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Spoke Notes Stamp

Peter Snow Cao
Spoke Notes

Copyright © Peter Snow Cao, 1998.

Skip to:   Travelogue Index | Introduction | South Korea | Hong Kong | Macao | China | India | Pakistan | China, Again

Skip to:   Travelogue Index | Introduction | On the Road Again | Pakistan | Roasting in Islamabad | Monsoon Washout | Breakup in Gilgit | Khunjerab Pass | Kashgar | Urumqi | Lanzhou in September | Labrang Monastery | Zoige, Sichuan | Farmhouse Family | True Love in Chengdu

Pakistan Flag


Lahore, Salvation Army Hostel 76 KM
What a day! Early morning rain postponed my plans for an early departure. I did my morning mediation and some sewing. I left Armistar with the help of a cool morning tailwind. In fact, several nice things happened along the way, it really made me feel sad about leaving India. There were two "drink stations" set up by Sikhs handing out chilled flavored water. That, plus the friendly officials at the Indian border made me wonder if I was in the right country.

"Yesterday is History,
Tomorrow is a Mystery,
and Today is a Gift.
That is why they call it The Present."

Moni Neville

Pakistan, by contrast, was fraught with corruption. One of the customs officers tried to get me to give him 20 rupees for a "service charge". I refused and he came down to 10 and then I asked him for a receipt. He dropped it at that point. As I rode the 30 km to Lahore the people were much more reactionary to me than the Indians. It was bit like cycling in Uttar Predesh or Bangladesh again. One guy had a homemade explosive device that he swung over his head and hit the pavement as I passed. It went off like a large caliber gunshot, which deafened and scared me for quite a while. I wonder what I did to draw that event to me.

Arriving in Lahore was a bit like being back in Bangkok. There were many private vehicles and scooters, heavily polluted air and extremely noisy with a strong "me first" attitude. Crazy place. A college student on a bicycle guided me through this confusion riding beside me as he plied me with the usual questions while the drivers were honking and cutting us from the right and left. I arrived at the Salvation Army Hostel, which is like an oasis from the hell outside. It has a peaceful garden settling with friendly travelers including a crazy American, Tim, who is committed to getting into Iran or the USSR or both.

The heat is suffocating and debilitating. I seem to have no motivation for doing much of anything. I walked to the American Express (Amex) office, the GPO, few bookstores and the American Center Library and felt like I was only operating at about 50%. This heat is making me sick. I just can't seem to get used to it. I fatigue so easily. And my thoughts just evaporate. I have to get out of here the hell here.

"You are not a true Asian traveler until you have stopped using toilet paper to clean your backside."
Two Swiss women who cycled overland from their home to Lahore, Pakistan

Gujrat 125 KM
I am the guest of a chicken farmer somewhere near Jhetar. Today was a great day for cycling. Cool weather and a good tail wind most of the day. A noontime rain forced me to rest for a few hours which I spent reading.

As I was cycling at least 6 people on motorcycles slowed down to ask me the standard questions. With one guy it went on for about 20 minutes. He asked me how much I had to pay for my visa. I told him it was free. He said that for a Pakistani to get an American visa it would cost two lakl rupees (200,000Rs) or about $10,000 US. I find that hard to believe. He was obviously upset by it because his invitation for me to stay with him was "forgotten" and he rode off.

Dina 73 KM
A difficult day. I left this morning from the chicken farm feeling exhausted even before I began the day. I didn't sleep well and the day was very painful. I'm losing weight again. My butt is very bony and quite sore after a day in the saddle. It was fairly hot as well and I began to think that cycling here in June was insanity. I stopped fairly early and was able to get a 30Rs room, small, dirty, and hot, but it is a place to rest, which is what I need now.

"No life without wife."
Often heard from Pakistani men after I told them I was single

I haven't been eating very much; I have no appetite at all. The only thing I want is fruit. I had some mango juice, a fresh squeezed glass for 1Rs. Very good stuff. But now I had a runny stool, probably from a change in water, but maybe from all the fruit I have been eating. I will try and work on it tonight.

Islamabad, Tourist Camp 110 KM, 2,100 Ft (650 M)
I arrived is late afternoon really wiped out and experiencing severe abdominal pain. My policy in drinking the local water was coming due. At the tourist camp it seemed like everyone who was in Lahore had moved up here. I was distressed to learn that a holiday had begun in which all government offices will be closed for four days. No news Suzanne or anyone else pus no movement on the Chinese visa application. I have considered going out to a hill station and still might do it. Yet I'm sure that it will be full of Pakistani tourists, so getting affordable accommodation may be difficult.

The ride here was a bit more interesting that the previous day as the terrain got hilly. I was moving through desert-like ravines that made it seem like I was riding in the southwest US. I was climbing much of the day and can feel a decided difference for the better in temperature. Much cooler and very green here as well.

I found a place to go skinny dipping here at a fairly secluded spot. One or two people come by about every half-hour. I am still feeling pretty run down not wanting to do anything. I can't seem to get comfortable anywhere.

