We caught the 'Niazi Express, flying coach service', from Lahore to Peshawar, traveling overnight (300 PRS). The bus was well comfy with tons of legroom, a movie played for a while then we got some sleep. The motorway between Lahore to Peshawar was first class all the way, with none of the off road detours or insanely bumpy sections we remembered from other journeys in the sub continent.
We checked into the Rose hotel on Shoba Chowk, and had a couple of hours kip in our own ensuite room with TV.
We tried to get a rickshaw to a rooftop restaurant we had been recommended, near the fort. We didn't know the name and our description was vague. We ended up at some random hotel miles away from the fort. Too hungry to say otherwise we paid up and eat there. Afterwards we got another rickshaw to Chowk Yadgar in Peshawar's Old city. The Bazaar is timeless, we wandered around the tight pedestrian streets, through the Jewellery quarter. A guy showed us to a rooftop which gave great views over the Mahabat Mosque before inviting us to join him for Kawa, the green tea which is ever popular in North West Frontier Province (as well as Kashmir ...). Kawa is usually brewed with green cardamon and sometimes other spices. Served with sugar and without milk. This was in his fathers shop and of course we got the soft then harder sell. We left before the second pot of tea and fresh batch of jewellery and explored the streets once more.
We bumped into many more friendly people. We walked and talked with one guy for a while "Don't mind me, do you? I just want to talk", "No, of course not" we replied enjoying his company but our cynical self's wondering if there was a sales pitch to come. He guided us to a Hindu temple, the last place we expected in this conservatively Muslim city. A young Hindu lad proudly showed us around explaining there was a small Hindu community in Peshawar that remained after partition and lived happily alongside their Muslim brothers.
His other surprise was a 1900's 'Merry Weather (London)' fire engine that was locked up in a dusty garage near a park and a Museum in construction. The caretaker excitedly opened it up for us, a crowd quickly gathered and watched as we were encouraged to climb aboard and have our photos taken. We gave the friendly caretaker a tip for the pleasure.
I had some spots on my legs since India, but now I had other marks on my arms which didn't look good. I decided I should try and get them looked at and was told to see the doctors at 'Accident & Emergency' in the hospital. We had been here last year when Karen had Diarrhea. I got a ticket from reception then waited no more than five minutes to see a doctor. The doctor informed me I had 'Scabies', which sounded worse than it was, envoking ideas in me of Victorian era plagues. "No problem" he said, as he scribbled a note for me to take to the chemists. "Come back to me, once you've got the medicine".
The chemists was just round the corner and the medicine was very cheap. It was amazing really. I couldn't help thinking of Michael Moore's film "Sicko' about health care in USA, 'the world's only super power'. In Pakistan I could see a doctor for free, there was not even a prescription charge and the medicines were also cheap. I went back with the medicines to the doctor in the open consultation room. "Sit down, Chai?", "OK". The doctor called out for tea and we sat on some chairs at the back of the open room as the many patients passed through. Occasionally the doctor would turn around and tell us what had happened. "She was shot by her husband in a dispute".... in another case later, a guy had cut himself badly on his arms after a big argument with his mother. "There's a lot of feudalism here, things can get out of hand, OK show me your cream".
He was a very nice man, wanting to chat more he asked where we were staying, "OK if I pop round after work", "Of course not".
We celebrated Karen's birthday back at the Hotel with a big box of chocolate hearts and a fresh tube of Scabies cream. Romance is not dead. We chilled out at the hotel, enjoying room service and watched one of the DVD's we had picked up in Lahore, an hilarious Australian Comedy "Razzle Dazzle". Then there was a knock at the door, it was the doctor.
From Peshawar we got a bus north to Timargarha where we sat chatting to the security guys at the bus stop before getting on another bus to Dir. We stopped a night at Dir Hotel, which had a lovely garden with a red-eyed crane bird roaming around. We met three lads from Chitral who were here training for a cricket tournament in Peshawar. They wore England, New Zealand and Australia cricket tops. The next day we got on a mini-bus to Chitral crossing the Lowari Pass (3118m) and stopping the other side for lunch. The trucks in NWF Province are especially decorative with intricately carved wooden doors, colourful paintwork and hanging charms.
We stayed a night at Chinnar Inn, which also had a nice garden. We had a walk around and caught the end of a Polo game. Afterwards the pitch was full of people playing a hundred separate games of football as the sunset over the mountains of the Hindukush. The next morning I went to the barbers for a haircut and shave, my beard had grown quite bushy. The barber didn't seem too happy to chop it off at first, NWF province is a state of serious beards! I managed to convince him I wanted the entire beard shaved off, my moustache included! Once convinced he gave me a good cut and shave, all for 50 RS.
We registered ourselves at the office of the superintendent of police. Chitral is a sensitive region near the Afghan border and all tourists visiting Chitral district are expected to register. A chart on the wall showed that 148 British had visited last year (the highest figure from any nation) and less than 500 foreigners in total.