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brad’s Travel Diary

Monday, 22 Oct 2007

Location: Khyber Pass, Pakistan

MapHere's a tale from the last week Pete and I had in Pakistan. I couldn't help but to type this one up. There's some photos also.

In the days when leaving Australia's shores was all but a dream I held the notion my geographical knowledge was OK, but time again travel demonstrates there's no better way to develop ones worldly knowledge than through experience. For many years I held the belief that a 'Khyber Pass' was the anatomically correct name for the human poo shoot. For this misunderstanding I blame my Dad's liberal use of the term, threatening to kick me 'fair up the Khyber Pass' or telling me to 'get off my Khyber Pass'. It was high school anatomy that set the record straight, and until this day I understood the term as some obscure Aussie rhyming slang. Now in Pakistan and a stones throw from the Afghan border I learn it's possible to be driven up the Khyber Pass without sacrificing one's heterosexuality, as this is the name given to the mountain pass and main artery between the two countries.
For no reason other than to say we've been there Pete and I take a guide, driver and standard issue police escort through this lawless route to the Afghan border. Wearing a shalwar and kameez Pete passes as a bona-fide Pakistani while I look like a white guy in pyjamas. Thankfully we have following us in another car 'the German decoy'; a young guy who's 6ft tall with pale skin, blonde hair and dressed in western clothes. Our very own wooden duck. I figure with no garb and no gun if shit hits the fan he's first. Pakistani law has no power between Peshawar and the border, tribal law governs the modus operandi therefore one would think this to be an exciting, daring adventure. In reality it turns out to be a leisurely Sunday drive across a barren landscape, littered with rundown fortressed dwellings, coloured like the earth, sentry towers with rifle slits rising from each corner.
Our guide, an over-excited idiot living in a world of delusion surrounding his self-proclaimed celebrity status as a musician, doctor, soldier and tourist ambassador with royal blood - Prince, as he calls himself asks "So who wants smoking hashish and shooting police gun?" Standing on the roadside holding the coppers AK47 I contemplate the offer; stoner paranoia is joyless at the best of times, with an automatic weapon in my hands things could go tits up, and at 200 rupees a bullet there'd be more holes in my wallet than a defenseless tree. Alas I decline and pray the German does the same; his knowledge of Russian and Pakistani guns is suspiciously thorough.
It's a full day return trip and we are bored out of our brains. I stare out of the window at the un-inspiring scene, an abandoned railway line destroyed by floods, people living under a crumbling cement bridge and sheets of corregated iron, a permanent dust-haze that hangs in the air. Mind wandering I recall that most Australian slang originated from the Diggers in times of war. Perhaps they passed through here, maybe the term is more than just rhyming slang and they too, like me believed the Khyber Pass really is a poo shoot; the arse-hole of the planet.