Monday, August 26, 2013

Greg back in Pakistan

Greg landed in Islamabad  and checked into the 'cheapliest' room, eighty rupees a night, at Khyban Hotel in Rawalpindi. Abdul the chokidar fetched him a cup of sweet tea when he saw that the guest was awake. Greg had stayed there a year earlier as a member of the K2 team. Abdul was curious why he had returned.

 Greg narrated  the story so far and his plan to build a school and showed him the money he had in his pouch with, 'This is exactly enough for one school, if I'm careful.' The next day Abdul took him to Taxila, now a factory town, to buy cement. After scouting among tea shops for advice, they placed order for Fauji cement and paid an advance. Greg learned there was no bargaining for cement as it was controlled by a mafia.

The next day things moved faster as they met an architect, who designed the school with Greg's specifications and gave a list of materials needed. Then they went shopping. More tea was drunk and Greg got a feel of doing business in Pakistan. Finally with some hard bargaining they bought, lumbar, corrugated tin roofing, nails, hammers, saws and so on.

The following morning they loaded the truck with all the goods they had purchased and Greg was left with only three thousand dollars for labor and other expenses. It was evening by the time the truck was ready to move. Mortenson took leave of Abdul and climbed on to the top of the truck. As the truck moved Abdul offered prayers for its safe journey. Soon they were on Karakorum  Friendship Highway, the worlds highest international highway, built at a great cost of life for both Pakistan and China, to cement a strategic alliance against India.

There was some tension as the truck was held up at a bridge as the locals protested on some grievance against a lowland contractor, who had cheated them.  Kohistan region, the wildest part of the North West Frontier Province was infamous for banditry and had never been nominally under control of Islamabad. 

Thanks to thousands of Pakistani soldiers, the road to Skardu was improved... to allow trucks to pass on their way to support their war effort against India. But rockfall and avalanche, ...meant that dozens of vehicles plummeted off road each year.  They eventually arrived at the outskirts of Skardu, their destination.

No comments: