18th July 2000
The topic of the day was the earthquake, and how we had survived it. Hamid, Amjad and Susan sat underneath the shade of the old chinnar tree in the front lawn at breakfast and discussed the events of the night before, the rumbling noise and the tremors that had followed. The discussions were also geared at evaluating the damage that might have occurred to the network of roads in the mountains.
By the time we were ready to leave it was past twelve in the afternoon. The temperature in the shade was 36 degrees, it was hot, bright and sunny. Our first stop was Gakuch, we reached the town by 2’Oclock in the afternoon and drove straight to the police rest house. Hamid was again lagging behind and we had to stop for him to catch up before we could move on. Tea was served at the rest house and everyone used the bathroom facility to freshen up.
After rest and tea, we were refreshed and eager to get to Gilgit by evening. We left Gakuch at three in the afternoon and drove to Singal to the Aga Khan Hospital premises. The drive from Gakuch to Singal is very picturesque as the road travels though some very exquisite mountain terrain. I had promised the doctors that I would stop there and spend some time with them. We arrived at the hospital to find them waiting for us, they insisted on us having tea with them. The hospital is a lovely building set in the green orchards of Singal. It is a purpose built facility with operating theatres and wards and caters for the locals that come from near and far. We spent an hour with them there before moving on. The rest of the troupe had already left, and I needed to speed up to catch up with them.
I spotted Hamid up ahead parked in the middle of the road. He had apparently been involved in an accident. A motorbike had driven into the right rear of the Bronco. The rider had lost control of the bike as he tried to negotiate a speed breaker. He had jumped off in time and was not injured but was giving Hamid a tough time. As soon as the locals saw me drive up from behind and heard Taimur respond on the radio to Hamid’s frantic call the whole scenario changed. Suddenly all was hurriedly settled. The locals had never heard walky talkies before, they had probably imagined a whole army about to descend on them and were very eager for Hamid to forget the damage to the bike and leave. Well! the rear tail light of Hamid’s Bronco would need gluing, luckily there was no major damage. The rest of the drive was uneventful and we reached Gilgit in the evening at seven. After freshening up we drove to the town centre for dinner. Tomorrow we would head back towards Besham.