overland-underwater.com - A charity drive from the UK to New Zealand
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Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

Itís a hard job being hostages to hospitality, but we managed it!

Written by Alex Towns. Uploaded 4 July 2006.

Pakistan, Country 14, Diary entry 28th Nov Ė 7th Dec 2005, Total distance in Pakistan: 5231 KM

Drawing into Karachi in the darkness, the crowds, traffic and smells were a harsh contrast to the last 6 days in the Balochistan desert. As we stopped to say goodbye for the last time to our armed convoy and camera crew, Alex and I weren’t sure where we were actually staying! We’d been told we’d be looked after, which we had no doubt about, but the final destination was still unknown. As we were all stopped by the side of the road, waiting for someone to make a decision on the plan of attack, Khalid (will be referred to as KO from now on) came up to tell us we would be saying at Docs house. The cars had been booked into Toyota first thing the next day and we’d planned to stay 2 or 3 days in Karachi just in case a major problem was found, as it was the first big service of the trip.

It was evening by the time we reached Docs house. Greeted by his wife Susan, we were soon all sitting round the table with a mug of tea chatting about our last 6 days adventures. Susan and Anika (their daughter) had just flown back from a weeks holiday in Bangkok and were swapping stories – they’d had a cleaner, more civilised break than us! We had thai for dinner which was delicious and after chatting till the small hours, we were shown to our bedroom; a double bed and en-suite bathroom, luxury! We could get used to this :o) We fell asleep in no time at all.

We had been advised by our 4x4 posse or ‘the network’ as we have affectionately renamed them since, that nothing should be left in the cars when they went into the garage for a service, so we spent the next day completely emptying them! Not to be taken lightly I can tell you and the car raised some 4” on it’s suspension without the weight! Luckily, this had all been taken into consideration when our accommodation had been planned and we emptied both cars into Docs huge garage. It would be a chance for us to clean all the balochistan desert dust off everything and have a good sort out! Once we had made a huge pile taking over Docs garage, we drove the cars to the Toyota garage to give them a long list of service points and problems that needed to be actioned. Really this was a job for the boys, so I organised to go shopping with Anika to the local mall. The shops had some lovely things, that, had I been on holiday, would have bought to take home with me. However, as the car (when packed!) was already full to the brim, I decided it would have to wait for a return visit before a purchase was to be had! It's been a long time since we'd seen the back empty!

That evening KO’s family were having a party and it was like a mini reunion for us, seeing many of the guys who had met us at the border all those days ago. KO had been very organised and put a slide show together of photos taken in the desert and projected them through the TV for the evening. We had a lovely night, a couple of drinks (only for the non Muslims of course) and more delicious Pakistani food. Hanif was chef for the night and was hoping to cook beef steaks, but unfortunately the beef steak shop was closed, so we had chicken. The menu consisted of soup to start with, followed by chicken, dips, breads, salad and much more yummy food which I can’t remember! It was all extremely tasty. We stayed chatting till the early hours, before we realised that Doc actually had to go to work the next day, so at 2am he was keen for us to leave!

Back home, Alex and I stayed up chatting with Siggy (their son who had also come on the 4x4 trip with us) while the others went to bed. Alex managed till 3.30am and I stayed up till 5.30am and we don’t think Siggy went to bed at all, so we both enjoyed a lie in the next morning – which if you think about it, we didn’t, we just managed about 6 hours sleep! Having had the camera man follow us through the Balochistan Desert, Waheed the gentleman who had arranged it, had planned to make a short documentary as it was so unusual. With us joining the group, he was also keen to add information about CARE and the trip we were driving, so came round to film us being interviewed. We all had a session talking about the trip so far, CAREs work and our experiences off road in the Balochistan desert. We look forward to seeing the final cut!

Once we’d finished being film stars, we didn’t really do much for the rest of the day, except eat the delicious curry lunch which Susan had prepared earlier, this being a daily occurrence which we got very used to. Having decided we needed to plan our route onwards from Karachi, the time just passed us by and before we knew it Doc was back from work and we had a play mate again! It was nice being able to just relax and not wonder who would be turning up next to have a look at the cars or ask us what we were up to. In the evening we went for a BBQ – once starting out as a roadside stand, this entrepreneur had turned his BBQ stall into a very busy three-story restaurant! We had prawns and lots of meat and it was delicious. Later in the evening (and I’m talking 11pm), KO, Hamid (his dad) and Hanif (the chef from the night before) came round. A funny night with Hamid telling us every second sentence that all of the good photos on any 4x4 trip are taken by him. A long standing joke from the trip but one that I always found funny. The next day was D-day for the cars and we were hoping to pick them up that afternoon if everything had been done. Doc's friends helping us remove the final bit of kit

