I was surfing the net and found this article about Pakistan, I thought you folks might like it too.
By: Liz Scarff of www.channel4.com
It all starts with a policeman and a fine for having duff license paperwork.
It's the middle of the morning in Pakistan and the Himalayan sun is bouncing off the chintzy reflective flowers of Jahnzab's opulently decorated truck. He's just been pulled over by the chief of police and is about to receive a PKR500 fine.
It's at this point I arrive with Mohammed, the local Grande Fromage, who touches the cop a nod. "We can forget this fine ever existed," says the policeman to Jahnzab, "if you take these two girls in your truck up the Karakoram Highway." Jahnzab and his partner Ashraf looked bemused.
Liz climbs aboard
So we sling in our bags, climb into the opulent cab and begin our journey up the Karakoram Highway, equally bemused that we've volunteered to travel for two days in a lumbering truck on one of the most terrifyingly inhospitable roads in the world.
The Karakoram Highway is the main road that connects the Pakistani capital Islamabad to the northern territories and eventually China. The road follows part of the old silk-trade route and passes through the North Western Frontier Province, an area crawling with rebels and not recommended for travel by the Foreign Office. This lonely road has no mechanics and death-defying cliff edges that convince even the staunchest atheist to start praying - and fast. The trade off? It's the meeting point for the Hindu Kush, Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges. And it is one of the most spectacular sights in the world.
Film stars sometimes make cameo appearances on trucks
If a driver can't afford to be garish, maybe he's a crap driver. That, at any rate, is the theory according to Pakistani truck drivers. Their trucks truly are works of art. When everybody else was chucking out the chintz, Pakistani truck drivers were buying it by the bucket-load. It costs a fortune but the owners argue it is well worth the expense as no self-respecting merchant would trust his goods to a driver with a shabby truck. With every inch of their proud steeds covered in bright reflectors, sculptures and pom-poms we're talking maximum bling, Asian-style.
The trucks are emblazoned with embossed metal fish, birds and flowers. Reflective plastic, the kind used on regular car indicators, is cut into intricate patterns and stuck on. The sides of the trucks are hand painted with patterns, mountain scenes and even the odd film star makes a cameo appearance.
The interior of these trucks are as colourful as the outside
The inside of the cab is given the same treatment. Door panels, ceiling and seating are also opulently upholstered. In fact, there's so much decoration going on that I can barely see out of the thing. Worryingly, I'm pretty sure that Jahnzab can't either.
Our search for a decorated truck started in Peshawar, on the Afghanistan border. This westerly town has more guns than chapattis and is home to a fair few of the infamous Taliban rebels. The temperature, which is pushing 50 degrees C, makes an impact like a Tyson-grade punch and instantly leaves me reeling and sodden in sweat-drenched clothes.
Maintainance is as important as making them look good
We've been tipped off about a particularly good paint yard and head off in a taxi. The dusty streets are lined with small shops and men milling around in traditional dress, a loose fitting, light-coloured pyjama suit. They cover their heads with huge cloths, sip tea and sensibly do as little as possible in the heat.
Pakistan is a nation of Asian magpies: they just have to have anything that's shiny and bright. On spotting something that sparkles or twinkles, they scoop it up and then spend hours finding just the right spot on the dashboard for it.
This doesn't just apply to trucks: tinsel and sparkle decorates everything from roundabouts to tractors. Even lowly old wheelbarrows get the jingle-jangle treatment.
The paintyard is full of Pakistani Del-Boys hawking their wares. A teenage boy, selling the ubiquitous cup of sweet tea, carefully balances a silver tray with teapot and cups as he picks his way over the dusty floor that's strewn with paper and plastic.
The cab and body of the truck is almost entirely constructed of wood and these enormous wooden carcasses lie like whale skeletons in a mass graveyard. Mechanics crouch down fixing old Bedford trucks that really should have been scrapped years ago. The last thing you'd imagine these old veterans doing is driving up narrow and treacherous mountain passes.
There's a lot of competition between drivers
Asafaddin, 38, a truck driver for 14 years, has brought his truck to this yard to be stripped and completely redone and he has a brightly coloured, sparkling vision.
'I have told the decorators that there should be no other truck like mine. I want it to be the best on the road,' he says, brandishing a cloth in order to stem the flow of sweat running from his forehead. 'A good truck is a status symbol,' he says, and his voice drops as he adds: 'There is a lot of competition between the drivers and if you have a good truck it shows you are rich and you get a good reputation.' And reputation is everything in this game.
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