Eventually I was allowed into the country, collected my bag which was going around on the carousel, and then headed for the "nothing to declare" lane, which I discovered was closed. I was then directed to a line, that was waiting in front of an x-ray machine, which was not moving. I was dressed in my normal manner, with my black-and-white and bowtie, so plump guy that was sitting down must have thought I was either important or would give him a good tip. So he took me from the back of line, to the front, introduced me to the man at the front as his friend, and he lifted my suitcase and put it in next through the x-ray. Stayed in the x-ray cabinet long enough to sterilise all of its contents whilst the operator fiddled with the controls finally asking who is bag is this, and when this harmless looking old person stepped forward it was passed. Then there was my camera and computer case and again the same question was asked with the same result.
After that interesting entertainment I came to the conclusion that again it pays to dress well and to be singled out of the crowd for special treatment. Yes I know that in the hostage situation that may not work quite to the same advantage.
The next challenge was to find the car that was picking me up from the airport I inspected all the signs that were being held in none had my name on it. I thought okay, this means I have to get a taxi, which means I'll need some local currency, which means as I was unable to do this in Bangkok and dashed passed the line at the exchange window I had to now try and find somewhere to change some dollars to local.
Before I forget the first thing you see it should come out of the arrival hall besides the crowds of people, is in the distance at McDonald's eatery which I thought was rather interesting given the religious and political situation.
Eventually I found a ticket counter that would change some dollars so I went back downstairs again inspected all the signs again, one asked what hotel where you wanting, and when I told him the Regent Plaza, he dived into his pocket and pulled out a card with my name on it.
So eventually was out to the minibus and into the back with an air-conditioner blowing air that was about 20 below in temperature. Onto the hotel, an uneventful ride, not all like India where I saw people camped on the side of the road all away from the airport, smart looking hotel, old however, believe it has a three star rating, so quite a few aircrew staying here, weren't American as I guess they would have wanted at least for star rating.
Friday 7th May
At 10 o'clock Kazi from Kodak collected me and took me to their office, where I met all of the executives and was introduced to Ahmed who is the general manager for Pakistan. We discussed what I wanted to do in Pakistan and the particular problems that there were in Karachi which could make it unsafe for the activity that I wish to engage in. They told me that all of the problems in Karachi were political rather than religious and that unfortunately they are just had to learn to live with them and the added security that everybody is required to have. It appears that any of the attacks that have happened are totally random and without any reason, which makes it very hard to plan for or to deal with. The bandits will just stop a car a random and shoot everyone inside, they seem to however choose a car or hotel that will make world wide news which is kind of good not to be in the Sheraton.
I was able to connect to their phone and send and receive all of my emails.
We made arrangements for the travel agent to call into Kodak to discuss my requirements and the time was set for 5 p.m. At noon we went out to lunch and was interesting to note on the street for military armed presence everywhere, the security at the various buildings with mirrors to inspect underneath the car, guards with automatic shot guns and AK-47s, in fact I think I've never seen more soldiers armed to the teeth, patrolling the streets than I've seen anywhere else in the world.
Halfway through lunch Ahmed's phone went they told us that a mosque had just had a bomb exploded outside the building right in the middle of Friday's prayers and they were 14 killed and 96 injured. Mind you they did count the suicide bomber in that 14 killed! That was about two blocks from where we were, so the point they were making earlier was emphasised.
It was interesting that the various Pakistani that I spoke to after this event, were very interested on my reaction to this bombing and they were all very apologetic about it happening in their country as they have no wish to live with this sort of terrorism.
Eventually the travel agent and his assistant arrived, labour is so cheap here that everyone has an assistant, even a small parcel I've seen being carried out to the car by a Porter. So after a discussion the travel agent more or less worked out what I wanted has going put together a program for me so I will fly out on Sunday to Lahore and spend the next 12 days going around the Highlands and back to Karachi for two days before I fly out to the next stop.
That being sorted out I took the driver and rental car that I had back to the hotel, with the knowledge that the manager of the rental car company was coming to the hotel later that evening to give me the account and collect the money. The manager turned up with an assistant and a zip zap machine to collect a signed Visa slip for $31. I'm not sure of this sort of service would be offered back home for this amount.
