[Quetta began life as a caravansarai on the busy trading routes through Asia. During British rule it grew into their biggest military garrison and a base for attempting to control the vast interior and border with Afghanistan. Now it is the Taliban who use it as their HQ for launching attacks. When we were there 33 years ago, the town was under a night time curfew because of civil war with the Baloch – so not very clever to be out late at night at the old Club, even if it was a time-warp from the Raj …]
THURSDAY 18TH NOVEMBER, 1976
“Up very early, left without breakfast to reach Quetta to get visas. Got to Quetta, pleasant roads with trees and mountains in backgroud, english signs. Up to Londra Hotel to look for mail with Di – v friendly in reception.
Into town – eventually found people in Farah Hotel – had breakfast of omlette, toast and coffee + little cake and pastry! Recent pop music playing – understood by waiters!
Afternoon, me, Di, Heidi and Fran wandered round bazaar – great fun. Camels pulling carts, small gaily coloured scooter-rickshaws – dashed between them and bicycles – incredible variety of hooters!
Lovely stalls with scarves, hats, embroidered clothes etc. Tasted lots of street foods – small hot batter things with spicy potato filling, sugar beet sticks, nuts etc.
Cloth seller invited us in for tea – sat on painted trunks inside stall and drank revolting sweet milk tea.
Lots of crippled beggars in streets. Some boys and a teacher invited us in another stall for tea – had three more cups! (Felt quite ill).
Lots of people offering hashish.
[Quetta is 1700m in altitude and below freezing at night, so we went to a hotel instead of camping]
Gas fire in hotel room (had a warm night for once). While sitting after evening tea, some prosperous looking Pakistanis next to us invited us for a meal. Insisted on taking us out for a drink beforehand. 9 of us piled in one car (with gun pressed against me) – Sally (minus voice), Adrian, Di, Fran and me. [the gun was a rifle lying on the back seat]
Took us to old Quetta Club – unlocked it for us – amazing dark panelled, red carpeted, quiet corridors, huge big WC, and bare room with two wood fires and a long bar – about 10 liveried waiters suddenly popped up behind the bar. Like stepping back two generations. Had beer (others on gin and whisky) – one of them hassling Fran for a dance (had tape playing).
Took two and half hours to get them to take us back – hair-raising journey – driver drunk – Di and Fran having struggle in back – me sat on top of the lot! Banged on hotel door – lots of guards patrolling streets (at 1.30 finally got in!)”