Back in Chitral. May 1992.

“I did leave. Too much hassle to stay and I am definitely coming back!!

(Had to stop..’Shapik’ or ‘Kanna’ is being served. (Pilau rice, chicken pieces and cucumber…yummy!)”

“Now I am at last? sitting in Chitral airport, the approach pass is clear and the plane is expected.

My departure from Bumbaret to here has been so fraught and emotional I hardly know where to begin.

The farewell to Shringiree and family, also the Kalash Hotel ‘brigade’, was pretty rough on the tear glands.

Walked down the track with Mommat Khan, I gave him my chunky jumper. Bleary eyed I trudged on alone. I had forgotten my flute and Shringiree had chased me down the track, old bones aching…and we said “Goodbye”….for now.

The walk from Krakal to Iun was beautiful, narrowly avoided landfalls and made me feel alive and braver than I had ever been.

The police check post, cordial and filling!.

Landslides everywhere! (I met two friends from the Kyber hotel , in the middle of no-where, on that track! Going up the way…)

In Iun I was given tea and a jeep was found.

“Naye Engliss”

I was hot and would rather have sat in the back, but ,in front, female ‘place of honour’ I was placed, steaming and sweaty, between two great, hulking, Muslim men! But turned out to be quite a fun journey just the same.

In Chitral, I stopped in at the Garden Hotel for tea and then went to No.1 of the ‘3 amigo’s’ house.

The house is on the hillside with numerous footpaths and alternative routes of approach. The concrete and plaster alleyways show little of the beautiful courtyards and families. The wooden doors are kept closed except for tempting glimpses of “indoors” as small children dash back and forth between doors. the children rule these alleyways and fields…catapults and other children’s games.

Exhausted (well not very!) from the climb up there, you push open the heavy, wooden, double door and there is a very pretty scene.

White and green painted walls, surrounding a small, square garden, decorations hanging everywhere and the head cover observing, wife of my friend, cooking open air, or embroidering, or sewing, or washing.

They have beautiful children….very good children. (The two boys suitably naughty so as not to be sickly!!).

They all treated me like a goddess…so much hospitality.

The next day….it rained.

My God did it RAIN! All day…very heavily and it all got to me a bit.

No flight today.

I don’t really want to go back to Scotland.

I’d really love to see my brother and my Dad.

I do not really know what I am doing still.

And I am under business pressure, that I am not interested in, from my friends here…

Airport 6am the next day.

No flight.

No.1. amigo took me to bazaar. A jeep, by road, through Afghanistan and back In to Pakistan could get me to that flight on time…illegal, but apparently, totally possible.

My last chance to catch that Karachi plane home was fast disappearing…

“O.K.”

My friend and I, plus eight other passengers. We were on route to Peshawar. YIPEE!

But again I was damned.

The sun was shining as we set off.

We stopped in Drush for tea.

I bought, under hushed instruction, a burkah for 160rps. A woman’s tent. I was to keep totally quiet…it was right for me to say absolutely nothing…posing as his family, and a woman.

First checkpost. No problem.

Then the second.

Terrifying and unfathomable chaos.

Some..some bastard had phoned the police. They knew the colour and the number plate of the jeep, my nationality and my friend’s name.

No-one spoke English, except my mate and it appeared he was also in trouble.

Dozens of Afghani police, imposing and frightening, threating words spat through the bars, the local children singing and throwing stones through the other tiny, window, at ceiling height.

No telephone line to District Commissioner. 10 uniformed men on one wind up telephone, watched, by me, through the bars…and it was deadly serious.

There was no-one with authority. My friend was in another cell.

I was so alone.

I began to cry hysterically, I could not guage the situation at all…because there was no-one to explain to me…

Was I going to jail?

What was happening to my friend?

I was a criminal. The whole village staring, no time or space to really cry or calm down.

“Who make you wear burkah?”

“Why did you try and deceive us?”

Impossible. Too upset to think straight or communicate.

They kept him and sent the other passengers on to Peshawar.

They sent me BACK to Chitral.

Back to the place I had been trying to leave for the last 6 days..in order, only to catch this non-transferable flight in the other direction!

They said ‘jeep’ it was just a local taxi.

I was still raw and crying. Everyone was looking. “No English.”

The driver was told to take me back to Chitral.

I was exhausted and upset. Eventually  I just started to sing…very loud, old Scottish folk songs that I knew, they made me feel braver, my surly fellow passengers probably just thought I was crazy…unsurprisingly!

We got to Drosh. The taxi driver said he would not drive me to Chitral. Rupees for a journey I did not even want to make…uh-uh. No way.

I found a bus to Chitral.

A special police bus.

Everyone chorused..

“Madame, why are you so disturbed?”

I told them.

“What is your country? Are you married? Brothers? Sisters?…..”

Suffocating curiosity at a time I really didn’t need.

We arrive at Chitral.

In my head…..

“He told me to tell the D.C. that I didn’t know him. Crazy. I lived here with him in this house for 3 days..everybody knew I knew him!

Was he o.k.? Had he been arrested?

Is it my fault?

How on earth am I going to get to Peshawar?”

It was raining when I screamed in the police station.

They said “No problem” to everything.

P.I.A, office, again.

Closed.

It was so terrible.

I could not go to his family immediately, I knew I had to go and take the news… but I couldn’t go immediately as I was still so upset about the ‘not knowing his situation’ plus my own growing fears… I knew that , as she spoke “no English”, she would interpret my distress as more than it actually, definitely was, I needed to calm down.

I went to see them today….and it was o.k., but I do not feel right staying there…under the circumstances….

She called her brother who spoke a smattering of English, he calmed her down, we went to the offices and he established that they had let my friend go on to Peshawar…he was o.k… everything relaxed.

No flight at the airport….now I think I will definitely miss that Karachi flight home.

P.I.A. office. try to phone Karachi.

Nur Muhammed….after 3 hours, established that he was not there and I must phone again tomorrow.

Telegram/Fax not possible. No electricity.

Wrote letter to the bank, pleading with them to hold the money for longer…

Eventually got ticket re-confirmed with P.I.A. for tomorrow…long, boring story.

Now I am very tired and “karup.”

And it is still raining…””

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