With our nights becoming later, we had an early start to the day which was a bit of a shock to the system, Doc was taking us to his clinic and hospital to show us round. Being a dentist and maxillo facial surgeon he has two places of work. Walking into the clinic was just like walking into your own dentist complete with magazines (unfortunately a lot of them were 4x4 ones, not my usual ‘heat’ and ‘now’ with star studded gossip which I am seriously lacking at the mo!) and he offered us a quick check up. The smiley face stickers he had in his drawer nearly tempted me, but time was pressing and work at the hospital started at 10am prompt and as it was already 10.10am, we made a move. It was interesting walking round the hospital, especially as I visit so many for work (obviously before retiring!) and he showed us every area he possible could. They even have an auditorium which in the olden days, when not being used for presentations, they watched movies in! We met a colleague of Docs who was interested in the trip and wanted to know if we were going up to the mountains, as he was working with amputees from the earthquake area and had already fitted one boy with a prototype leg. Please see our write up of how CARE responds to the earthquake disaster and our Thoughts from Northern Pakistan when we visited. Hamid asking the OLUW team which colour they'd prefer for a tow rope

By 11am, people were tracking Doc down telling him his patients were waiting, so he went off to work, while we went to Hamid’s factory for a tour. We arrived 9am sharp as planned (remember with any of these guys, the ‘9am sharp’ in Pakistan starts with two ones) and went straight to lunch! A mixture of curry and KFC. Yum.

They make nylon threads (in any colour you can imagine) and filters for fluids, shipping them all over the world. The clever and original idea is that the filter cartridges contain no chemicals. Hamid has designed and built all the machines in the factory himself which was very impressive to see. The factory is huge and with a 5pm deadline for Toyota looming, we made our way over to the garage.

Taimur was waiting for us (we never had to look far for one of ‘network’ to be close by) to be told our car was just needing a test drive, but Martins still had a couple of checks. Returning from the test drive, the technician announced that we needed a new master cylinder (for the non mechanics of us – that’s the bit that distributes the pressure from the brake pedal to the brakes on all four wheels). With the cost of the Toyota part, being ‘Toyota price’, the network advised it could be got down the market at a fraction of the price. So, once Martins car was ready, minus a button on the dashboard they managed to loose driving it over from the garage to the courtyard. We headed home with a sinking feeling that work still to be done on the car. :o( Grub's up - Alex, Taimur, Susan and Martin tuck in

While in Karachi, we tended to live the days from hour to hour, not knowing what we were doing next until our network informed us about the next party or dinner to be attended (we had even been given a mobile phone so they could keep us updated with minute by minute changes to any plans) – quite novel from the constant planning we had been doing up till then. It wasn’t until we were leaving Toyota when Taimur said he’d see us later, then we realised we were going for dinner at his and his wife Patricia’s house that evening! The Pakistani time of eating is very much in line with Alex and I, so heading out to dinner about 8.30-9pm was fine with us. We began with a vodka and tonic which is always a great start to an evening and then had mixture of pizza and curry dishes. The great thing about our network is that as we’re not used to eating curry all the time, they always made sure we had a choice of western food too, just in case curry became too much! Again, another fun night and yet again, well looked after. How on earth would we get back to life on the road…?

The following day I managed to have a lazy day writing diaries and listening to music (I may even have snuck a DVD in somewhere too, but with relaxing being such a novelty, I really can’t remember through the haze of bliss). Alex was out hunting for a replacement battery to help power the auxiliary electrics since it appeared the expensive Optima deep cycle battery specifically intended for the job was faulty, not being able to power the fridge overnight without draining! The day passed so quickly that before I knew it all the boys were back – minus battery. We had a night of R&R and stayed in and watched a DVD. It was such a leisurely night and with living in the car and not having a lounge, it was sheer luxury to have a sofa to slump on. Things I haven’t really missed since being on the road, but so nice to have them when there is a chance.

The days began blurring into one extended holiday. Have you noticed yet that the original 2-3 days planned in Karachi is becoming longer and longer, ….? With the temperatures being in the high twenties, we were keen to stay in warm weather for as long as possible before heading back north to the cold again. Maz shows off her new haircut

The next day I pampered myself and had a hair cut! Anika took me to her regular salon and obviously having to wait for me, she whiled away her time getting a pedicure. When I’d finished, I questioned her as to why some of the staff were jerking their heads in an upward movement with a piece of cotton in their mouth, while holding the rest of the cotton between their fingers over the faces of the ladies in the salon. I could not imagine what pleasant treatment they could be having! Well, it’s not a pleasant treatment as I later found out, but it’s Pakistans version of plucking, called threading. I got my eyebrows done to see what it was like….. and it’s flippin’ painful! It brought a few tears to my eyes.

