A Diary of my overland journey from England to Australia

By Steven Abrams

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» Preparation
» Departure Day
» Turkey
» Iran
» Afghanistan
» Pakistan
» India 1 - from the Pakistan border to Raxaul
» Nepal
» India 2 - from Raxaul to Calcutta - via Goa
» Burma
» Thailand 1 - from Bangkok to Nongkai
» Laos
» Cambodia
» Thailand 2 - from Aranyaprathet to Had-Yai
» Malaysia
» Singapore
» Sarawak
» Indonesia
» Portuguese (East) Timor
» Australia and beyond

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Round The World Travel Guide


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Thorn Tree
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Pakistan currency:
Official rate:
in 1968, £1 = 11.5 Rupees

Black market rate:
£1 = 20 Rupees

1 rupee = 100 piase

8th November 1968.

When Bluey returned with the passports we all climbed aboard the bus for the short ride to the Pakistan side of the border. Here we all had to go through the passport control individually. British passport holders didn't need a visa to enter Pakistan. In 1968 the Australian passport had "British Passport" printed on its cover, so they also didn't need a visa. It wasn't long after this that this wording was removed from the Australian passport as most Aussies used to find it offensive.

One of the girls was nearly refused entry to Pakistan because she had "editor" down as her occupation. The immigration official presumed that she was a journalist and became awkward. All journalists, regardless of nationality require a visa and she would have to return to Kabul to get one from the Pakistan Embassy. Fortunately she managed to persuade him that editor meant that she was a proof reader in a printers and had nothing to do with journalism.

While we were all being "processed" an American came into the room with a diplomatic passport and went straight to the front of the queue. The immigration officer stopped what he was doing and attended to him immediately. He inspected his passport and pointed out that the Pakistan visa had expired, but stamping the passport and handing it back with a smile he said that he would let him in this time, despite this 'minor' problem.

After about an hour and a half we had all passed through immigration and it was now time to move on to customs. This was to take another hour to clear everybody and the bus through. Louis and I had to fill out a form declaring how much money we were bringing in to the country. We made a joint declaration and it looked very impressive. The customs were not at all interested in cameras or watches but made a note of anything that was made of or looked like gold. One of the girls was amazed when the customs officer ignored a diamond ring set in platinum that was worth a fortune and made a big fuss of writing down a detailed description of a cheap imitation gold ring worth only a few dollars

As we came out of the customs shed we met the Pakistanis who had given us the lift to Kandahar. They were returning to pay the customs duty on their car, which had been impounded by the customs until it was paid. We noticed a compound full of cars of various nationalities and among the impounded cars were the two mini busses we had seen in Turkey that had been driven by the Afghans. We couldn't understand what they were doing there

because they had told us that they were only going as far as Kabul. The Pakistanis still didn't seem too friendly and they were only interested in reclaiming their car, so we left them and got back on the bus to wait for everybody else to finish with customs.

It was nearly 4.30 pm before we eventually set off through the Kyber Pass into Pakistan, back again driving on the left side of the road. There were signs warning us that photography was prohibited and Bluey reinforced the

warning by telling us horror stories of confiscated cameras and arrests from previous trips. As we reached the top of the pass we could all see a fabulous view down behind us, just like we had all imagined it to look like. I decided to risk it and take a quick photo. As I pressed the shutter it sounded like a thunder as 40 other cameras all clicked at exactly the same moment. A few seconds later as we rounded a bend we saw a guard at the side of the road watching us, there wasn't a camera to be seen. Bluey had heard all the cameras and was yelling at us all for taking photographs and putting ourselves at risk of arrest.

An hour after leaving the border we arrived in Peshawar. It was obvious that something was going on because all the streets were lined with flags and decorations. While the bus was driving down one avenue, which was still being decorated, the skylights in the roof caught on the overhead gantries dragging them along. Bluey didn't seem to notice and despite us all shouting to him he carried on for quite a way before stopping. By this time the back half of the bus was festooned with decorations and trailed streamers and two or three hundred Pakistan flags for quite a few yards behind. Two of the gantries and a number of workmen were on top of the bus, the workmen now clinging on for dear life. They had been unfortunate enough to be decorating the gantries as we came sweeping through. Bluey, not being a person to apologise got out of the bus brandishing a large baseball bat, threatening and swearing at the workers as they clambered down from the roof. They quickly took the hint and not stopping to argue, ran off as fast as they could from this maniac foreigner. As a result of this we all had a Pakistan flag to keep and the bus acquired a framed photograph of President Ayub Khan which was proudly mounted above driver as a souvenir. We later found out that the decorations were for a presidential visit the next day.

