Just got wind of a new proposed bus service running from Birmingham, UK to Mirpur, Pakistan, some 6,500 kilometres away. Four luxury buses will [maybe] depart every fortnight, taking 12 days with stops in Tehran and Quetta, near the Afghan border. Essentially some of the most treacherous countries and passes in the world, even if Pakistani officials have dismissed security fears for the Quetta bit, thought to harbour a few Taliban commanders.
The cost? £130, contrasted with £600 for a flight.
From the Torygraph (Telegraph):
“It’s a great idea that will bring the two cities closer together and be a real life experience, particularly for younger people,” said Khalid Mahmood, a Labour M.P. whose family came from Mirpur.
Mohammed Nazam, a city councillor, recalled that in the old days people often travelled to Mirpur by road.
“In the 1970s and 1980s people would drive a van from the U.K. to Kashmir and it would take about 10 or 12 days of hard driving, day and night. Even in those days it was a real adventure. But the world isn’t as safe a place as it used to be,” he said.
Nazam’s right; it’s the classic 1970s hippy trail. Where else did all Portobello Road’s Afghan coats come from?
By Jove it’s tempting, even if doubtless foolhardy. There is a distinct impression of Pakistan as having a glut of weapons, Al Qaeda-minded folk and anti-Western sentiment. Although I’m sure this is only a very small minority, it does, as my brother-in-law pointed out, only take one lunatic to shoot you in the head. Perhaps not the most sensible choice of holiday destination.
But Pakistan has captivated me for some time, precisely for these reasons (not to mention Bobby, the businessman who bought me diamonds). I’ve read a few accounts and find it fascinating: the post-Colonial split from India, how it buffers the West from perceived threat, the rise of madrassas, the USA’s massive cash injections, the corruption… I read Bhutto’s (grossly biased) account of the country’s modern politics with interest. Her family are now largely based in Dubai, so we’re practically family.
In one of Michael Palin’s earliest films – Himalaya – he toured the country and landed in a remote highland village where polo is the sport of choice. The Kalasha people are unusual for their startlingly green eyes and were rumoured to be descended from Alexander the Great. A likely story given the intermarriage and multiculturalist policies that formed a fundamental part of his imperial quest, even if genetic testing has disproved it.
I recently finished Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortensen’s a disputed book about making friends, building schools and promoting peace in Pakistan and, later, Afghanistan. With the mountainous country’s proximity to the trekking mecca of Nepal and Everest, I can see a lot of similarities between the characters described and some of the hardy, warm-hearted people I met on my trips to Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Subject to the toilets being acceptable (not a given), I could be tempted.