I reread my note from Behram's class and feel like I need to be in a more supportive and spiritually aware community. Yet this separation is good as well. Being back in the "real" world gives the teachings time to sink in and mature. Like Andrew Harvey in A Journey to Ladakh, I feel like I am also looking for my guru.

"Don’t trust fat people in thin countries."
Andrew Harvey in A Journey in Lahdahk

Now I find out several things, I hope. First and foremost is whether Suzanne is coming. Either way will be fine with me at this point. It seems odd to me that I haven't traveled with a woman yet. But considering there aren't that many cyclists, never mind women on bikes it really isn't too surprising.

I discovered some disconcerting failures with my bike yesterday. 1) My rear rack is broken, probably caused by the milkman accident near Armistar. 2) The rear rim has some small cracks developing on the freewheel-side spoke holes. I must be over-tightening the spokes again. 3) A rear tube failure at the stem from the rim cutting into it. 4) My rear panniers are losing their support backing as the plastic stiffness continues to break off. I am realizing that my gear is wearing out. In a way it would be good to get to Europe or Hong Kong and get an overhaul or some new equipment. I'm tempted to write some letters to these touring equipment firms and ask for their support.

I went to a movie just for the heck of it. I was entertaining even though I didn't understand what was said. However, when I came out to my bike I found that someone had stolen my bike pump. Wow, is that going to hurt. And the ironic thing is that it won't do the person who took it any good because the valves are different from the kind on my bike. I hope I can find a way to replace it soon.

I spoke with a Swiss woman who I felt I recognized form somewhere else. She had been at Tushita during Dr Alex's course and we had talked briefly at the picnic table. She asked me if I had a big book for a diary. It was funny when I saw her here or rather heard her voice. I knew I had heard it before.

We talked for quite a long time last night about Tushita, taking Refuge (which she has some phobia about because she doesn't want to commit to being Buddhist), being silent, spiritual discussions and returning to India to go to various Ashrams and monasteries for yoga and mediation classes. She got me excited about going back there myself as I realized there is a lot more I'd like to learn. Like Behram said, India is a very spiritual place. The consequence of all this discussion, however, made concentration during my mediation this morning very difficult and distracting. Too much talking agitates the mind.

"Do not rely on external things, cultivate the beauty inside you."
Behram’s Words of Wisdom

I picked up my mail and found a letter from Suzanne. She said she was flying to Karachi, but didn't say when. She also planned on cycling through Tibet down to Nepal and into India. Her letter is dated from April 29 so I wonder if she is here now. Maybe I should try calling her. I hate the idea of that, but maybe I should as she could bring some much-needed spare parts.

One of the Germans travelling by motorcycle (BMW, of course) reminds me very much of Uli. His looks, tall and lean, his style of talking, almost continually mentioning "problems". Like me, he is also a brunt-out civil engineer who escaped from the system. And speaking of Uli, no word from him either. Damn.

Yesterday was not a good day for me. The heat was cooking me. My eyes would be half shut to keep them moist when I was in the sun. It was incredibly difficult to do the simplest tasks. Then last evening became a night where everything seemed to go wrong; buying groceries, cooking, getting under the mosquito net and still I got eaten alive. I went to bed early and had a wet dream, the first one in a very long time. And even that wasn't really satisfying. This morning’s mediation was once again troubled. Are these symptoms of the full moon?

I discovered that Uli sent me a package, but it arrived April 29 and they said it has been returned already after holding it for 30 days. Damn! Now I wish the post office wasn't so efficient. The clerk was very conscientious, trying to do a good job. Unfortunately for me, it was too good.

"Cultivate generosity."
Behram’s Words of Wisdom

Rawalpindi, At the Tire Shop

I got my rear rack repaired "Pakistani Style", not very well. In fact it may be worse off now than it was before he "repaired" it. But he was a nice man who showed me pictures of his motorcycle touring before he started repairing my bike. He welded with gas, which is really tricky with aluminum. As he was mending the break, the torch cut the rear support piece. Then he tried to fix it and handed it back to me. I pressed on it and the weld broke. So he tried it again. The job looks pretty messy, but he was a kind man and didn't charge me for the work.

"Now there sir, tell me your problems."
A Pakistani tire repairman in Ravalpindi

I got my Chinese visa, a double entry good for 90 days each stay. That seems like plenty of time. Sometimes I feel so bad about my rude behavior or inflexibility. Today at the Chinese embassy while waiting for my passport, the Pakistanis and Westerners were all pushing and shoving. The clerk in the office left his post for 10 or 15 minutes and a Pakistani in front of me left, probably to smoke. When the clerk returned and he tried to get back where he was I didn't recognize him and said "bullshit" and pushed him away. Later, I realized that he had been in front of me, but I was too ashamed to say anything. Damn.

On to  Roasting in Islamabad

Skip to:   Travelogue Index | Introduction | On the Road Again | Pakistan | Roasting in Islamabad | Monsoon Washout | Breakup in Gilgit | Khunjerab Pass | Kashgar | Urumqi | Lanzhou in September | Labrang Monastery | Zoige, Sichuan | Farmhouse Family | True Love in Chengdu

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