Bluey took us all to a Dak bungalow. This was a place where everybody spent the night together in one large room, sleeping on the floor. We claimed ourselves a space and spread our sleeping bags out, then headed off with some of the Sundowners to find somewhere to eat. Being in Pakistan it was decided that a curry was definitely on the menu for an evening meal. We had no trouble finding somewhere and enjoyed the first of many curries that we would be eating over the next few months.

After the meal the crowd of us were heading back to the Dak bungalow when we met some Pakistani lads who invited us back for some tea. The girls didn't want to go back with them so we all went to a tea stand instead where we spent about an hour chatting to them before heading back to the Dak bungalow and to bed.

Quite surprisingly I found it confusing to be in a country where the traffic circulated on the left. After having travelled through countries that drove on the right for the last month, I found myself looking the wrong way before crossing the road, apart from feeling strange when travelling in a vehicle on the left side of the road.

The next morning everybody was up very early. We were all packed and ready to load our packs onto the bus shortly after 6 am. Bluey had organised breakfast for us all, but what came was definitely not worth the money we had paid. We all had to pay 5½ rupees each for the Dak bungalow, which considering it was just a floor space was also expensive. I rather suspect that somebody was making a bit of profit out of that lot.

Bluey had agreed to take us as far as Rawalpindi, or Pindi as they called it in Pakistan. We set out at 7.15 and on the way we crossed the River Indus; the river from which the name
India was derived. He dropped outside the tourist office in Pindi just after 10 am and said our goodbyes to the Sundowners. Although we would see the bus a few more times, it was the last time we would talk to Bluey. We would miss his eternal pessimism and I wish that I'd had a bet with him when we first met back in Isfahan when he told us that we didn't stand a chance of getting to Afghanistan, let alone through it.

We went into the tourist office to find out the best place to stay, only to be told that we had better not go into the centre of Pindi because there were riots taking place and the police were shooting at the rioters. The man in the tourist office suggested that we spend a few days in the nearby Murree Hills, which had a very pleasant climate at this time of year. In view of the riots and shooting ahead, his suggestion made a lot of sense and we decided to take his advice. Rather than carry all of our luggage with us he offered to let us leave it in the tourist office for a few days until we returned. So we sorted out what we would be likely to need and packed it into one bag that we would take turns at carrying.

We walked out of town back the way we had already come. On the way we stopped for a curry for our lunch. It was so hot that we had to also buy some bananas to cool our mouths down again. We also bought some crisps, which had an unidentifiable but pleasant flavour.

We then got a series of short lifts, first one was in the back of a Dodge pick up truck, then in a lorry to Taxilla where we bought a large bag of tangerines to eat on the way. Next we got a lift on top of a truck load of cement bags, and after a half hour wait while very few vehicles went past, we got a lift to Haripur. While waiting for our next lift a local person bought us some tea and biscuits. The tea was delicious, very creamy and sweet. In Pakistan they make the tea in a pan, boiling everything up together and using raw sugar instead of the granulated white stuff that I was used to. It was while drinking the tea that a policeman called us over to check our passports. I don't think he needed to check them but I suppose it made him look important in front of his fellow villagers

After tea we got a lift in an army jeep belonging to the medical corps. I travelled in the back with the bag while Louis sat in comfort in the front. The major who was driving spoke very good English and we had a good chat while he took us all the way to Abbatobad, our destination for the day. After he dropped us we discovered that the youth hostel was about three or four miles out of town. Fortunately we managed to get a lift in a lorry to the place where it should have been, but after getting out we couldn't find it anywhere. After walking up and down for a while trying to find the hostel, a young boy who had been watching us must have realised what we were looking for. He came over and guided us across a field to the youth hostel that we would never have found without him.