Alex however was up at the crack of dawn, not wanting to be late for his 9 o’clock pick up, only to end up thinking of that extra hour in bed he could have had when KO eventually turned up at 10am! Today’s objective was to fit a replacement master cylinder (about a 30min job) plus add an additional battery! Having already spent a fruitless day searching for a suitable battery of the correct size with appropriate power and gel filled so as not to spill whilst being jilted off-road, we should have known it wouldn’t be simple!

The first stop mechanic took one look at the master cylinder and said he could have one in half an hour at a reasonable price. Not fooled by this miraculous claim, the boys headed off in search of batteries and wires whilst chasing continual phone call updates from the mechanic. Not surprisingly 30mins soon turned to 3 hours, but in that time they had managed to rule out one battery which although had a massive power rating, turned out to be about 2 foot long and needed 2 people to lift! They eventually found the battery needed, which previously hadn’t existed in the whole of Karachi, quite by accident and after a quick stop at battery wire street followed by battery terminal street, they were back at the mechanics who’d called to say the master cylinder had arrived. Things looked on the up. Maz & Alex out for a sail

Indeed a master cylinder was produced, but on a quick comparison with Tinfish’s, subtle differences were quickly spotted – i.e. where the pipes screwed in! In true engineering style, this problem was merely shrugged off – pipes could be re-bent to fit. Hmmm Alex wasn’t so happy… mucking about with brakes on a 4 ton monster truck and fitting a nearly right master cylinder seemed a recipe for disaster. No, the right one needed to be found. KO immediately suggested we leave Tinfish at their motor workshop (why a textile factory needs a motor mechanics would be anyone’s guess until you realise the whole family are enthusiastic 4x4 owners) for them to source and replace and also fit the battery at the same time.

That evening Alex and I went sailing with Humayun, a very chatty gentleman Alex spent talking the night with at Hamids party. He took us and KO out on his boat down an estuary that runs into the Arabian Sea. Typically, with Alex and I being people with ‘powerful magic’ when it comes to weather, the winds died and we slowly ambled along the water. It was a very pleasant evening and as the sunset over Karachi, it left a tinted silhouette along the horizon. We had planned to venture further than the edge of the mangrove swamps, but as the wind was dying to a gentle breeze, we felt it was probably wise to turn round rather than have to swim back to land. Once back on shore, Humayun invited us for special chay. Wondering what flavour we would now try, normal tea arrived, however, what made it special was the bread that arrived with it that you had to dip in the tea! We also had pokara with a chilli dip which was especially tasty. Martin opted for a DVD and another restful night. Karachi at dusk

Another day passed by and before we knew it Friday evening was upon us, so we headed out of town for a reunion party in our honour at Khan Saabs house. It was a really nice evening catching up with the boys, but the highlight of the night was eating brain masala. Very much like pate in my opinion and I went back for seconds as it was so tasty. The boys had their taster but that was enough for them! Saturday I had a girls day and did lunch with Susan and her friends. We spent the whole afternoon in a French restaurant chatting over fresh salmon and chocolate cake - not all at once of course! Very nice. Unfortunately, Susan was ill later in the day but recovered enough to come with us to her friends house Visceroy who had invited us over for dinner. Again, another splendid display of curried meats, fish, dips and salads. After stuffing ourselves so we couldn’t possibly eat another thing, dessert was served a peculiar hot carrot and milk pudding – actually surprisingly far tastier than it sounds! Not wanting to seem rude, we managed ‘at least’ one each before thanking our hosts explaining we really would burst if we ate anything else offered to us! After all this looking after, I wasn’t sure we’d even fit in the cars once we tried to get in them again. :o) The sailing team - Maz, Humayun, Khalid & Alex

The weekend came and went with a visit to the Makli Hill tombs on the Sunday and the daily conversation of “we really must plan our route north”! The scheduled 9am departure was somewhat delayed as we waited for Hamid, Sabir & Co, so we popped off to look at a local museum only to arrive back about 11am to find Hamid inside claiming to have indeed been there since 9am! The next day we realised we’d been in Karachi over a week and if we didn’t make a move soon, we really would become part of the furniture. We were acutely aware we didn’t want to outstay our welcome, but with Susan explaining the old saying of giving someone the ‘cold shoulder’ one night, we knew that if we arrived back at the house and lamb had been served, it was time to move on! Luckily that never happened. However, it really was time to venture further than Karachi, and sad as it was to pack up the cars, we slowly organised our stuff, washing all the kit ready to go back in the car when it returned. Such a waste of time, as it was all dusty again by the evening! Some of the tombs at Makli Hill

