Old Lahore

The 300 or so Km from Multan to Lahore was straightforward with good roads. We even managed to maintain a good pace despite the police escorts and were on our own for the last 50km or so. Traffic coming into Lahore was Menthol as usual but we got through it eventually and we found our way to the Regale Internet Inn since I had the coordinates.

We were delighted to find Thierrie, Tom, Els and Merijn all still there and Bryn arrived about an hour later. It was great to sit down to some Chicken Byriani and swap stories of the last few thousand km. It was also a little strange to see their photos of the same places we had been. Bryn still had not found his passport but had come anyway with the intention to sort it out in Islamabad where all the consulates are.

The following day we said goodbye to Tom, Els and Merijn as they headed towards the KKH. We stayed behind with Bryn to find oil to do a change on all 3 bikes. Bryn and I went off hunting while Helen stayed put. The petrol bikes were simple enough to find oil for but the Diesel tiger took a bit more legwork. As we walked and asked we were gradually pointed in the right direction until we came to Filter House on Montgomery road. The oil I ended up with was expensive stuff but being LiquiMoly would be expensive at home too. At least I was reassured it was good stuff, the other options available all being too heavy grade due to the warm climate.

For me this left the only issue that I had no way to drain the oil on my machine. I have a new sump made for the bike with drain plug but had no time to fit it before we left. This meant finding somewhere to suck the oil out the dipstick hole as this is the way all Smart are made (why I don‘t know). We tried a ton of places and got nowhere, being told stories that such things are very rare in Pakistan. We went back to the hotel and I picked up the bike to go try the Mercedes dealership. Bryn seemed to have endless enthusiasm and energy and wanted to tag along on the diesel bike so off we went across town.

After being pointed from the dealership to the workshop (not in the same place) I found that they were happy to do the oilchange but we were out of time for the day and would have to come back tomorrow. Bryn got chatting to the guard at the workshop who was carrying a pump action shotgun like a lot of the guards around here. As seems to be common though the weapon had no ammunition in it, I am not sure if that’s a legal thing or simply a money thing. There are also walk-through metal detectors everywhere but they are generally ignored by the guys using them. Either way Bryn still got a pic of him holding the gun on my bike (man points)

We were due to meet Omar of the Pakistan Bikers Club at his house nearby but were running late by now and had to meet Helen there. He lived in a spacious house with his wife and kids and also had some staff who tended to the house and cooking as seems to be pretty common here. We were served some great food and swapped stories for a while. More bikers from the club arrived and joined us wanting to see the Diesel bike which seemed to be the star for the evening. It seemed these guys were the only ones around that own bikes bigger than the typical 125‘s. The import duty here is 200 percent so the bigger bikes tend to be slightly older and hand restored by the owners themselves. Unlike home it seems the vast majority of people here still fix things which was nice to see. It is also simple to find most things in the bazar, including well stocked machine shops to keep things going.

The following day I went back to the Mercedes garage with the oil and got it changed as promised. I was surrounded by the mechanics, who were unused to seeing a big bike, let alone one with a diesel engine in. There were a couple of smart cars even parked but it seemed that everything was petrol. When the oil came out of the bike they thought it looked pretty dirty and must have been in there a very long time. In a diesel the oil turns black within an hour or so. I tried to pay but they had none of it, saying they were just happy to see me there. So we chatted for a while about their jobs and films we liked (one guy agreeing that anything with Angelina Jolie in is good). I doubted if I would get the same kind of help in a Mercedes garage at home, we all seem to be too busy to appreciate what is important over there.

The next day we did some Lahore sightseeing. We wandered round the Lahore walled city. Bright colourful shops selling clothes were juxtaposed with shops selling cookware and street food sellers cooking strange looking battered things in the middle of it all underneath a birds-nest of electrical transformers. People drove rickshaws and small bikes through the middle of it all in an amazing cacophony of horns and people.

We the walked to the red mosque and took our shoes off as we walked around. a friendly older guy found us and showed us around for a little while and a couple of rupees seemed to make him happy. He demonstrated the acoustics of the place for us by singing. We walked on through to the fort where everyone stopped us to have their picture taken with the strange foreigners. They were friendly and we obliged as many as we could before we were exhausted by it. I wondered if we would find ourselves on flikr or something after we get home. I also wondered if anyone would even get noticed in somewhere like London or Belfast and if they would get the same friendly interest. By the time we got back I was too tired to fully appreciate the cultural singing and dancing laid on at the hostel but that was entirely down to my frame of mind rather than the skill of the performers.

The next day (we were starting to feel like residents here) we changed the oil in Helens bike. The owners of the parking compound were feeding and washing some small pups they were keeping there. It was heartening to see them being properly looked after compared with the stray animals walking around. These pups had apparently come from a factory somewhere nearby. It would be even better to know they had been spayed to help contain the population but that does not seem to happen much unfortunately. In the evening we chatted to Malik, the owner of the Hotel and discovered he is a retired journalist who worked for Benazir Bhutto at one stage. The Inn used to be a newspaper office but people came to use internet there in the early days because it was one of the few places that had it. After a while people started asking if they could stay and eventually Malik bought the place and it morphed into the “Regale Internet Inn“. (Regale being the area of the city)

The following day as we attempted to escape (the longest we had stayed anywhere) we discovered the bikes were stuck in the locked compound and nobody had a key. With this turn of events we went to the Wagah border (with India) to see the closing ceremony. We travelled out there on a jam packed bus, but it was a great experience because everyone on it was friendly and curious about where we were from and what we were doing. I guess tourists don‘t ride the buses.

A few concerned people warned us about pocket cutting but ended the warning with “hey, this is Pakistan“ (reminding me of the police in Turkey). One passenger asked which hotel we were staying at and Bryn instantly earned both Helen‘s and my respect by asking us the name of a hotel we were not staying in to supply an answer. It was the sort of personal security awareness that others twice his age who we had travelled with just didn’t have.

The bus stopped about 5km short of the border so we switched to rickshaw for the rest.

We were segregated going into the border area but thankfully there was a specific area for foreigners to watch the proceedings which was mixed again. I managed to capture a little bit of video before my memory card ran out. The scene was electric and charged with passion. It was like being at an ice hockey match without the ice hockey. After some staff ha hyped up the crowd the guards came in their fancy uniforms and performed ritualised moves and singing, matching their Indian counterparts. It was heartening to see them shake hands at one point though. Afterwards we had photos with them and realised they were all huge guys, obviously hand-picked for the job.

The following day we finally left Lahore for Islamabad.

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