Last night at dinner in the hotel, I was given and charged for large servings of soup and salad when I had asked for small ones. I was also given and charged for chapatti when I hadn’t asked for any. I didn’t bother saying anything when I paid for the bill, but I didn’t bother leaving a tip to the waiter who was waiting expectantly behind me. (To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have left a tip even if the meal was fine). When I returned to the dining room later to access the hotel’s WIFI, the formerly friendly waiter was clearly disgruntled. I had the brief thought that he might be angry enough to wreak revenge on my bike, which was locked inside a little shed out the front of the hotel. I wasn’t entirely surprised, then, when I opened the shed door this morning to discover that someone had stuck a pin through my front tyre. I really didn’t want to give anyone the satisfaction of disturbing my day, so I closed the shed door behind me and madly pumped up the tyre. I then wheeled my bike out as if everything was fine. The look on the hotel staff’s faces when they saw me emerge was absolutely priceless. They couldn’t help but stare at the front tyre with confused faces and whisper amongst themselves. I had to work quickly though, as the tyre was losing air every second. I loaded it up quickly, delivered the key to reception and then rode off as if I hadn’t a care in the world. F#%kers.
I rode down the main road for a couple of minutes before pulling into some quiet side streets and finding a hidden corner in which I could properly repair the tube. Job done, I tried to erase my unfortunate start to the day from my memory and get on with the job at hand.
The day was excruciatingly hot and I felt sick for all of it. I still feel sick now. My plan was to meet a man named Akram out the front of the Pearl Continental Hotel in Rawalpindi. Akram is the uncle of the friend of my best mate’s girlfriend. He just so happens to be a founding member of the Adventure Foundation of Pakistan, an organisation which aims to promote adventure sports and activities in Pakistan. He is also a former Brigadier of the Pakistan Army.
When I accidentally rode 500m past the hotel, I decided to backtrack along the footpath running down the side of the main road. Unbeknownst to me, the wall running down the side of the footpath separated the road from a military cantonment area. When soldiers manning the wall in hidden turrets noticed a guy on a loaded bicycle ride back and forth while wearing dark sunglasses and a face mask, they immediately got suspicious. I was quickly stopped and interrogated. In my completely exhausted and sick state, I wasn’t the most compliant person to deal with. I wasn’t rude or disrespectful, I was just more prepared to stand my ground than I might otherwise have been. The guy that had stopped me wasn’t wearing any kind of uniform and offered no ID, so I refused to hand over my passport. He wouldn’t let me move on though, instead forcing me to wait for one of his superiors. Over the next forty-five minutes, more and more guys turned up, each one seeming to be more senior than the last. I ended up having to hand over my passport as I was grilled with questions and (wrongly) told my visa had expired.
The entire time they held me, I insisted they call Akram, who would help explain who I was and what I was doing there. When they told me they wanted to take me away and search through my things, I told them I wasn’t going anywhere unless they called Akram, or let me call him. I finally got through to one guy and he ended up calling Akram, who said he would come right away. About thirty minutes later, after Akram was able to appease their concerns, I was free to go. I followed Akram through the busy traffic to his house, where we could properly introduce ourselves. Once again I have found myself in the home of a loving family. It’s time for some hard-core resting.
|Accommodation||Home of a lovely family|
|Distance ridden today||53.54km|
|Average cycling speed||16kph|
|Total distance ridden||18,798km|