The warden didn't speak any English, but nonetheless he made us welcome. The hostel was
empty and Louis and I were the only guests. It was obviously not the high season and the warden was so glad to have somebody staying that he even made our beds for us. After we had checked in we walked back towards the town to find somewhere to eat. On the way we passed of all things, a bag pipe band. They were very good, although it did seem to be a strange thing to find in Pakistan. It is a shame that they were not also dressed in kilts. Once again we found that the Pakistani idea of a mild curry was one that
needed to be eaten with a fire extinguisher nearby and a continuous supply of water to cool our mouths as we ate. With the help of a loaf of bread we managed to struggle through it. As a reward to ourselves for finishing it all up we had a pot of their delicious, creamy, sweet tea, and some equally delicious fruitcake. After that we walked back to the hostel, burping all the way back and spent the rest of the evening writing letters home.

The next morning before leaving the Youth Hostel we asked the warden to stamp our hostel cards as is the usual custom throughout the Youth Hostel movement. He obviously didn't have a rubber stamp and so he wrote the name into the card. When I asked him to stamp Louis' card he just wrote the same name into my card again. Eventually we got the message over to him and he signed Louis card too. We then returned to the same eating place where we had our meal the night before and ordered another pot of tea and more fruitcake. The bill came to just 1.75 rupees for the two of us and I fear that if we stay in Pakistan too long we could become addicted to it. When we had finished our breakfast we hitched back to Abbatobad to visit the tourist office for information about what there was to see in the area. The Army major that gave us a lift the day before picked us up again and took us into town, dropping us outside the tourist office.

There are a number of government rest houses in the area where tourists can stay so long as they have a permit. The man who was responsible for giving out the permits was taking a bath at the time, but we managed to speak to him through the closed door. He assured us that we would be able to stay without any problems and if anybody wanted to telephone him to check, he would give the OK. With that assurance we set off in the direction of Natiagali rest house.

We walked for the first 2 or 3 miles before getting a lift in the back of a truck. The scenery in this part of Pakistan is beautiful and reminded us very much of England. The truck chugged very slowly along the mountain road through a number of small villages. As we got higher it got colder and we started to notice that there were patches of snow on the ground, which is

not exactly what we had expected to find in Pakistan. The truck stopped a number of times to unload in some of the villages that we passed through and we helped the driver to carry the boxes and sacks. Around mid-day we stopped for lunch in a village called Poragali. We enjoyed a slightly milder curry before setting out again for the last part of the journey to Natiagali. The truck was only going as far as Kola Bagh and that meant we had to walk the last two miles into Natiagali where we were able to find the rest house without any difficulty.

After we had checked in at the guest house, we went into the village to buy something to cook for supper. We managed to buy some meat and vegetables to make ourselves a stew, and some bread to mop up the

gravy with. The bread had to be ordered and we returned a bit later on to collect it after it had been freshly made. When we got back to the guest house we started to cook the stew in the

open fire place. It took an hour and a half to cook and was the best plate of scouse we had tasted since leaving home and the whole lot cost us less than 2 rupees to buy the ingredients. We invited the warden to join us for the meal, after all there was enough for all of us to eat and have second helpings. After the meal the warden made us some of the delicious Pakistani tea. We watched him making it. While the water was boiling add the sugar, then the tea and bring back to the boil. Add the milk, bring back to the boil again then pour. Delicious!

We spent the night sleeping on charpoys. These are beds that are made by tying ropes diagonally across a wooden frame. The closer the ropes the more comfy the charpoy. A really good quality charpoy would be made from wide

tapes instead of rope. After a good night sleep on the guest house's tape charpoys, the warden woke us up at about 9.30. It was pouring with rain so we waited for it to stop. The warden made us some tea while we waited, and eventually late in the morning the rain stopped and we set out to walk to Ghora Dakka, 12 miles away. Because we didn't have any detailed maps of the area showing footpaths we decided that the safest thing was to walk along the road.

On the way we walked through a number of small villages, stopping in Durga Gali for some tea, where we finished off our biscuits. There was snow on the ground and it was very cold, but it was not cold enough for it to snow again, and the showers that fell were rain showers. Fortunately they were not heavy and by early afternoon the weather started to brighten up again. Just outside one village we met two young boys who were shooting at targets with an air gun that had no sights. They let us have a few shots, but without the sights we couldn't hit anything and so we gave up. As we walked away they tried to ask us for 1 Rupee. A good try, but we didn't pay them anything.

