I think the guy I've been talking to in the photo studio, told this streetside photographer that he was going to pay so because when it came time for me to pay he would not take any money and I recall this guy to talking to him so I assume that is what the deal was. It is quite difficult to buy little things from people you make friends with.

Is very much a male society, seeing about one woman for every fifty+ men in the street. There was a one in five chance that woman will be dressed totally in black with a little slit with her eyes showing, some have their total face covered and peer at the world through mesh.

We returned to Lahore and found almost on every corner a group of 12 police or army, evidently a cleric is flying in to Lahore from London tonight at about 6 p.m. and they are getting ready for any disturbances that may create. They had riot shields, and body armour, and steel helmets, and very long sticks. They are waiting on the corners six hours before the event, at least everyone sees what they are in for if they decide to give free expression. I am pretty sure if someone gets injured will be no court cases or stories of police brutality.

What there is how ever, is lots of stories about the brutality of the prisoners in Iraq appearing in the newspapers here, I don't see any stories about what the Iraqis did to the bodies of those five security men that they shot then burnt and hung up on the bridge.

I guess the moral is that you have to expect this sort thing from the Iraqis but the Yanks have to be squeaky clean, each one of them.

However back to the day, after having lunch at the hotel, I went to the tour operators office, to try to sort out this English-speaking driver. After a lot of phone calls and discussion we settled on the deal that they would provide an English-speaking guide if I paid for his accommodation and food. That appears in will cost, for the 10 days, about 87 US dollars.

After sorting this out I decided I should visit three of the attractions I have not seen in Lahore, we got halfway to the first one and started seeing roadblocks appearing so we decided take the coward's way out and return to the hotel.

It is interesting reading the English newspaper that gets delivered to the room every morning, it has a reasonably strong anti West writing with the various stories, there was one about the western perception of muslin woman and the restrictions placed on them, and they gave a illustration of how this was not true by illustrating how six middle-class and upper-class woman had made a success of their lives, I'm pleased they were able to find six out of 150 million population, there was another story about how a village of 7000 had a particular tribe of people that made brooms, it told how the whole tribe was uneducated, how the women were the only ones in the family with a job, and the 250 rupees they made every day had to feed and clothe the whole family, it spoke how they had had to work 10 hours a day to make these brooms and how none of the girls in the tribe were able to pass the exams for higher education.

On Mother's Day there was a message from the Prime Minister on how important the womenfolk were to Pakistan, and what a struggle it was to improve things with them the cultural and religious structure of the country.

Another article was written on why the people have to wear the clothing that they do, and another was giving other advantages of the Islamic religion, saying how the Koran tells people to read it, yet the majority of the muslins, it said, were literate. I guess they therefore have to take what they are told by their clerics as being correct. To me this is rather scary. It take you back several hundred years in the West when the priests used to tell you what to do every Sunday, and the people did it.

There's also an article about earthquakes and how they are sent to punish those who strayed from the path. There's an article on Islam and modernism, is expressing concern about the muslins in the West and how they are diluting the religion to fit in with western society and how a lot of the decisions that they are making are bad decisions, but the strong theme that comes through on it is how this change is giving the women more freedom than what they do, in the way they dress which is totally out of keeping with the correct interpretation, that the religious clerics have decided is correct.

At least I guess, the people that read these papers, that are written in English must at least be educated to be out to do this, so I guess a lot of the writing, of which I have just scratched the surface of, must fall under the category of propaganda.

Wednesday 12th May
Today we drove from Lahore to Islamabad, a six-hour drive, stopped at a few photo locations on the way and that are a little bit of photography.

I have the English-speaking guide with me now, that makes it easier to find out where I'm going what I am seeing and where I've been.

He is a Sunni Moslem and whilst he does not go to the mosque regularly tells me he has a strong belief. He respects as parents and so will probably let them choose a wife for him as he feels they will do better, he will have the control as to whether his wife has to wear the full muslin veil or not, he has the belief that if a woman's face is naked in the marketplace, men that are looking at her face may want to rape her. He told me he would not like other men looking at his sisters face. I said so therefore all men are possible rapists, he said yes.

I went on to expound my theory that if something is banned people will want it, I gave the illustration of America in the Thirties during the prohibition time, when there was probably more alcohol drunk than at any other time since.

