My three day break in Abbottabad was as unproductive as it was unplanned. That is not to say it wasn’t enjoyable – I just didn’t achieve anything except to have a relaxing time spent with a very hospitable family.
After checking into my room at Gilani’s Hotel, where I was again the centre of much curiosity, I showered and changed into some clean clothes. Later in the afternoon, Ahmed took me to his home – conveniently located halfway between my hotel and his father’s PSO pump – and introduced me to the rest of his family. After coffee and nibblies Ahmed wanted to show me the view of the city lights from the top of the Shimla hills just behind the city. From there we ended up at one of Abbottabad’s better restaurants, Nawab’s. After dining late Ahmed dropped me back at Gilani’s and I was left to ponder how it was that the day had turned out as it had.
Day 2, a Wednesday, was a complete waste of time – intentionally. As I had obtained all my visas in Islamabad in one week, not the two weeks that I had allowed, I had plenty of time to waste so I thought I should start applying myself seriously to the task.
With the luxury of WiFi in my room I caught up on my Skyping and emails. In between times I chatted with the hotel staff who were all very interested in my trip and my thoughts about Pakistan. This line of questioning has now become obligatory everywhere I go so, in order to avoid repeating myself ad nauseum, I have found a new use for my copy of Mobarik’s newspaper story. I simply show people the story and let them read it at their own pace. This seems to satisfy most people’s curiosity.
Later in the afternoon (due to the 5 hour time difference) I was bitterly disappointed to hear, via text from my daughter, Sarah that Queensland had lost Game 2 of the State of Origin. Game 3 at Lang Park should be fantastic game and no doubt will be sold-out.
Day 3 was a repeat of Day 2 except I applied myself even more diligently to wasting time. After successfully doing so all morning I invited Ahmed out for lunch at a typical local eating place of his choice. He took me to the old part of Abbottabad close to the famous Ilyasi Mosque. After visiting the mosque and its cooling stream and ponds, from a street stall we bought chaplikababs – a local favourite of highly spiced mutton mince and naan. After lunch Ahmed took me up into the cool hills back along the Murree road to escape the heat of the afternoon but eventually we had to return to Abbottabad as Ahmed had family affairs to attend to.The rest of the afternoon was spent wasting even more time as was the evening.
My time in Abbottabad was drawing to a close. What I had learned about the city and its people that had adopted me so unquestioningly? People from outside Abbottabad would say the city is not blessed with a lot of natural beauty or with many attractive features but it is home to a large army base and other military establishments. However, the locals love their relatively green and prosperous city. Hmmm… sounds just like somewhere I know!
Exhausted from wasting so much time in Abbottabad, it was time to move on. Tomorrow would be the start of my journey up the Karakoram Highway (KKH) to the Chinese border – some 735km away. Still with plenty of time up my sleeve, I planned to travel no more 150km/day with lots of rest days in between. A leisurely pace I thought!
Little did I realise how ambitious my seemingly modest schedule would prove to be.