Dear Father and Mother,
Rawalpindi, Sat. April 21, 1973
It is now a week and part of a day since I wrote, but I didn't feel it would be quite right to put pen to paper on Good Friday. Besides, it wasn't the most productive week of my whole trip.
In accordance with some perverse law or other, the weather in the Kulu Valley started fining up the morning (Mon.) we left. Not only could I not take the photos I wanted, but they didn't have decent postcards either. Still, it was a worthwhile trip.
We crossed from Himachal Pradesh (after winding our way down the mountains again) into Punjab and slept the night on the concrete roof of a wayside building, much to the amusement of passing truck drivers. Punjab is the state of Sikhs (about 85% of the population), wheat (supplies a large proportion of India) and vultures. These latter were perched thickly in trees and clustered around carrion flesh. The Good Lord certainly gave them an appropriate aspect - they are as ugly as sin, just like the pictures.
We were supposed to meet the bus at Amritsar on the Pakistan border, sleep at the border and cross first thing on Wednesday. We finished up waiting for the bus again and spent two nights on the floor of the unfinished house of the brother-in-law of a Sikh friend of our Swedish driver, all found. Hospitality is part and parcel of the Sikh religion. It is monotheistic and something of a blend of Hinduism and Islam - but you can read up on it if you are interested enough. We visited the Gold Temple, centre of their religious struggles for centuries, and had to cover our heads, bare our feet and wash them by wading through a filthy pool at the entrance. It is permissible, however, to wear new, unused socks!
After about 4-5 hours' struggle on Thursday we finally got across into Pakistan. One couple whose Indian visas had expired were sent back to New Delhi for extensions. They tried to do the same to my Swiss friend but he simply skirted the border check. The truck is no longer travelling with us, so there are nearly 40 of us squashed into one bus, with our luggage, which is often mishandled.
We drove on to Lahore, where we spent Thursday night in the YMCA. Pakistanis aren't as "heavy" or worrying as I expected, though they really get some people's goat. Some of the fellows on the bus have had to be forcibly restrained from laying into them. They'd only start a riot and get their heads kicked in.
Pakistani Punjab began looking just as hot, dusty and flat as Indian Punjab. Then we climbed through barren moonscapes with low scrub to hot, dusty but more hilly country and chugged into Rawalpindi yesterday afternoon. We were supposed to go on to Peshawar last night and cross into Afghanistan today if visas were available. However, the bus had problems with its water-pump and we reluctantly turned back here last night. It is now fixed, I believe, and if we can get visas in Islamabad this morning (only a couple of miles away), we will negotiate the Khyber Pass today.
It would be too much to hope that the Australian High Commission would be open today, being Saturday and Easter and all. I don't know if you sent mail here but I may have a chance to leave them a note with a forwarding address.
I have just discovered the hoe belonging to my Balinese peasant - smashed in the pocket of my pack. I wasn't smart enough to post it home with the rest. I hope those parcels arrive from Bali before long.
Nothing is constant but change itself. I keep changing my ideas. My latest notion is that I won't have time to visit Egypt this time around and I may go to Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and then catch a boat or something to Italy or France. Eastern Europe, Greece and Turkey will have to be for another trip too. And maybe I'll go just to Israel some day and work on a kibbutz for a month or two (politics permitting).
I suggest you write to the Australian Embassy in Beirut. In the unlikely event that I don't get there, I'll have them forward my mail to Australia House, London.