The Hippie Trail (episode 3)

Chapter #3 In April 1978 we started our journey from Zurich.

Even in play school with 6 years, when the school mistress sewed up my trouser sacks with string in the morning so that I couldn't put my hands in my trouser pockets, I always said then that I will go to Nepal. The time had finally come.

My girlfriend and me wanted to get married so that she could get her Swiss passport. As a Czechoslovak refugee, she only had a residence permit, which made it impossible to travel outside of Europe.

Our destination of our upcoming trip to the east was the still unknown place where it smells the best. We wanted to find this place and stay there. The inclined reader can imagine what fragrance we were looking for.

With the Interrail ticket for students and the travel book "How do travel to India with 200 dollars" we set off on our journey. In Pula (Istria) we met a couple of hippies who had traveled to India in the late 1960s. One of them joined us on our trip to Istanbul.

We Swiss men of military service age were and are obliged to travel with the military service book and are obliged to register at the Swiss embassy in the respective country of residence. In accordance with my duties, I then did this in Istanbul and then signed off again immediately. I then sent the service book back to Switzerland by post. For the next 1 1/2 years I then traveled unregistered on the Hippie Trail. A first beginning of a new freedom.

Still with the goal of finding the place where it smells the best, we ended up in Peshawar after a month.

After the endless three-day train ride to Lahore, we finally arrived by bus in the evening. From the first moment we were overwhelmed by the open cordiality of the people. We immediately found a room in the old town and were able to escape the dusty, hot, hectic main street of Peshawar.

The narrow streets of the old town were packed with shops and people. The Pashtuns with their typical, woolen, round caps, dominated the street scene. I then visited the bazaar in the evening, meandered through the many alleys, was greeted by almost everyone and experienced a unique hospitality.

I was hung with flower garlands, invited to tea everywhere and finally returned to our room with a tola in my pocket. Amazingly, I knew my way around the jumble of small alleys immediately, never lost my bearings and had the overwhelming feeling of being at home here.

The next day we enjoyed the wonderful mangoes of Pakistan for the first time. The city was already oppressively hot in May, sweat was flowing out of every pore and the vendors with their car battery-operated mixers on the roadside prepared the most delicious mango shakes you can imagine. The ice for the shakes was pulled across the street with hooks on empty potato sacks and dogs licked it again and again.

Nevertheless, when we was asked "With ice?", we answered, hungry for coolness, yes much! Pakistani mangos are the kings of mangoes, this aroma, this scent immerse you in paradise.

In the middle of this unlikely turmoil on the streets we discovered a traffic policeman who was regulating traffic with stoic calm, waving arms and a shrill whistle. When he noticed that we were watching him at work, it encouraged him to make a special effort.

Later on over tea, the above traffic policeman also sat down at a table and recovered from his generous commitment. When he left the shop, he passed our table without a word and unobtrusively placed a wonderful, sticky, shiny black piece of hashish on our table. When we left our seat, the man was already busy again in the middle of the traffic.

The next day we made on the advice of a tuktuk driver a day trip to Darra Adam Khel. This is probably one of the most famous and oldest armories in the tribal areas in the Khyber Pass region. At first glance it is a typical village, but at second glance you notice that 95% of the shops consist of arms shops, some of the other 5% are Haschisch shops.

The arms shops are all crammed with a wide variety of rifles, machine guns of all kinds, pistols and revolvers, ammunition in every size and for every caliber, everything skillfully handcrafted in-house.

The gunsmiths sit on the ground copying every weapon. They drill out the rifle barrels and forge all rifle parts with incredible skill to absolute perfection. Of course you are invited to try out the weapons and for that you have to climb on the flat roof and can try them out with full pride of the weapon smiths.

Our tuktuk driver gave us the crucial advice not to try any weapon that had not yet been tested before. The arms dealers put all our concerns out of the way and proudly fired one or more shots before we got our turn. I was fascinated by a 007 spy pengun. With the small, deceptively similar device, it was possible to fire a single cartridge of considerable caliber.

After that you could put the little spy gun in your jacket pocket like a pen without any problems. Of course I couldn't resist and fired a shot from the pen at the sky. All around you could hear gunshots and cheering.

The attraction was great, the price almost unbeatable, only the certainty that at the end of the road back to Peshawar an army post carefully checked every vehicle and passenger, kept me away from buying it. Anyway, as a military conscientious objector and pacifist, this pretty neat thing would not have looked good on me at all.

Back in Peshawar an unbelievable 40 degrees Celsius or more pushed you right away into a state of motionlessness on the bed. Naked, with a crackling ceiling fan running at full speed, from which you never knew whether it was going to come down in the next moment, and a damp sheet to cover your body could get some cool relief for a quarter of an hour, then moisten the dried out sheet again.

As long as the electricity was available this was an indescribable feeling of well-being. Later in the bazaar we tried our first fiery spicy Buffalo Curry with all these wonderful exotic spices, plenty of onions and potatoes, served on a huge round Naan bread. In addition, a salad of roughly chopped onions, tomatoes and a wonderful salty lassy accompanied this incomparable feast. In the already hot climate of Peshawar, a dish has to be so fiery that it also drives beads of sweat onto your forehead, only then is the cook completely satisfied.

Since then I have also known why water is used in the morning toilet in this part of the world. Such a fantastic curry always burns twice. In general, Peshawar is a paradise for fine dining and invites you to linger, but the valleys in the north of the city do not only attract us westerners, but also many locals who want to escape the scorching heat of the city.

At the bus station, the incredibly beautifully decorated Bedford buses are waiting, which drive to the various mountain regions (Chitral, Hunza, Gilgit) of the Pakistani tribes. The bus owners invest a large part of their wealth in painting and decorating their vehicles. Ticket sellers advertise their buses and we decided to book the bus to Swat. That wasn't that far away and left all options open to us.

As mentioned earlier, of course we drove again with the 3rd class bus. They belong to the best and fastest drivers who are not afraid of overtaking on the road if something is in the way. These drivers also show great skill when crossing with another bus on the often single-lane roads.

Of course you will be asked again and again about your name and origin and the fact that we are Swiss delighted the fellow travelers, because the Swat is considered as a paradise on earth because of its breathtaking beauty and is often compared to Switzerland. We haven't traveled that far to end up in a landscape similar to Switzerland, but we felt flattered nonetheless.

We felt that a wonderful adventure was waiting for us in search of the special scent.

©by Koh Nie

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