Must talk about coming home in the rush-hour traffic, it was stop and go like any large city, made worse with the rioting in some of the streets, which fortunately, I did not see, with another difference, there were four or five lanes of traffic where they should have been three so that was interesting the manoeuvring that my driver and all the other drivers were making to make progress.
I have managed to hook my laptop up to the telephone in my room, had to set it up to work without a dial tone as the tone was not normal. The plug on the cord to the phone fell to pieces in my hand it was so old and brittle.
Next step is to talk to the travel agent that is coming to the hotel before lunch, to make the arrangements for the rest of my time in Pakistan.
Saturday 8th May, Karachi
Well the travel agent came in and for a 13 days guided tour he wanted what I thought was a lot of money so I thought about this for quite a while and realised I may not be back this way and it did take me up into the mountain area on the way to China, an area that I had always wanted to visit, so I thought what the hell, I can always go home a month early, or so when the money runs out.
I made arrangements to leave my large suitcase at the hotel, I looked for a small carry on that I could buy, but there was nothing at the hotel shop so in the end I removed the camera dividers from my carry on camera bag and decided to use that.
It was 11 o'clock flight to Lahore, so they decided to take me to the airport at 8.30, this is the transport that the hotel is provided, and I made arrangements for them to pick me up on my return when I'll stay there another three nights.
I was due to go out for dinner with my two new friends from Kodak but Khasi whose 64-year-old father had been ill, upped and died, and they rang me from the cemetery where they were burying him on the same day he died. From what I gather the average lifespan for a man in this country is between 50 and 60 years of age.
Sunday 9th May, Karachi
Well it was up and have breakfast, and I decided to find out where the Slav looking people were from and sure enough it was Russia, but their English was zero, so locale is still known only to them. There was quite a gang of them and about five Russian women as well.
So after breakfast, it was down with both suitcases, checked one in, paid the account, and sat and waited for the transport to arrive, then on to the airport, through all the various levels of security, to eventually get on the plane and a couple hours later I was in Lahore. Out to meet my driver, and of course he was not there, so I wait around for a while, then decided to telephone the contact number that was on the booking paper, the person on the other end was all the time telling me it was the wrong number, and I was telling him that was not, in the end he realised what I was asking and gave me and telephone number to ring, which I was having none of, in the end he said he would telephone and that people would be here soon.
While I was waiting I noticed a small boy, about 10 years of age, that I noticed somewhere on the flight, pushing a trolley out with a woman following him who I assumed was his mother, the man I guess was his father was waiting, right beside all the hotel guys, who did not have my name, and the boy ran to his father and they each day each other in extremely long hug, I watched what he would do to his wife, and I think he said hello how are you! But I received the impression she was not terribly important.
Before I paid for the call, two men wandered up to me with my name printed on A 4 sheet of paper and so I was away with my driver and, I'm not sure what the other guy was, his English was better than the drivers, which was almost nonexistent, he had a little of a vocabulary, but he insisted on talking fast, which made it incomprehensible, also his comprehension of English was also extremely low.
I make my displeasure known, because I was supposed to have a driver that could speak English, so in the end of a told me an English-speaking guide would be available tomorrow. This will be interesting.
We did a little bit of a drive around the city, they were convinced that I should have a rest for the afternoon, but they did not get away with that. We went out to some crummy Fort, looking much the worse for wear, and having seen a lot of these forts in Rajasthan I elected not to bother with this one in wandered around doing a few images.
We drove on around the city a little bit, but there was nothing startling photographically, so eventually I had them take me back to the hotel. Had a couple of small diet Cokes brought to my room, later I went down to the shop on the corner by the hotel and bought a 1.5 litre bottle for half the price of the hotel charge, this of course is typical, they have to make their money somehow.
At 7.30pm my driver and his assistant collected me and took me to the food Street, it was a long Street with lots of pretty lights the full length the Street, it was a type of pedestrian mall, with restaurants and tables on either side of the Street, with the cooking being done in the open with either a wok type of appliance, or barbecue open pit being the main type of cooking. The over head lights were about every 10 metres and went from one side of the road to the other in a type of flower design.