By the time we had walked 8 miles all uphill, we were both dead beat, but at least the rest of the way was downhill. Somehow we managed to walk the next 4 miles into Ghora Dakka, where the International Youth Hostel book said there was a hostel. Our walk down hill was helped at one point when a loose cow took a liking to us. It came a bit too close for comfort and we both broke into a trot trying to get away as it followed us down the road for about half a mile.

When we eventually reached Ghora Dakka we were not able to find the youth hostel. The locals told us that there wasn't a hostel there, even though it was clearly marked in the Youth Hostel handbook. We decided to leave the main road and walk an extra mile to another hostel in Khanspur. While looking for the hostel in Khanspur we met somebody who spoke very good English. He gave us directions on how to find the hostel, but as we started to walk away he called us back and invited us to stay with him in his house, which we gladly accepted. His name was Mufti and his house turned out to be a former British Army billet. He had a lovely roaring log fire burning and we just sat in front of it and thawed out. He looked after us well that night, feeding us and chatting about the times when British Army personnel and their families used to flock to this area for their leave. The climate here in summer is very pleasant and they would come just to get away from the heat.

The next morning at exactly 8am, Mufti woke us up by bringing us tea in bed and a bowl of hot water each to have a wash. For breakfast he made us fried eggs on toast, which we washed down with some more tea. When it was time to leave, Mufti walked with us back to Ghora Dakka where we saw a truck heading the wrong direction. Mufti spoke to the driver and was told it would shortly be returning and we could have a lift. Mufti then said goodbye and headed back to Khanspur. We decided to sit and wait for the truck in a roadside café and have some chapati and potatoes to eat. (Well it wasn't so much a café as a shack with a Primus stove and a few boxes to sit on). While we were eating the warden from the previous night came in with a British V.S.O. worker (Voluntary Service Overseas) so we sat and talked while waiting for the truck to come.

When the truck still hadn't returned after about an hour we decided to start walking. We must have walked about 5 miles and still no truck, or any other vehicle for that matter when we had a argument about whether to stay put and wait, or to continue walking. I could see no point in walking out in to nowhere only to have to walk back again if the truck didn't show and decided to stop in a small village while Louis walked on. The truck eventually came about half an hour later and I had to jump on to it while it was still moving because although it slowed down, it didn't stop. A bit further along we came to a large tree that had fallen at the side of the road and the truck stopped to pick it up, as firewood is valuable in these parts. It took nearly an hour to load all the wood on board, and in the next village we came to it all had to be unloaded again when the truck driver sold it to the villagers.

We picked Louis up in a village called Barian. The driver told us he was going on to Pindi. We had decided to head for Islamabad and he readily agreed to take us. As we went along the truck often stopped to pick up more passengers. About an hour later when we stopped on a busy by-pass we thought it was to pick up another passenger, but everybody was pointing to a sign to Islamabad, which was about 2 miles away and indicated for us to get down. Louis and I had a quick discussion and decided that as it was now dark and we may not get another lift too easily, we would give Islamabad a miss and stay with the truck until Pindi.

At Pindi the truck dropped us in the Bazaar. One of the passengers told us the name of a hotel he recommend us to stay in and we followed him to it. At the hotel they refused to even let us in through the door. It turned out that it was a Moslem hotel and as such, non-Moslems were not allowed to come in. There were loads of cheap hotels in the area and it wasn't too difficult to find one nearby and we managed to get a room for 7 Rupees. After dumping our bags we went out to find something to eat. Although it was dark it was only about 8.30 pm and the bazaar was very busy with lots of people milling around and doing all sorts of business. We tried all sorts of different foods from various stalls, and managed to eat ourselves to a standstill for vary little money.

On the subject of money, before going to bed that night we did our accounts. (Travelling with an accountant, some things do rub off) I worked out that up to now I have spent £17-16-3 (including fares) in the last 41 days of travelling, an average of just over 8/8 per day. Our target was 10/- per day plus fares. Louis had spent a similar amount and so up to now we are both well under on our spending budget. So far we have covered 7082 miles and hitched 77 lifts.

