In Bahawalpur the stomach doesn’t feel well again so we take our time to get it right. We don’t have our guards at the hotel and we are happy that we can walk around freely.
I’m afraid I lost too much water and I start taking ORS. Doing this and drinking a lot of water I feel better again. We want to go to a wild park. When we are ready to leave, the hotel manager tells us to wait for the police. We tell him that that’s not necessary and that we are going to cycle without any escorts. After 20 kilometers there are 4 policemen on bikes who pass us.
They stop and we are afraid that this is the beginning of another escort. But the only thing they want to know is if everything is all right. When we answer with a ‘yes’, they continue and leave us behind with smiles on their faces. From now on we cycle with the two of us on beautiful small roads. The fields are green and the farmers are busy. People wave to us when we cycle trough their villages. There are a lot of animals and the biggest ones are the camels pulling cars full of bricks.
We stop to drink something and before we know it we are surrounded by many people. They are standing in a circle so everyone can see what’s happening. Their hospitality is enormous and in many cases they won’t let us pay. Many times we have a tea with some men and we are being treated as real guests. Our plan is to camp in the National Park of Lal Suhanra. But the park owner tells us it’s getting very cold during the nights and he offers us his office to spend the night. We have a warm welcome here as well and we spend the afternoon walking around the park. The rout we cycle gets more beautiful with the day. The roads we cycle on are very small and bumpy. When we arrive in the village Arifwala the only hotel in the place doesn’t have a room for us. The man who took us to this place leaves very fast and returns in a while to take us to Mister Ali. Mister Ali is the head of a foundation which wants to improve the situation of woman. Thanks to the foundation girls in the surrounding area can go to schools and water wells are provided. The rights of women in Pakistan are almost none. The men are the bosses and women and girls have their food when the men and their sons are finished. At the schools the girls do get a meal every day. Mister Ali invites us to stay with his family. After some talking he invites us to join him the next day to visit some of his projects.
We spend two days with Mister Ali and his family. We are spoilt with a lot of delicious food, we talk a lot about the projects and we visit family and friends. Mister Ali takes us to a small village where the project started a school for girls and where they provided a water well. First we have a meeting with the men of the village. After that we visit the school in a small building where the children have their classes outside the building. I think we are one of the first foreigners they see in their lives, the girls are very shy and impressed. In the afternoon we go with Mister Ali to visit a friend. He is the owner of the most modern chicken farm in Pakistan. He’s very proud and gives us a tour. Too many chickens in too little space which we don’t like at all and are happy at the time we can breathe some fresh air again. When we ask about the bird flu the man laughs and says it won’t come to Pakistan. Lous and I think a little different about that!
Mister Ali has another surprise for us and takes us to a traditional wedding. Marlous her hand is decorated with henna by the daughter of Mister Ali. Female and male are separated at this party. Marlous goes with the women and I spend the evening with the men. The differences between men and women are obvious. Almost all of the men speak English and I don’t have any problems to find myself good company. At the side of Marlous it’s another story, because there are only a few women who speak some English words. The party at the side of the men contains a lot of talking, sitting and eating. But after a while they ask me for a real Pakistani dance and this brings the party a little alive. I don’t think I want to get married like this.
We say good bye to the family and in a few days we arrive at a national park just before Lahore. Here we find a hotel like in a fairy tale. The rest house of the Changa Manga National Park is a fantastic big land house from the colonial time. The Englishmen have built a great building and we have a beautiful room here. We have our own balcony with a view on the scenic garden and we are treated like royals with room service and really nice food. This is a wonderful welcome after a day with a lot of rain, too many schoolchildren who surrounded us and crazy traffic. After Changa Manga, Lahore will come fast. The road is really dirty from the rainfall of last day. We and our bikes are full of mud. We clean our bike at the first carwash we see in Lahore. The guys enjoy it and our bikes and bags look like new for a while. We spend 3 days in Lahore and enjoy a luxurious hotel, the Pizzahut and the MacDonalds. Lahore is a nice city with a beautiful old centre and a fort. The ‘modern’ part is less impressive.
We are ready to enter country number 10 of our trip. The road to the border is a nice one. We leave Lahore by riding along a canal through the green fields. A new adventure will come. After 5 years we will visit India again. Only this time we won’t arrive by plane but on our own bicycles!
Bahawalpur – Lalsuhanra National Park: 39km
Lalsuhanra – Hasilpur: 73km
Hasilpur – Arifwala: 107km
Arifwala – Okara: 90km
Okara – Changa Manga National Park: 70km
Changa Manga – Lahore: 83km
Lahore – Wagha (border): 30km
Total Pakistan: 794km