I won’t even start on Irish Rail. It’s over priced, poorly organised. Seat booking is a mess and the food is ready to go in the bin. I write this while several thousand feet in the sky on my way back to Dublin from Romania. The flight total cost me €100 all in. A train to visit my Aunt Violet in Co. Cork in the south of Ireland is about the same price and takes almost the same amount of time. Last time, I was left standing for the first half of the journey as they had overbooked it. IT’S 2018 people!
Before kicking off, have a look at this short video of what daily life is like in Pakistan. It’s not a great video and was made when my editing skills were zero, but it gives you a rough idea for the feel of a place. It also makes up for the lack of photos of the trains but you’ll see plenty of that towards the end of the clip. Skip to 2:00m if you’re feeling rather impatient!
Rummaging in my rucksack, I found an old memory card I previously thought was defunct. With some clever software, I've pulled the video content and smashed it all into 3 minutes of video. There is a lot still missing but this will give you insight to what I got up to for two weeks in Pakistan. Target practice with WWII weapons, 33 hour trains making life ling friends, trekking across glaciers and sleeping in shepard's huts. Truly a life changing place to visit. If you are ever planning a visit, get in touch with us!
Posted by Ready For Road – Travel Blog on Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Anyway, I’m not here to shit all over Ireland’s rail provider, I’m here to tell you how in countries where they have notably less, they make it a far superior experience all round. I’m not ever talking about the company that runs it either. Sure they don’t have USB ports to charge your gadget or a place to plug in your laptop. Hell the toilet is just a hole to the tracks below and it has a tendency to crawl along but the stories you will make on the way are totally worth it. Once you’re not in a rush but I guess if you are in Pakistan and reading this right now, you’ll probably know that nothing is fast paced anyway.
For a start, the food is a full on dinner and comes out of nowhere all the time. Nearly every station has a guy selling ready made dinners served in an origami cereal box/makeshift lunchbox. A full Biriyani or Chicken Karahi is not impossible. Every time I went to buy food, the guys in our compartment had already paid or were offering to do a food run. True Pakistani hospitality on show pretty much all the time.
That’s an important point, the trains do take forever. There is no entertainment on board and most of them have old school phones so there’s no Facebook to mind numbingly scroll through. Our train from Rawalpindi to Karachi took us a little over 30 hours to complete. Honestly, the time flew. The main reason for this is that everyone passes the time by talking. People change booths, walk around meeting new people and swapping numbers. I’m not joking. It’s mental. Now, we are obviously white foreigners so when people strolled by and did the usual turn of the head in, they were fascinated by the fact we were there in the first place. They were literally queuing up to talk with us and the usual questions followed:
*What do you think of the people of Pakistan?
*Do you think Muslims are good people?
*Are you a muslim?
*What country are you? Do you have many muslims there?
*Are you married?
*How many children you have?
The curiosity they hold is incredible. We got bombarded so much so that we took it in turns to rest up and get some sleep as if we both slept, a small prod would lead to my eyes opening and a new gentleman sitting in our compartment, arms wrapped around the current occupants sitting in front of me ready to start the conversation routine all over again.
It’s impossible to spend that long in a train compartment with people and not get to know them when you have to talk with them in this way. After my journey, I had about 12 new Pakistani friends on Facebook, 3 offers for me to get off the train and stay in their house with their family, 2 meals paid for me and to really put the cherry on top, one man delivered 2 large stalks of sugar cane.
I say delivered because that’s exactly what he did. Sitting beside us but not saying all too much, the train began to slow. As it stopped near a station that was nothing more than a long slab of concrete, he dived out the door, scuttled under the window and away from the train bouldering into a field at lightening speeds. Kicking and hauling, the man was literally ripping sugar cane out of the ground. Running back to the train, out of breath and eyes bulging, he rams them towards us saying ‘EAT!’. Not to refuse the man, we spent the next hour eating the sticks until my teeth felt sore and our happy friend, clearly delighted with himself for the offering looked on in glee.
Being in close confinement with these people for such a long period of time showed me just how loving they are to one another and to those from outside of Pakistan especially. They are a community based people who respect each other and give each other the time of day. A short conversation is all that is required to feel a trusting friendship building. Faster than anywhere else I’ve been. That, out of anything, was the most important lesson I learnt in my time there and the main reason I’m going back in three months time. So, if you have the change to fly, drive or get a train in Pakistan….get the train….everytime!