I said if your theory is correct, have you ever heard of a rape in nudist colony, he had no answer whatsoever.

He told me that a boy starts going to the mosque to pray at the age of seven, it is not go into the mosque by the age of 10 his father should beat him. He said it does boys good to go to the mosque, and teach them cleanliness there they have to wash their hands feet and face five times a day, he said where else would they learn that?

No women are not allowed to go to the mosque to pray, they came on certain occasions but they do their praying at home. No, girls are not allowed to play out on the street, their places in the kitchen. I wonder where they learn to wash their hands, feet and face, it is a worry!

No, sex is not allowed before marriage, he said I would not like to think that my sisters had sex before marriage, of a girl has to be a virgin when married otherwise there is problems, he said yes, I said so this means she goes from the house where she is owned by her father and brother's, to a husband who owns her. He was silent. I asked if the girl could not make up her own mind, did she not have the ability to think? He was silent.

I said I aren't you glad that you were not born a girl, he had just enough intelligence to say yes, I said have you ever thought what would like to be dressed up in black with a cloth over your face for the rest of your life, he said no.

He knows every member of the New Zealand, Australian, English, South African, West Indies and of course the Pakistan cricket teams.

It was a long hot bumpy drive, the drivers here takes all sorts of risks like passing on bends, travelling at great speed, overtaking under incredible conditions. Driving in Pakistan is not for the timid.

The dirt, dust, and rubbish on or the streets, everywhere has got to be seen to be believed. They take incredible care of their mosques and all the time raising money for new mosques, but everything stops at that point.

We arrived at Islamabad, had a meal and I retired to my room, and as I walked into the room my telephone rang, it was the owner of the company from which my tour was purchased. He wanted an extra $275, I told to forget it, and had a little bit of a conversation with him, he wanted me to telephone Karachi to speak to the person I bought the tour from, I told them you do that.

When the boys picked me up again, I was quite rope-able, so I said they me directly to the office of Shani Travels. I walked in and the plum little Pakistani got directly on the telephone to the travel agent I booked the tour with, and he said a guide was not paid for, I said of course not in the arrangements for that were made yesterday, I pay the guide 500 rupees a day for his accommodation and food, I said it your mate here has asked for over $US120 for this plus another $US150 for something else. He said put me back on the phone to the owner, when the owner got off the phone, he said you pay the guide 500 rupees a day, as if the thought was his and he was making a big concession. AVOID THIS COMPANY.

It's interesting hour one bad apple gets remembered and all the good apple's gets forgotten, I certainly will remember this attempt at a rip off.

However on with the Tour. We went for a drive for a panorama over the city, and then to look at the large mosque shaped like a tent, built with the funds from some Saudi Prince, and then went for walk-through day shopping market, the only thing of interest for there was a forklift carrying away a car that had been parked illegally. I thought that was a novel approach and was certainly effective.

Most days have been in the 40 plus degree range and so it is being very tiring day's, and I have been glad to get to bed.

Thursday 13th May. Islamabad
I was able to download my e-mail's at Islamabad, that will be for the last time until I get back to Karachi, as I don't have any phone numbers for any other locations. Hopefully there will be an Internet cafe somewhere, but time will tell.

Today we drive through to Besham, which is on the Indus River, again in another hot long drive, bumpy roads, atrocious driving, I may get my driver a bumper sticker which says, yes as around matter-of-fact I do own the road!

I was left the hotel about three o'clock, download all my image's, renamed them, did a backup, to my washing, and updated this journal.

My room is right on the edge of the Indus River, which is a wide fast flowing dirty stream and not at all as exciting as it sounds. The hotel room is adequate, I have been worse, but I guess the further you get from civilisation the least you can expect.

Had some more interesting discussions with my English-speaking guide today, for his age he is very naive. Did not know what a compass was, the equator, North and South. But as I said before, has a full knowledge of cricket, and knows what he's been taught about Islam. He reconfirmed his belief today, that women don't really matter, that they are not that important, and the way things are done in the muslin world is the correct way. Naturally he could not handle my questions and just went quiet.

Friday 14th May
Today was driving from Besham to Challas, we are still by the Indus River and driving along the Karakoram highway, has certainly been carved out of the rock, the fact that took 15 to 20 years to build speaks for itself. As usually were being doing some interesting passing, however he has slowed down a little bit, it took over five hours to drive 188 K.

