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How To Overtake On A Blind Corner

June 10, 2013

…and other things I’ve learnt this weekend.

Imagine 36 miles of hairpin bends taking you up to the height of Ben Nevis (tallest mountain in the UK – for those of you in countries with properly dramatic landscape it’s a small mound, but to us Brits it’s most definitely a mountain).  The road is single lane each way.  To your left is a cliff edge with a drop of hundreds of feet into the valley below.  In front is a bus, travelling at about 20mph belching out black smoke and behind you is a small minibus with 3 people hanging onto the back, two sofas balanced on the roof and a little old lady perched on top of the sofas (I decided she had to be someone’s mother-in-law – you wouldn’t do that to your own mother).  Behind her is a car the size of an old mini and behind that is a motorbike.

A stretch of 50 metres opens up in front of the bus and you decide that now would be a good time to overtake.  As you pull out you realise that everyone else behind you has also decided to overtake…at the same time.  There are now 4 vehicles squeezed into a space fit for 2.  You slam on the brakes, slide quickly behind the bus and breath a sigh of relief as you see an army truck come whizzing round the blind corner in front, narrowly missing the minibus, tiny car and motorbike.  The mother-in-law somehow also manages to stay put.

Welcome to the Kashmir Highway.

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The Kashmir Highway is the old road from the days before the partition of India and Pakistan which connects Islamabad to Murree, one of the old colonial hill stations.   Murree, being much higher than Islamabad, is much cooler and it seemed like the whole of Islamabad and its neighbouring city of Rawalpindi were heading up there on Saturday to escape from the stifling heat of the valley.  We were going up to visit some friends who learning urdu.

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We were at the back of this convoy…or that’s how it felt.

I was quite excited.  There’s something oh so romantic about travelling along a road called The Kashmir Highway.  For me, it conjured up mental pictures of women in Edwardian dress riding donkeys and carrying a parasol.  The drive was a challenge, but that was part of the joy – even when I’d managed to just about avoid being pushed down a cliff by a bus, swerved into a siding and narrowly missed a large cow that had decided to wander into the melee.

Murree itself, well – imagine a tacky seaside town (let’s call it “Mackpool”) and give it open sewers, street-side chappati makers and  you’re basically there.  It has its own version of donkeys, boys hawking colourful pinwheels, a good deal of tacky tourist shops selling a wealth of gopping umbrellas and, harking back to its colonial days, two beautiful little churches which wouldn’t look out of place in a Cotswold village.

It also gave us yet another item to our ever-growing “Reasons To Be Cheerful” list which so far includes:

1. Electricity

2. Baking Paper

3. And now…water.  There isn’t much in Murree.  Our friends have water in their taps but it’s from a tank on the roof which collects rain water… and it hasn’t rained much recently . They shower into a bowl which they then use to flush the toilet.  You get used to it quickly but it felt soooo luxurious to be able to flush the loo when we got home.  Hurrah!

 

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