I turned the camera up to 1600 ASA and got some very acceptable photographs. Eventually we stopped and had a chicken dinner with lashings of a hot type of rice, hot in the taste not the temperature. I discovered that my two drivers invited themselves to share and meal with me at my cost.
Eventually was time to head back to the hotel, but their English comprehension was not good enough to realise what I was asking so we ended up someone else, which I would have called restaurant row, and there were all of the American type restaurants, every brand you could think of, this is the country that the muslins call the Great Satan, but evidentiary they like their food hot!
So again we set off for the hotel, and this time we made it, they asked what time would they pick me up, I said 8.30, the drivers assistants said Oh no! 9.30, I said half the day has gone, 8.30, which is where it has been left, so tomorrow will be interesting in several ways.
Back at the hotel I tried getting on line to the Internet provider, but every line of the provider was busy, which I guess for a Sunday night could be correct, so it looks like I'll be trying early in the morning to see if I have any better luck.
It is very interesting looking at the buses, and I would guess they are large public buses, have two sections in the bus, the front section for ladies, this takes up about a third of the bus, and the remaining two thirds for the men.
There is of course a wall separating the two sexes. Like in other muslin countries, you do not see teenagers of different sex walking down the street together. You see young men walking down the street, often with their arms around each other, and you see the young women in groups of three or four walking together. The only man woman situations you see are married couples and they usually at least three children with them.
You see a total family is riding on a motorbike or scooter like you do in India, the most I have seen on a scooter so far have been six people. Of course four them were small children but that is still a lot of people tearing along, at night, and the type of traffic they have here.
Yes the young ladies are extremely attractive, of course once they are married, and have a child each year, some of them sort of lose their looks a bit, of course the men at that age are not much cop either.
Monday, 10 May, Lahore
Still unable to connect to the internet, this sometimes happens that even if you have a good phone number to ring nothing seems to happen! Guess it is back to the internet café's and deal with the mails there! That is always working on the assumption one can find one, in Rajasthan they were everywhere, finding them here is a different kettle of fish.
Well be guide did not turn up that could speak English, I thought while I'll go with the driver, it should not be too bad, but today I found he had no clue as to what I was saying. I will think about things overnight and see what happens.
Driving in Pakistan, think of the worst type of traffic you have ever seen, multiplied by a factor of say 10 and you might be getting close. At intersections that just jammed into the intersection and if there is a space at all somebody will move into it even if their vehicle could not possibly fit. It is nothing to be driving down the road and see three vehicles a breast coming straight at you on a two-lane road with everybody blowing their horn.
As for the trucks, they seem to work on the principle that if the motor will pull it they are not overloaded. I have seen some massive loads on every sort of vehicle from the donkey carts up to the massive semis. I seen them loaded with steel, with wheat, with shingle, with every type of product. A thought for a while they must have no weight restrictions whatsoever, however I did see a weighing station today, of course whether anybody ever goes through it or not is another factor!
Of course the way they decorate their trucks and buses has become known as a type of art, in fact some trucks and buses I have been told were taken to Japan for an exhibition. I stopped and looked a one truck today and not only is it massively decorated on the outside it continues to right on the inside as well.
Today were went for a drive out to Sialkot today a reasonable sized town about 130 kilometres from Lahore. Its claim to fame is the manufacture of sports goods and surgical instruments, not sure that I can see the connection between the two but nevertheless. Went for a walk through the market which were the usually small Asian type of shops very small in size an utilising every square millimetre of space. The most interesting were the butcher shops, if your thinking of refrigeration forget it, if your thinking of sawdust on the floor like we used to have the New Zealand forget it, if your thinking of lots of stainless steel in an air-conditioned room with a good door to keep flies out, forget it, if you thinking of a space that is open to the environment, dust and dirt everywhere, have you have a wooden block that has been there since the British left, and your thinking of everything covered with flies you would be right on.
That in fact there was unlimited numbers of flies everywhere, smelly trash on the streets, almost every plastic bag in the world lying in the rubbish, in the creeks, everywhere. If you have a weak stomach for that sort of thing and you must go to Pakistan stay in the Hilton and looked at the streets from their windows, shop from the shops that are in the hotel and you will be able to say you've experienced Pakistan.
Oh that also goes if you are a nervous driver, or passenger, stay in side the Hilton.