LOG ENTRY 16
Arriving to Lahore after a lush train ride just to end up in the police station and get rescued by a group of bankers from Citibank.
The night went well on the train, we had a many sudden stops in the middle of nowhere when soldiers jumped of the train and guarded it. We couldn’t figure out what was it all about. Around 8 pm I went out to have a cigarette and find myself together with a group of Afghani guys. They all looked very strong and some of them were taller than me. I’m 6’2 by the way so it was very unusual to see such a tall central Asian guy for me. They were just as surprised seeing me as I was but they gave me a not very friendly glance at first. They asked me whether I’m an American which I quickly denied since there is a war going on. I told them that I’m Hungarian but we also fought against the Soviets just like them, this really broke the ice and we shared some cigarette of unknown origin and content, given me by them.
When the sun came up the landscape changed and the water from the Indus River turned the dessert into a green and seemingly subtropical environment.
By the way, as of today in our second week we are already 2 months ahead of our schedule so we decided to slow down from now on, stop for taking pictures, save the pictures as we lost a loads on CD’s and head up north towards the Himalayas.
After we managed to get the bikes off from the train an army of railway workers turned up and told us to push the bikes into a store room. First we didn’t know why, all we understood is to “push, ush, there, push, push, hurry, hurry.” It turned out that they want us to leave the bikes there for overnight and go to Wagga border, sort out the custom papers and come back for the bikes the next day. We thought no way. The storage room was more like a dump area where they kept all the left over trash, let alone the safety of the place. It looked like everyone has access to that store room so we put up a fight.
First we tried to deal with the railway police, no luck there, and then we tried the regular police next to the station, even less response from them. In a final attempt we called up the Hungarian embassy which was again turned out to be a waste of phone credit. We were about to give in and already thought about just staying with the bikes for the night when Dad had a great idea. Why don’t we ask the help of Ahmed?
Ahmed used to be my Mom’s boss at Citibank and they were pretty close. Mom always talked about him as one of her best bosses and he is happened to be Pakistani. Not just that he is local but her dad owns the very same railway company as we are having a problem with now.
After about 10 unsuccessful try, we finally managed to reach Mom and explain the problem we have. She said she will try to reach Ahmed and let’s see how it goes then the line disconnected.
We were sitting with this group of agitated railway workers who are obviously running into overtime with us as its already past 6 pm when a group of very well dressed bankers in cut suit turned up in probably the dirtiest place in Lahore. Eventually Mom managed to reach Ahmed who sent half of the management of the Lahore Citibank to our help. At this time Ahmed was the head of Citibank’s South Asian operation. The discussion from this point moved into the railway police station where we were offered tea and water which was a God given gift after hours struggling in the super hot storage room. Funny enough life just doesn’t stop because we and a group of bankers are there. The police kept bringing people in for what appeared to be questioning. One guy was obviously high on something, probably opium but the police kept interrogating him in a not very western way if you know what I mean. After they police got used to our presence they even made jokes with the poor guy, one gave me his automatic rifle and asked me to keep an eye on the motionless “suspect”. Luckily he didn’t get offended after I refused to hang on to the gun.
Until this point with my naïve teenage mind I always thought that bankers are good for nothing (I’m sorry for every banker who read this blog, I ended up pursuing a finance degree in the end too) but these guys sorted out everything so quickly. We still had to leave the bikes there but at this time half of the railways police officers were there to and they were instructed to guide our bikes in the night. We also got 2 police officers who took us to a nearby hotel for the night. The deal was that the next day we have to go back in the morning. One of us has to take a police officer to the border on the bike, check out the bikes at the border and we are good to go. Sounds like a deal for us. Considering that we got this far without the Carnet is already a small miracle.