Today I made the run from Lahore down to Sukkur, I had intended to stop at a place called Multan but I got there at 11.30am so thought I would push on to the next planned stop as the roads were so good and I could get to Sukkur before nightfall. This would set me up well in theory for the run to Quetta and Iran and give me another day in Iran which I am looking forward to, the weather in the desert should be quite good now for wild camping and the guide book strugged to say much about Multan that really interested me. To some extent I have now seen a lot of bazzars and Mosques, including arguably the most beautiful in the world of both, so just ticking off another pair did not set my heart racing.
Now in other sections of this blog I will talk about different places where I had to stay in secure protection or travel with an escort, and you may get the impression that this is the most dangerous part of the trip, but in reality the primary risk to my safety is driving in countries like India and Pakistan where the road conventions are very different from those at home. It seems that the best thing you can do is forget what you have learned at home, and just drive like the locals, but a bit more defensively, as this minimizes the chance of you being hit through doing something stupid (like stopping at a red light in a place where everyone knows you don’t stop)
Today I was on a bit of three lane motorway which had a roundabout plonked in the middle of it at one junction. So the three lanes became two and traffic was joining from both sides, as usual in Pakistan this also meant that buses, taxis and autorickshaws would also stop at random with no indication in any or all of the lanes at once. As I left the roundabout, a big truck and I having barged our way across at a walk, I noticed a autorickshaw swerve to pick up a passenger in front of the truck on my inside, so I went for the outside edge of the carriageway to give the truck room to move out as he blared his horn.
Unfortunately this considerate move, at 20kph or so (the local move would have been to blare my horn and keep accelerating) was taken as a sign of weakness by a motorcycle who fancied accelerating up the gap between me and the truck, I guess he got about 3 feet up the side of my truck on my blind side when the truck closed the gap to avoid the autorickshaw to about 6 inches not seeing the motorcycle. Well physics is still physics in Pakistan and a 2ft wide motorcycle does not fit in a 6 inch wide gap, I heard a bang on the back side of my truck and then a horrible crunching sound as the bike went down, fortunately there was not thud from the wheels so I knew that I had not actually squashed any part of the driver.
I screeched to a halt in the outside lane and could see in my mirror that the guy was lying in the road beside his bike, at this stage not moving, so I quickly reversed Nelson past him and across the road to block the oncoming lane, hazards and lights on, and grabbed my first aid kit to go to his assistance with some trepidation.
By the time I got there the guy was beginning to try to sit up (which was a relief) and it seemed he had not gone under the truck or my Landy, he had pretty deep bleeding gashes on elbow and knee on the right side, road rash on the left shoulder and a cut to his head, from the way his hand and foot were swelling up it seemed like these had been broken or sprained at least.
My boy scout training cut in and I set about stopping the worst of the cuts bleeding with bandages and TCP and dressing the road rash, a local young man stepped in from the crowed that had gathered and help by cutting the bandages to the right size for me while another guy got the bike onto the side of the road. By the time the police arrived the main cuts were all dressed and any areas that could get infected covered with plasters or Savlon antiseptic. The guy did not seem to have concussion and a bottle of cold water from the fridge was helping him recover.
As I looked up I began to worry a bit, here was a foreigner and a local guy on the road with a smashed up bike, the truck had just driven on, and the crowd was not about 30 people all quite close, I was pleased to see the police arrive as the Pakistan Police have been very professional at all the roadblocks and checkpoints so far both times I have visited and I was a bit concerned that I may have to make a report or that the crowd would turn ugly towards me. Thankfully the policeman and his partner moved the crowd back and asked me what had happened in perfect English so I could explain, he then talked to the injured guy briefly and turned back to me saying “thank you for stopping and helping this man with your equipment, you are very kind, but we can take care of it now an ambulance is on its way, perhaps it is best if you just go now – you are free to go”
I drove away thankful that I was not at a police station making a report or facing an angry crowd on the roadside….Little was I to know I would be spending the best part of the next week in police stations in Pakistan, but that is another story.
I count myself as three times lucky with this story, driving as I have said is by far the most dangerous element of this trip, specially in Terhan, Pakistan and India where the driving behavior is both different and much more dangerous than in the UK. I have, so far, had three incidents, on the Russian Mongolian border a van had its brakes fail as it approached the checkpoint and used the back of my truck to stop, he was quite damaged but my spare took the force of the blow and Nelson was essentially undamaged. In Delhi a small car decided he could fit between me and a truck, and couldn’t, so my front bumper went into his front wing, again no damage to me and I managed to scold him with a bit of finger wagging so he apologized and no further harm was done or police involved, and finally this incident which I was so lucky not to have squished the guy in a damaging or even fatal way and was supported by the police.
I am hoping not to test my luck a forth time.