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  • Writer's pictureVoita

Reaching the capital

I share the room with a middle aged Brit for the second night. He bicycled here through Kyrgyzstan and China. He wasn't allowed on the KHK and had to take a bus in between Gilgit and Islamabad. I'm told the weather's still Ok up north, even though not quite warm enough for camping anymore. He's off to India to soak in a little bit of sun.

quiet by the hostel

a busy highway, but the trucker couldn't care less

I'm buying my bus ticket online. Unlike Indian, the Pakistani booking websites have no issues receiving payment by foreign cards. The entire 120 mile ride to the capital runs through a surreal countryside drowned in a colourless haze. Civilization is taking a crazy toll on the central areas of Pakistan.

best breakfast

gun-ho security

Even after reaching the capital I am not quite sure what to do next; should I head directly up north or should I try to meet up with my friend's family from the spring? With the winter creeping in every day counts, but taking off without even a bit of prep isn't the smartest idea.

I book a night by the bus terminal; the owner looks at me and guffaws. No licence to accommodate foreigners. I wonder why haven't the major online platforms like Booking noticed? Adding a "no foreigners" filter would be a matter of hours. But perhaps it would hurt their numbers... as anywhere, altruism and falsehood stand a proud guard to the forgotten courtyard of usefulness and togetherness.

Oh, another missing filter - gender. Why am I still being offered female only dorms? Actions belie true intent: whatever they say, ignore. Watch, what they do (and don't).

reached the capital

I walk around other hotels and it's all the same story. I've to walk way beyond the terminal to find better hotels with a licence... but those are also adequately priced. The cheaper places which I'm guessing would take me are some 30 minutes away on a bike and that doesn't sound to smart either. I second guess by the photos and what if I'm wrong? I compromise with a hotel which is only a short push away.

Match.

And they even accept cards!

I leave my backpack inside and head out to withdraw cash. It's after the weekend (which comes with a markup), and I'm in the capital; surely, here I'll be able to get cash even if I have to pay the ATM fees.

But what an adventure would it be if getting cash was easy, right?



Six miles and twenty ATMs later I admit that I have a problem. Not even one stooped down to communicate with my credit card's bank. And I'm down to a last dollar of cash. Seems I'll have interesting 3 weeks ahead...

dinner: apple from Bangladesh and biscuits from India :D

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