It was early May 2015 when I decided with a few friends to take a trip to Naran,Kaghan and Shogran. I remember being in a hurry to visit as many places as I could so I would have content to write. Also, while I was at it, I thought to add some more adventure to whole journey by going to all the way from Karachi to Rawalpindi by train.
Now I hadn’t travelled by train in Pakistan since over a decade. The last time was in 2002 during a random family trip in winter. We had taken a normal second-class carriage with no air conditioning and open windows. Winter made the weather bearable, but I remember sitting by the window and watching the rickety train tracks outside, sometimes which were crossing over feeble bridges over rapid flowing rivers.
It was quite an experience since I kept expecting the whole train to just fall over the bridge or get derailed at any moment. I was more than thankful to reach Lahore and on the way back I stayed away from the window altogether
Now almost 13 (lucky number) years later here I was standing again at Karachi Cantt; Station waiting to board Khyber Mail.
An advantage of Khyber Mail is that it takes you to Rawalpindi without having to change trains. ( It starts from Karachi and ends in Peshawar) a major disadvantage is that it stops at about every station possible along the way, making what would be normally a 20-22 hour journey extend all the way to 29 hours.
People told me I was insane to attempt something like this especially when upgrading to a plane ticket (which would be about a 90 minute flight) would just cost about Rs.4000-5000 ( $40-$50)
I didn’t pay heed to any of that, I was super excited to take this “challenge” up again . I arrived an hour before the train was due to leave with my backpack and I kept eagerly looking toward the train platforms wondering how our train would be.
Took a few minutes to look around Clifton Cantt station as well;the buildings are old, as are many of the trains, the whole atmosphere made me feel strangely nostalgic ( it was probably the effect of too many Indian movies which have scenes at train platforms)
Soon we met with our tour group, were seated in a cabin with 4 other people who were also going on the tour and off we went.
The first thing I leant is that as soon as the conductor has checked your tickets, CLOSE the cabin door and LOCK it. ( people have a tendencyto open it out of curiosity just to see who is sitting inside) It is at times funny and at times a bit offensive :PAbout 3 hours after the train had started, the introductions over, and everyone pretty much starting to become comfortable with each other is when the conversations start dwindling down and I started to wonder- now what?
There was only so much one could talk about, pretty soon we were busy on our phones ( thank God for a charging socket) or books talking or eating in between.
After the 5th hour, I started to get a bit edgy, not only cause my legs kept falling sleep cause of sitting in the same position for so long and I wanted to walk around a bit, but also cause I now faced a daunting task: I had to use the bathroom.A public one.In Pakistan.On a moving train.
That is it for now- watch out for part 2 coming soon!