A Mad Bastard in Pakistan

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Words and photos by Richard Seck
Words and photos by Richard Seck
Words and photos by Richard Seck

INTRO

And then it all went CMG.
And then it all went CMG.

Remember Mr. Seck? Maybe the question ought to be, how can you ever forget Mr. Seck?

Mr. Seck, the photographical genius and originator of the “and then it all went CMG” phrase that depicts the moment when the bars snap out of your hands, the front wheel tucks and for a brief moment you’re flying.

The CMG moment.

Mr. Seck was familiar with that moment, but then, as if to say “I give up trying to die in Canada”, he upped the ante and moved to Pakistan. As one does.

To be honest I was thinking that that would be the last of Mr. Seck, but if a punctured lung in the middle of desert, or a superman lunge off a maxi scooter down Toronto’s rush hour Spadina Avenue didn’t get him, why would Pakistan?

Unable to kill him, Pakistan ultimately spat him out, but you can read all about that right here. This article also acts as a reintroduction to the exploits of a little older — and purportedly a little wiser — Mr. Seck onto the digital pages of CMG. It’s good to have him back …


Email to a friend: Autumn, 2009

Subject: Updates from Multan (Pakistan)

1. The quantity of white hair in my beard has now superseded the dark tones. The latest changes seem to be coming in a calligraphic pattern. Can’t read what it’s saying but will keep you posted.

2. Bought my first pair of reading glasses two days ago.

3. Most mornings I wake up with the feeling that I am fighting a losing battle, but I keep going anyway…

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Yep, my grand Pakistan adventure had taken a decided downturn. After a highly successful year teaching at the local art college in Multan, things were starting to unravel.

My requisitions for essential equipment and repairs were seemingly falling on deaf ears, and the school administration, despite our successes, were beginning to question my curriculum. To top it all off, the father of the extraordinary Multani woman that I had fallen deeply in love with had offered so much resistance to our idea of getting married that it simply seemed impossible that Fatima and I would ever be together.

So what to do?

Well, every motorcyclist knows the answer to that one: ROAD TRIP!

I had recently acquired the Hayabusa of Pakistan, the Suzuki GS150, and we had yet to leave the confines of the city. A little searching on the web revealed the “vacation capital of the Southern Punjab”, Fort Munro.

That works for me...
That works for me…

Scanning Google Earth, the road leading to this – my would-be oasis, arose from the Indus Valley Plains almost 6500 ft. above sea level to the coolness of a pocket in the Sulaiman Mountain Range. It did so in a squiggly sort of pattern that instantly convinced me that doing this trip and enjoying a few days at this former British hill station would be the elixir that would invigorate me to continue to take on the challenges ahead.

Holidays presented my opportunity and on Eid day at 4am I was heading for the hills and trying to beat the scorching heat of the day. It was a good start and I managed a respectable clip en route to Dera Ghazi Khan (that would be about 80-90kph on the GS).

The Pakistani 'busa.
The Pakistani ‘busa.

Of course, when in Pakistan, one must realize that chaos follows you everywhere. Being Eid, communal prayers were the order of the day, and when everyone is supposed to be praying and space is limited, whole towns just set the prayer mats out in the middle of the road…

Surprisingly, I made reasonable time and I had a laugh as I woke a sleeping guard with a start as I roared by one of the many checkpoints along the highway. There was never any request to stop as the barriers were all up, allowing traffic to flow through freely.

Things started to get somewhat lively when I hit the major squiggles on the map as the road started its upward trend towards Fort Munro. Hugging the side of the mountain, the so-called highway was broken in many places and at times simply turned into gravel. I had to be continually alert, as one wrong move could see me careening off the side of a cliff.

Despite the road issues, the trip was working; I could feel the smile return to my face as I wound my way up the mountainside. What fun! And all on a bike that cost me $1000, brand new.

Yep, it's working!
Yep, it’s working!

After making the final turn off the highway, I was rewarded with an amazing final run up the hill to Fort Munro. It was like a racetrack circuit and for once the pavement was in decent shape.

An evening in Fort Munro

Exhilarated, and getting hungry I cruised though town searching for suitable lunch location. Fort Munro seemed a bit dead for a “vacation capital” but no worries, the cool mountain breeze was blowing and I had the place to myself.

