Pakistan Diaries: On the Road

I failed to spot any big hair, though.We headed out from Lahore on the newly built highway to Peshawar.  Had it not been for the Urdu on the sign, I would have thought I was in New Jersey when I saw the Islamabad toll plaza.

Car culture in Pakistan does not have the benefit of shows like Monster Garage, but it doesn’t need it.  Every truck, bus, and many cars are decorated and tricked out.

Throughout our trip we kept seeing signs for CNG (Clean Natural Gas).  Natural gas is expensive in America, but in Pakistan it’s extremely cheap.  The Pakistani government estimates that they have enough natural gas reserves internally to last them 200 years.  Instead of exporting it for cash, they have taken the approach that it would be better to use it as an engine for growth.  As a result they have encouraged the country to convert anything that consumes petrol to instead use natural gas.  Conversion kits are available for most cars, and most small taxis are in fact CNG-converted motorcycles.  The tell tale sign of a is a canister mounted underneath that looks like it belongs on your barbeque.

However anything can be a taxi in Pakistan.  Any vehicle with room for people becomes a taxi the minute someone pays 3 rupees (five American cents) and hops on.  Seats are not generally necessary, as people will hang onto the outside of pretty much anything with handles.  And yes, dozens of people die when one of these things wrecks.

It takes us almost twelve hours, including a stop to visit an Army General (yet another well placed relative I’ve never met) before we arrive in Peshawar, the largest city in the Northwest Frontier Province.  We arrive late at night at our hotel for the next week, the Pearl Continental, order room service, giggle about the men-only and women-only health club hours, and crash into bed.

The television doesn’t work, but we won’t need it.

Continue reading Pakistan Diaries: Peshawar