I suppose it had to eventually happen. Early the next morning I had to dive out of bed and run for the toilet. We hadn't yet reached India, but it was definitely the Delhi Belly (or more like the "Rawalpindi runs"). I took some of the diarrhoea tablets from the first aid kit and went back to sleep. At about 9.30 I decided to chance it and packed up and go to head for the tourist office to collect our luggage. On the way I felt ill and had to stop at a hotel to use their toilet, where I spent the next half-hour. We decided that it would be best if we went back to the hotel, but first we had to go to the tourist office to collect the bags we had left. Somehow or other I made it, but we decided to get a taxi back to the hotel and checked back in again. We even got the same room.

I decided to wander out to find something to eat, not that I wanted to eat very much. I felt like eating an apple and tried to buy one from a fruit stall in the bazaar. I must have looked really ill because the man who owned the stall wouldn't take any money from me. I spent the rest of the day sleeping, reading and running to the toilet. By late afternoon my stomach had settled down and Louis went out to get some bread. I had expected him to return with the usual flat sheet of bread, but he came back with a loaf. It was the first normal shaped bread we had been able to get hold of since we had left Europe, so he went out again and managed to get some butter and jam to go with it. I decided not to eat the butter and jam today and just had the bread with some tea which we had sent up to the room.

Later on that evening a horrible smell started to filter into the room. It was the drains. Not surprising with the amount of times I had been going to the toilet during the day. The manager moved us to another room, but after a while the smell started to come into that room too. We decided to bear with it as it wasn't as bad as the smell in the previous room. We both spent the evening writing letters home before settling down for an early night.

The next morning I felt fine. We got up at 8.30 and after having tea in the room set out to hitch to Lahore. We headed to the square at the end of the road where all the bus stops are. On the way the same stall holder that had given me the free apple the day before gave us some chapati and dahl. He seemed happy to see me looking healthy and once again, but he still wouldn't take any money.

We caught a bus to Ayub Park in Lahore Road where we started hitching. Within half an hour we got our first lift in a chauffeur driven Ford Cortina. The passenger was a businessman
who took us about 30 miles. The next lift was a bit downmarket, in the back of a truck which was carrying beds. We decided to test them and both of us managed to get a bit of sleep over the next 40 miles. While we were waiting for our next lift we decided to have some lunch at a roadside stall. No sooner had we finished eating than a truck stopped for us. The driver said he was going to Lahore and so we quickly climbed into the back. No sooner had we started than the driver
stopped for his lunch. When he had finished eating we started off again, only to stop once more for tea about ¾ hour later. Along the way we were stopped a number of times at weight checking stations for spot checks and just outside Lahore at one such checkpoint the police climbed onto the truck and checked all the sacks, looking for rice; why? I don't know. Once we got on the move again we moved up to sit on top of the cab, but it was freezing cold so we climbed back into the back of the truck again.

The driver dropped us in the bazaar where we bought something to eat before looking for the Youth Hostel. We started to walk to the hostel, but when we found out that it was almost 5 miles away, we decided to catch a bus. We checked into the Youth Hostel and noticed that there were separate staircases down to the dormitories for male and female. That was as far as segregation went, for both staircases led down to the same large dormitory. It was a large drab room with dozens of beds all laid out around the walls in military style. There was no bedding supplied and so we had to use our sleeping bags. It was a large dormitory and a lot of the beds were occupied with a good mixture of nationalities and we chatted until the curfew time of 10pm.

The next day as usual, Louis got up before me and went out. I took the opportunity to have a lie in and didn't get up until nearly 10am. There was a French Moroccan staying in the Hostel, and by the time I got up we were the only two left, everybody else having gone out earlier. We both caught the bus into the centre of Lahore, where I headed for the State Secretariat to get my Road Permit to cross the Indian Border. Despite all the dire warnings from the AA about these permits taking ages to issue, in the end it took just 15 minutes to obtain. Also at the secretariat was the Sundowners coach and one from Pan Tours. They were also getting their road permits, but as there was so many of them, theirs were taking a bit longer to issue.

From the secretariat, the next call was to the Post Office to post some letters. In the Post Office I met one of the girls that had been on the Sundowners bus. We got chatting and she told me that she had been on holiday in England with her mother when they had seen the Sundowners trip being advertised in the Sunday papers. They thought it was a good opportunity to see some of the world and they both signed up for the trip. Unfortunately they had been robbed in Turkey and had only managed to complete the journey because the other travellers had a whip round for them. Some of the others had also lent them money. Her mother had gone to the bank to collect money that they had arranged to have transferred to them in Lahore so they could pay their debts and enable them to buy their plane ticket home from Delhi at the end of the route.

