Sukkhur to Multan
I could have cried…literally.
We dragged ourselves out of the room before sunrise and after a suspect breakfast the four of us complete with our now customary Police escort were heading out of town to find the imaginatively named ‘5’, the road that would take us north to Multan.
We’d made a few enquiries last night and the consensus regarding travel time was 11 to 14-hours. The prospect of another long slow day was already exhausting.
Clear of the tiny backstreet and I was in purgatory as the soft pink light of the morning kissed whatever it struck, the view diffused by a fairy tale haze. A mix of dust, morning fog and the smoke from a thousand different chapatti ovens, small bonfires and unchecked roadside burns. As we crossed the Indus river, I was almost in tears, I was that desperate to stop and simply take photos, the scene nothing short of breathtaking. The light grey blue water of the Indus River simply vanished into the mist. A stone bridge in the distance bathed now in gold light and it went on.
We finally pulled up on the outskirts of town, waiting again for the next escorts that would see us safely north.
What a change from yesterday’s frustrations. We’ve changed escorts only twice and both crews were armed with higher tech weaponry, side arms, and knives and actually looked like they could hurt someone dumb enough to threaten us. We’ve kept a good average speed and had reached Multan by 4:00pm in the daylight for a change.
We’d ridden tall gorges of stone and sand rock and a dozen different shanty towns. The first escorts had outdone themselves, with the two officers in the back taking their jobs maybe a little too seriously. We watched in amazement as the driver had run vehicles off the road, literally. Any cars, trucks or even lorries not moving to the side received and aggressive telling off from the two in the back. We watched stunned as the older officer, climbed out of the back of the Hilux, stood on the rear tail gait, lifted his automatic rifle with the butt in the air and mimicked smashing the slow driver in the head with his gun. In truth I really didn’t know whether to be happy with this incredible level of work ethic or simply embarrassed and guilty that we’d been the cause of such an act of visual aggression.
Stood above the roof of the Hilux, his colleague would simply swat vehicles to the side of the road with a seemingly all powerful waive of his hand. No one was left in any doubt that the consequences for not moving would be unimaginable.
We drove at ridiculous speeds into the centre of Multan city and pulled up in front of one of the mid range hotels, I’d ducked inside to enquire about prices and been stopped in my tracks before I’d even popped the question. “No availability…auull de roooooms ave geeeuuunnne” the desk clerk said with a thick Pakistani English accent. I already knew they weren’t. Sadly I’d also known before hand that most hotels in town in this current climate of hostility weren’t accepting foreign guests. It seemed pointless to argue the point. Back outside and we tracked down a few more numbers for hotels from the Lonely Planet and heard good news. The Sinbad Hotel would take us. The hunt had taken us an hour, time I’d spent snapping my camera at anything or anyone who moved.
The ride to the Sinbad was more a game of ‘dodge certain death’ than a journey, with the chicken played at every turn and at every second, with cars, trucks, pedestrians and scooters which buzzed us like mechanical mosquitoes. The blue Hilux we’d followed for hours to Multan was barreling its way down congested alleys and we were trying to keep up. Two gun toting officers casually hung their legs out of the back and simply grinned at us as we did our best to navigate the manic streets, trying not to kill or be killed. Behind us I knew that Nico and Alex were having their first real taste of rule less traffic riding, where anything goes and does. Bt the time we’d reached the hotel, Alex looked exhausted. Lisa and I had a private grin to ourselves, having dealt with this a thousand times, but remembering our first taste of this madness.
4 tired but happy travelers, hauled dusty and heavy bags up the long stairs and into their respective rooms. At $22 a night for western style room with secure parking and two armed guards to protect our beloved toys its good value and a welcome relief. The Sinbad Hotel can be found at GPS: N30 12.063 E71 27.164
Dinner was courtesy of the hotels restaurant, 4 helpings of spicy chicken Jalfrazy and rice.
It’s now 1:30am, I’m totally done and can’t keep my eyes open, talk to you tomorrow.
302 miles ridden.