I found what looked like a good lunch location and within minutes, it seemed like all the men of the town had converged on the restaurant (see title image). It was as if I had arrived from another planet and everyone was keen to know my story. I was starting to wonder exactly what century Fort Munro had last been an actual vacation capital.

"Ahmed, you wont believe it, but there is a ferengi tourist in town"...
“Ahmed, you wont believe it, but there is a ferengi tourist in town”…

It was all good-natured though but after about an hour of endless questions I excused myself to find a hotel so that I could take an afternoon nap.

I was awoken by the cool breeze through the jalli, mixed with the softer rays of the late afternoon sun. Despite being on the road for about five or six hours I decided that I needed to do some more exploring of the entertaining roads in the area before it got dark.

I was back in my element again and this time with no baggage to worry about. If the government ever got around to fixing these roads properly this place could be marketed as Pakistan’s Tail of the Dragon.

With the sun starting to dip low on the horizon I wound my way back to the hotel and discovered a group of students had arrived and were in a festive mood. Around a campfire, in the courtyard of the hotel they served me a lovely dinner and we swapped university horror stories. All good fun really and I felt myself finally starting to truly relax.

Around this time a note arrived from another hotelier down the road who had heard of my arrival and I was inviting me over for tea. This Invite proved to be another pleasant surprise as my host was a former English literature major who had studied abroad.

But Pakistan is a country of surprises, both good and bad, and our entertaining conversation on the roof of the hotel was soon interrupted by one of the hotel staff who nervously told us that the police were downstairs and they were there for me…

And then it all went CMG (err Pakistan) …

Circuit De Fort Munro
Circuit De Fort Munro

An agitated, slightly shaggy officer with a long beard duly informed me that, “for my safety”, I would have to pack my bags and leave immediately. That’s right, in the pitch black of night I was being told to get on my bike and ride back to Multan on roads that can be treacherous in broad daylight, “for my safety”…

My response: “No fucking way!”

As you can imagine, this didn’t go over well and a shouting match ensued. Apparently all those checkpoints along the way to Fort Munro were for stopping and turning away foreigners. I wasn’t even supposed to make it past Dera Ghazi Khan! As a result, this guy, and members of the failed security system were in deep shit.

My host did his best to try to diffuse the situation but there was nothing to be done.

Sadly, too late for Mr. Seck.
Sadly, too late for Mr. Seck.

This was truly messed up and the only thing I could think of on the way to collect my bike was how I was going to let my sweet Fatima know what was going on, and try not worry her in the process.

The psychotic cop was doing his best to rush me out of town and I knew he was not going to allow me the courtesy of a call, so before we left I said I had to go to the washroom …

“Hi sweetie, just wanted to let you know that all is well but I’m going to have to come back to Multan tonight” – BANG! BANG! BANG!

Good God, the idiot is trying to break the door down. Foolishly I opened it. He was horrified to see a phone in my hand and proceeded to try and wrestle it from me while shouting at the top of his lungs “NO PHONE CALLS!” It was like a scene out of a British farce, only Fatima was still on the line, horrified…

I managed to hang onto the phone, hang it up, and shove it back in my pocket. I was now livid, and anxious about what Fatima must be thinking is going on. There was nothing I could do but hop on the bike and head off into the blackness with a less-than-adequate GS headlamp struggling to light the way.

At the edge of town, pyschocop stopped to pick up his colleague who would ride, literally – shotgun, with a sawed off item placed on his lap. Still fuming, I noted that the police bike was only a Honda CD70 now two-up, while I was riding the Pakistani ‘busa. They gestured for me to lead the way.

Here was my opportunity. I had been riding these roads all day, pushing the GS as hard as it could go, and I knew I could put enough distance between these guys and myself to allow for a phone call.

I dumped the clutch and tore off into the inkiness of the night, leaving their dim CD70 headlight fading behind me. I was running on pure adrenalin for at least fifteen to twenty minutes on the most ragged of edges, at speeds seemingly faster than I was managing during the day.

One of the more friendly escort teams. They even let me take a photo.
One of the more friendly escort teams. They even let me take a photo.

When I knew the gap was more than big enough to buy me at least five minutes of phone time I skidded to a stop on the side of the road, tore off my helmet, whipped out the phone and hit the speed dial.

No signal. Fuck…

Minutes later the two stooges arrived and they were pissed, shouting in Urdu and gesturing for me to now follow them.

