Asia | China | North West | Lake Karakul – My Fifteen minutes of fame
After one more day of mediation by the lake, we felt that we had gotten what we wanted from Karakul, and waited by the roadside stop for the bus that would pick us up at 4:30 in the afternoon. Six oclock rolled around, and we were still waiting, sitting under the sun after a few unsuccessful tries to flag down a passing truck. We asked a Swiss lady who was leading an organized tour whether we could have a couple seats on their bus to Tashkorgan. She felt bad for us, but couldnt make a decision without the rest of the team, who had prepaid for the bus and were waiting at the camp by Mt. Mustagata. It seemed like wed have to spend another night sneaking into a yurt, so we sat down to have dinner first, and I tried to look on the bright side of things and convince myself that staying another night was just good an option as leaving.
Halfway through dinner, I walked to the sink outside, and a man shouted to me from the back, Werent you looking for a ride Tashkorgan? The bus is right there at the stop. Hurry up! And of course, there it was, laden with luggage on the top and parked right by the bus stop sign up the slope about 100m from me. I shouted to Daniel to collect our backpacks, and went to ask the driver to see if there were seats.
The bus started moving at the same time as me, and without hesitation, I sprinted after it at my top speed on the 3,700m plateau, waved my hands and shouted stop like a desperate mad woman. The driver had miraculous peripheral vision, and started hitting the brake. There were seats, and he agreed to wait for us for five minutes. A row of Pakistani mens head stuck out of every window of the bus, and they cheered me on as I hyperventilated my way back to the restaurant. My chest was hurting, my heart was about to jump out of my aching throat, and I was coughing for the next hour. It was then I realized just how much I really wanted to leave Karakul and move on to Tashkorgan.
On the bus, I was overwhelmed as I tried to find a gap among the bags on the aisle to put my feet. While my head was lowered, I heard five or six different voices inviting me to an empty seat. I had never felt so welcomed in my life. When I looked around after sitting down at the back of the bus, I realized the reason behind my popularityI was the only female on the bus amidst all the Pakistani men. Everyone was turning around to smile at me, still red and breathless from the earlier sprint.
The man sitting next to me pointed to Daniel and told me that I had a beautiful husband. Thinking back to the advice to women travelers section in the LP Pakistan book, I nodded and said thank you. Daniel wasnt notified of the new progress in our relationship though, and told the truth when another man sitting next to him asked whether I was his wife. Thus we became the talk of the bus, and I didnt even know until we all got dropped off at the same hotel in Tashkorgan for the layover at night.
Daniel came back to the room from the reception desk flustered, and told me what happened downstairs. Some of the guys on the bus were asking him whether I really was only his girlfriend. After getting a confirmation, most of them seemed puzzled, and one of them wanted to set up a date with me. After being told that I lived in San Francisco and a date wouldnt be feasible, he asked whether he could come up and talk to me, and hinted at perhaps borrowing me for a night. Both Daniel and I started laughing at this point. Who could blame them? Two hours after they wake up tomorrow morning, the bus will enter Pakistan, and the opportunity of seeing a woman in public, let alone talking to one, would be gone.