However before we left the hotel, the hotel asked to be paid for breakfast, which they said was not included in the rate, as I had no written specifications as to what had been in what had not been included, and as I had not been paying for breakfast up to now, I refused to pay it, the guide says okay, okay, here's already seen me angry once.

A few interesting photographs on the way, I don't like thought of having to drive all the way back within two days, might see if I can fly back from Giligit when I get there tomorrow. I still have over four days after that.

When we arrived in Challas they took me to a hotel, I would not even let the drive into the dungee looking building in what looked like the worst part of town, I said no way! The English speaking guide said, okay we have three hotels, I was just showing you them all, yes let us start with the worst, he might take it & I will save some money!

So we drove back five or six K. to the Shangri-La hotel which is where I am at the moment, probably in one of the best room I have had on the trip

It's been a long trip from Lahore, I've got some interesting photographs, but if I ever do it again I'll be flying to Giligit has a good quite happily miss the 3 Day Drive.

Up here in northern Pakistan things are pretty basic, I assume there's not much commercial activity, the farmers make a basic living, not quite sure what all men do besides standing around in the streets talking all day. There is a large hydro dam being constructed shortly in this area so that may put a few people to work if they get their mind around the stress of doing a full day's work. They are having build a bit of the road again because it will be flooded however I think that will be the least of their problems.

Couple of days ago I got the Delhi belly, or should I call it the Paki trots, but since the them I have been eating quite a lot of rice which seems to sort it out like it has every time in the past.

No sign of any Internet café ANYWHERE, the Pepsi adverts which have been everywhere in the south stopped some time ago, that to me, tells it all. On the brochure of the area it speaks that any photography of the military, bridges, airports and the women is strictly forbidden, interesting the classification they are associated with….

Saturday 15 May
On the road early for a reasonably short drive to Gilgit today, probably some of the toughest part of the highway with being on to date, some of the road if it got just a little of moisture in the slips that would close it. The road was built beneath some of the highest cliffs of unstable material that I've ever seen. Add to that the rocks that would get swept down the run off channels, and you have a pretty good setup for the road to be totally closed often during the wet season. I looked at the road on the opposite side of the Indus River as we are driving up the highway side, and whatever purpose that road is or I should say was, it is almost totally closed with slips, bridge collapse's all stretches where the road totally disappears down into the river.

Nevertheless we hurried on our way, through some typical South Island Mountain vistas, except they carried out on and on and on. There was a magnificent peaks covered in snow, and I thought it might take a photo of that, but people will just say I've been in the Southern Alps.

All along the road since I've been travelling, and today, we have seen groups of men staying together talking, or perhaps I am being unjust, and the waiting for the bus to take them for a full day's work at the office, because they are in good clothes.

Often you see men walking hand-in-hand, and that of course does not have the same connotation that it does in the West. The men are almost quite passionate to each other, our seen to old men walking down the road holding hands.

I decided to fly back to Islamabad, as the cost of the flight and this is the two full days in the car with a total of at least 13 hours driving time, is a small trade off. However buying the ticket was an experience unto itself, first your name and passport number is written in a ledger type of book for a certain day, this let them know when the plane's full, and then you have to reconfirmed 24 hours before the flight, then they will give you the flight number you are on. They did have a computer there I'm not sure what it was for the certainly was not for the bookings. The ticket was made out by hand, then the ticket and the money was passed through to the cashier who gave out the change. Quite an experience, I think they were more advanced in China over 15 years ago when I last visited.

Then was onto the hotel, a marginal type of hotel, I am now the staying in this chain of hotels owned by the government for the next four days. I will try to book hotel for when I came back to catch the flight, but the rigmarole to make a booking was so great a decided to take potluck. They said we might be full with a tour group, my comment was there's plenty of more hotels and very few tourists. This was a four-star hotel which would have cost 21 US dollars a night.

A politician drove fast by us in a four-wheel-drive, it was part of a whole line of cars. Police and army all its guns at the ready. It's been very interesting the amount of armed guards that there are everywhere, the hotel last night had one on the gate, this being a government hotel there are no guards. I have felt reasonably safe during this tour, except at one road block where they asked all foreigners to fill in a form for their own safety, and this was followed five minutes later by another roadblock for the same purpose. I am not sure if they were doubtful whether you would get from one to roadblock to the other or the problem was.

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