If it wasn’t for my previous jaunts in Mad Bastard Rallies, this would have been the longest day of riding in my life, as I was unceremoniously handed off to different batches of police and army escorts in various districts all the way back to Multan.

These guys were serious about making sure that I was dumped right back where I started and I rolled back onto the campus almost exactly twenty four hours after I left. So much for a relaxing road trip.

EPILOGUE

I still get choked up looking at this.
I still get choked up looking at this.

Surely, if I could have read the cryptic note that was growing in my beard in those days, it would have said, “give it up”. I didn’t, of course, and fought to make more positive changes at the art school until I was finally sent packing.

I did not leave without redemption however as, when my contract was not renewed at the college, the entire student body of the art college launched the longest running strike in the history of the university in an effort to bring me back.

It failed, of course, but it is a gesture I will never forget.

There is a happy ending to this tail of woe however and that is, by many miracles, I am now happily married to Fatima and we are both living back in Canada.

The adventure continues, only now it’s two-up and you’ll be able to read all about it on CMG …


GALLERY

Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.

22 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks For Visiting My Area Fort Munro is A Only Hill Station Of 65% Of Punjab Province. Due To Govt’s Lack Of Interest Roads Are in Bad Condition. Do not Visit Next Time Without Security.

    • Hey Johnnie, Apologies for the lag in responding. Hope to see you and the gang in the not-too-distant future!
      Cheers, Richard

  2. It seems to me that Mr. Seck is a lucky man (if somewhat naive), and probably owes those police “stooges” an apology. I suspect the real reason that they were so insistent on his returning to Multan “for his safety” was exactly that – to protect him. As a rich, white, christian foreigner, he was a tempting target for kidnapping by the Taliban or one of the other dozen or so militant groups active in Pakistan. One of those “friendly” men who came to see him in Fort Munro was probably on the phone within ten minutes, trying to cash in on a bounty that would be worth a year’s pay to him.Those police and soldiers were risking their lives, and getting nothing but insults and attitude for it.

    • Hi Jeff, thanks for your analysis but the reality is that if the police were doing their job properly in the first place, I never would have made it to Fort Munro. Secondly, to ask me ride down those roads at night and not even offer me the courtesy to call my beloved; in my books, this makes the term “stooges” pretty much a euphemism… 🙂

      • Keystone Kops seems fitting too.
        Good to have you back (and healthy), fellow follically challenged photographer.
        I met your lovely wife at the CMG booth at the January show, but you were off taking a leak or something.
        Looking forward to meeting up with you again at some point, and seeing more of your photos. Inshallah.

        • Hey Stagman, glad to hear that you are still kicking as well. Rob is here in June so we should try to get a pub night going. More on that soon!

    • If this is CMG Jim, I’m glad to hear that you have now merged back into one piece again as well. Hope to see you soon!

  3. Having spent over 20 years living abroad, I sympathize with the sometimes scarcely fathomable experiences we can have with government/authorities. Yet, seeing your wife’s name, Fatima, meshed beautifully with your tale of adventure and discovery. It instantly reminded me of The Alchemist. Your adventure, despite the maturing of your beard (mine, too, mate), is not yet over.

  4. One of the best articles I’ve ever read on any bike centric magazine or website! Now this is a true bike adventure story. Thank you for sharing this very gripping story!

    • Well, we have a Harley on test and long weekend coming up. How about Sunday?

      Are you sorry you asked?… 🙂

      • Richard, if you are coming out this way why not come and visit us in Prince Edward County too … are you sorry I asked?

        • Hey LP, I haven’t heard from Mr. Tate as yet, but it now looks like we’ll be out on Monday. Email me at richardatcanadamotoguide.com and we can make a plan!
          Cheers, Richard

  5. Greetings all, and thanks for the comments! BTW LP, in my head I feel I’m perfectly normal and just seem stumble into unusual circumstances while pursuing things that seem exciting and attractive to me. Comparatively speaking though the net result of these pursuits leaves me looking a bit mad. ☺

  6. I’m depressed. For some reason I had it in my mind that I might be a bit of a Mad Bastard (OK, I’m prone to moments of delusion) … but fuck … you take the prize Richard. Maybe it is with some relief that I can celebrate my sanity, which when juxtaposed with yours, looks mighty and unassailable … although I’m not sure that’s a good thing. I stand here humbled by your madness and your willingness to risk everything for … love?

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