For the third time running Alex was back early with Tinfish to check progress. Unfortunately the 2nd replacement cylinder was identical to the wrong one sourced previously, but they’d gone so far as re-bending all the pipes and fitting it – yikes. Research had by then shown us that there were indeed two types of master cylinder for the car, the difference being ABS and non-ABS systems. Tinfish has ABS and the master cylinders they kept trying to fit were for non-ABS. Even in the UK there was a vast price difference between the two which was reflected in the difference of the parts here in Karachi too so there must be some important difference for your buck! There was nothing else for it but to plumb for the Toyota part and soon the car was back in and being worked on. They had however done a superb job on the fitting of the new battery.

It was indeed a 30min job, but unfortunately they now identified a number of other problems that needed attention. Alex had noticed it pulling to the left on braking and with the wheel off it was the bearing which was at fault and needed replacing. At the same time they were horrified at the brake discs. Stamped on the inside was min 30mm but a quick check with the callipers showed a frightening 26mm – yup that needed changing. The other side was only slightly better so we jumped in with both feet and replaced the lot! Realising the brake pads were none Toyota they tried to insist they should also be changed, but as they’d only been in the car about 1000km Alex insisted they were okay – something we deeply regretted later. Word of warning always go for Toyota brake parts! Finally though the car was ready and the test drive was good… we were glad we could now stop on a 6 pence, especially with our anticipated route along the Karakoram Highway (KKH) through the mountains. Martin tries to remember how everything packs into the car

We had yet another date in the diary, this time with the Dawn newspaper. Waheed had organised for us to be interviewed by Asif, for a front page article on the Star weekender to be published the following Saturday. We sat in his office with papers, local and international, piled high all around and actually wrote the article with him which was very different to anything we had done before. We stressed we wanted the website address in the article as that had been missed on every other newspaper article published and is obviously the main way people can read more about our travels and the work that CARE International do. It took four hours to complete the article but we were pleased with the final version and Asif kept his promise and put the web address in.

The plan had been to pack the car, but with it being nearly 10pm by the time we got home, we would be in Karachi yet another day longer! We took Doc and Susan out for a meal to a very nice French restaurant, to thank them for such kind hospitality over the last 9 days we’d been with them. It was a really relaxed night with some fantastic French cuisine (we all opted for beef steak in preparation for India – yum) and after a couple of ‘homemade’ vodka oranges, we were ready for bed. The next day we actually stuck to our plan and packed up the cars ready for the off, 9am sharp on the Wednesday morning. It took all day to filter out anything that we didn’t think we’d need and pack the rest away. The word had got out that we were definitely leaving and the phone rang constantly with the network telling us we needed to stay longer as there were more dinners yet to be eaten. The best quote being “why are you leaving so suddenly?” – we’d been there 9 days and everyday we were ‘leaving tomorrow’! We had to make a stance. Suddenly the wheels were put into motion and a leaving party was arranged within the hour! This time at Imad and Salmans house. Wanting to make sure we were fed for the mountains, we feasted on biriyani, chicken and fish. Doc gave us a slide show of previous trips they had driven up the KKH, to give us an idea of the scenery we would find. A really enjoyable night, but sad all the same knowing we would be saying goodbye for the final time. Imad, Khalid, Siggy, Doc & Alex relaxing after the fairwell party

The time arrived and 9am came and went, in true Pakistani style we left on the dot of 10am. Not bad going really! It was quite emotional saying goodbye to Doc and Susan (our new Paki dad and Mancunian mum), as we had become such good friends during our time in Karachi. It had been such a relaxing break not having to think for ourselves and being pampered with food and comfort by all our new friends. We would miss them all dearly but have many fond memories of our drive through the Balochistan desert and extended stay in Karachi. With a tear in our eye, we waved goodbye to begin the drive north to Islamabad, but first to an ATM to restock on cash only to bump into Taimur driving the other way, who then accompanied us to the bank….. as we were to find out the network were never far away!

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Comment from Tall Eric yet again
The deliberatly casual placement of the furry dice was spotted...I guess you could action those on eBay afterwards for a huge price on the grounds that they had been driven half way around the world - and make some more money for charateeeeee. I also couldn't help noticing the amount of carpet used in the back of your wagon - have you gone local yet and fitted carpet to the top of the dashbaord? I had some luverly carpet in my Chevette once upon a time...
07 Feb 2006 @ 17:02:35

Comment from KO
Polypropylene, not nylon!
10 Feb 2006 @ 15:27:27