To move onwards and upwards from Quetta the German woman and I had to catch a train north to Lahore. This was fine with me as travelling by train through Pakistan and India was one of the tourist experiences I had been dreaming about. My dreams spoke of romance, adventure, arid landscapes and rich culture.
To get the fullest from the experience Helga bought us tickets for the standard passenger fare. We boarded a cramped, over crowded carriage filled with over sized families and their worldly possessions.
I settled into my stiff, wooden seat. I grabbed my notebook and looked out of my window onto the dry, reddening landscape hoping for inspiration. But as the day came to a close, with darkness hiding the outside of this strange land from my view, no inspiration was forthcoming. There was nothing left to do but search for sleep.
At 6 am I awoke. It was light outside and already becoming unbearably hot. We had been warned daytime temperatures in the region at this time of the year could reach 50 degrees Celsius / 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
I had the distinct feeling my dream was going to become a living nightmare. I steeled myself for an incredibly long, excruciating day. Intense heat, Helga complaining, infants screaming, all life sucked from my body; I was in a slow moving furnace from hell. A broken fan whirled occasionally before completing its noisy circle and collapsing in exhaustion. I opened the carriage window but was greeted by an intense, dry heat which warmed the inside of the carriage still further.
We were trapped. Watching the minutes slowly pass. I repeatedly asked myself why I hadn’t bought a more expensive ticket and secured a carriage with a decent cooling device, such as a working fan. Let’s face it. I wasn’t in my current predicament because I wanted to experience the ‘real’ Pakistan. I was there because I was cheap. I was now fading away into oblivion, watching the minutes slowly pass.
The minutes became hours and eventually the worse of the midday heat dissipated. At its height it had exceeded 50 degrees Celsius / 120 degrees Fahrenheit. There was now nothing left to do but wait for the setting sun, darkness and the inevitable slump into sleep.
The train reached Lahore early the next day, approximately 40 hours after departing from Quetta. There was no escaping the reality my dream had turned into a nightmare but at least the worse was now over.
Helga and I checked into a nearby inexpensive but luxurious hotel. Things were improving. That was until, at about lunchtime, I counted the number of times I had used my hotel room toilet that morning and realised I was coming down with the dreaded Delhi Belly.
I hadn’t even been to New Delhi, the city I assume this condition is named after!
I already knew the human body was capable of incredible feats but the Delhi Belly subsequently taught me things about my internal anatomy I did not want to know.
At least now that we had settled in more comfortable surroundings only the occasional scheisse was been uttered by Helga. But with my fading condition it was still insufferably impossible for me to venture far from our hotel to escape her complaining.
The best I thought I could withstand was a 100 metre walk down the road to buy a Coke. Just as I paid for my liquid refreshment I felt the relaxing of my bowels, heard the slight emission of gas and then felt the release of another liquid deposit into my well worn underpants. I turned to make a hurried departure back to my hotel but was then confronted by a young Pakistani fellow.
He harangued me during the excruciatingly long 100 metre waddle back to my hotel. He wanted to know if Helga and I was a couple; if we were romantic or if I had any manly intentions towards her.
Much to his delight I told him we were not a couple nor were we in the slightest bit romantic. He then impeded me from moving onwards with the purpose of extracting all of the information I knew about this German ‘beauty’.
I had to keep pushing forward till I could close the hotel door in his face. I wasn’t trying to be rude but I had other things on my mind and in my pants. With a reassurance I was not offended by his intended interests in Helga I eventually said my good-byes.
Not trying to be religious or anything but sometimes I just wish God would save us all, especially me.