Her name was Judy and while chatting with her I found out that she was Jewish. The two of us spent the rest of the day looking around Lahore together. We came across a stall selling what from the distance appeared to be a load of round black things of different sizes. As we got nearer the owner came forward and waved his hands over the stall. Immediately a swarm of flies took off revealing a colourful and beautifully laid out fruit stall. Needles to say neither of us felt like eating any of that fruit.

We stopped to have some tea and a Pakistani who spoke very good English got into conversation with us. While talking he ordered something for us to eat and when the bill came he paid for us all. He offered to show us around some of Lahore and we accepted his offer. He took us to a large Mosque at prayer time. Judy was wearing a dress and although it was not a mini skirt, it was above her knees. At first we were not going to be allowed to go in but somebody suggested that she should wrap my jacket around her legs while walking around the Mosque and all became OK.

Late in the afternoon we both decided to head back to our hostels. Judy was staying in the YWCA, which was on the same bus route as the Youth Hostel. On the bus we met the Pakistani who earlier on had showed us around. When Judy got off at the YWCA, he also got off the bus. At first I was a bit concerned for her safety, but the YWCA was quite near and there were a lot of people around so I don't think he would have been able to try anything. As she was getting off the bus we agreed to meet at the American Express office in Delhi if we were both there at the same time.

Back at the Youth Hostel I took the opportunity to have a shower. There was a group of English boys who had just arrived that day after having driven in their own Land Rover. In the course of conversation I found out that one of them was a barber. I was by now badly in need of a haircut and offered to pay him to cut my hair. He readily agreed and did so without payment. By the time Louis arrived back I looked like a different person.

One of the Americans in the hostel had bought a load of hashish quite cheaply in Afghanistan. He hadn't had any problem bringing it across the Pakistan border because the Pakistan

officials are not concerned about drugs as they have plenty of their own. He was worried about taking it in to India and as it was still in its traditional flat slabs I suggest to him the method we had come across in Istanbul, that is to glue them to the soles of his shoes and walk across the border with it. We had our photographs taken holding the stuff before handing it back to him. The amount he had bought for just a few dollars would probably raise enough for someone to retire on if sold it in England.

That night a whole group of us went out for a meal, returning to the hostel just in time for the 10 p.m. curfew, though we all sat up and chatted until quite late.

The next morning we were up early to catch a bus into

Lahore bus depot to connect with the bus to the Indian Border. We arrived at the depot just after 9 am to find that the busses left every hour on the hour and one had just gone. Louis decided to use the time to go to Amex to check our mail, while I bought the tickets and joined the queue for the bus. In the queue there were 2 Germans, a Dane and a girl called Winnie from New Zealand. Winnie had been working in Iran and was now on her way home via the overland route. When the bus arrived we all got on, but there was no sign of Louis. So as to be able to reserve a seat for him the Dane, the Germans, Winnie and I spread ourselves out over the back of the bus taking up a bit more room than we needed. Louis eventually arrived as usual at the last moment, just as the driver was starting the engine ready to drive off. We all shuffled up to make room for him to sit down in what was an otherwise very crowded bus.

The bus headed out along the Ferozapore Road on its short journey to the border, which was right on the edge of Lahore. Had there not been a border there, I have no doubt that the city would have extended well beyond that point many years before. Most of the passengers were only going to the suburb that was close to the border and when the bus stopped right at the frontier post it was only a handful of us that headed across towards India.

The border was quite a meeting place for overland travellers. The Indiaman bus was just passing through to the Indian side as we arrived. We also met a few of the Sundowners who had left the bus to head off and do their own thing in India, after all they were only one days travel from Delhi and the end of the route. To complete the party the English Land Rover group from the Youth Hostel were also there, having got up early to allow plenty of time to clear their vehicle out of Pakistan and into India.

It took us about an hour to clear across the border - a lot quicker than we had been led to expect. It was a case of passing from table to table as in turn somebody checked our road permit, then immigration and finally customs, with each person writing all our details down in the usual large book before allowing us to eventually walk over to the Indian side.