I headed to the border with India and Pakistan at Wagah. There were very few people there and it was straight forward.
When I entered Pakistan, I could not believe how friendly the people were. The customs guy got me a bottle of water and a cup of tea while he filled in my carnet.
Once through Immigration and customs I headed off to Lahore. Lots of people were smiling at me and giving me the thumbs up.
I had a real problem trying to get a hotel. While looking I got caught up in the worst traffic jam of my trip. For 2 hours I moved about 1 km. I don’t know what the cause was but apparently this is not usual.
I finally found a hotel but they wouldn’t let me stay as I was a foreigner. I ended up at one hotel that was NZ $200 so left there to go to a guest house. When I finally got there, security would not let me in as I did not have a university card as this was on their campus.
I finally found one that cost NZ$91. This is the most expensive one so far and way over my budget.
I maximised my $91 outlay and downloaded the German map I will need later on for by GPS. It was 1.4 Gig.
I headed off at 10am which is a late start. The road to Multan was smooth and orderly. The driving in Pakistan is so much better than India, they even use indicators. About half an hour into the ride it began to rain. Not heavy, but enough to get the roads wet. What were lovely smooth roads in the dry turned in to a skid patch when wet. I lightly touched the rear brake and I could feel the back tyre slide.
I continued on and the rain stopped and the roads dried.
I decided to pull up for a drink and a bite to eat. As I stopped outside one of the shops by the side of the road so did a van. They pulled over to see my bike. Before long there was a crowd around Winston and I. One of the guys wanted to pay for my lunch. I said that was very kind but I would get it. He insisted. Another generous person.
So, it was off to find another hotel. I pulled up to one to find out it was $40, too expensive. A guy outside spoke great English and he took me to another hotel. It looked like $40 was the going rate so I stayed at the Hotel Continental.
I ‘m going to have to get some big riding days in as it’s just too expensive staying in these Hotels.
I was up early, fed and watered and on my bike by 7am. The plan today was to ride 650km to Quetta which is in Western Pakistan.
Five minutes in to my ride I came to a military check point. I was told I could not enter; in fact, no foreign tourists were allowed and told to go an alternative way. I headed back the way I had come and turned right. I broke loose of Multan and rode some good roads and then so not so good.
I’m starting to feel like I’m heading towards the Middle East now. As well as horses and donkey drawn carts there are now camel drawn carts. Peoples clothing is changing, more scarves and head gear and blankets wrapped around their bodies. I rode past a train of camels including their cute offspring.
The trucks in Pakistan are the most decorative I’ve seen. They are covered in paintings, wind mills, tassels and reflectors everywhere.
I arrived at another Military check point. I was told I could not enter this area as I was foreign. I asked why not when there were dozens of locals going through. He said there was a nuclear power plant and it was off limits to foreigners. He told me I would have to take an alternative route. I told him I was heading to Quetta and could he give me an alternative route to get there. He said wait and came back a couple of minutes later. He told me to go to Chowk Qureshi then, Alipur then onto Sadiq Abad and finally into Rahin Yar Khar district. I got him to write the names down on my note pad so there was no interpretation error.
I had to turn around and go back 25km
This route sent me south and was a big detour. At 3pm I had reached Guddu. There is a major power station here and it would be a prime target for a terrorist attack. I got stopped by another military check point at the start of the bridge. They wanted to search my bike see my passport and carnet. At this point the rain had just begun and I was really not in the mood for yet another pointless check. I was frustrated because there were constant flows of people going through these check points not being stopped. The guard was very abrupt and had a bad attitude.
I said do you think I am a terrorist. I am white, look like I’ve come from another planet with my riding gear and am riding a large bike that draws crowds everywhere I go. It is not really the best terrorist disguise. I said the real terrorists would look like locals and be using public transport, why aren’t you stopping them? By this time there was a large crowd around me and the bike which really reinforced my point... He then got a large stick and yelled at the crowd to disperse while waving the stick at them. This is the first time I’ve seen military aggression on this trip. The Guard then demanded to see my passport and papers for the bike.
By this time, he had forgotten about checking my camping gear and panniers. I got my passport and carnet out and handed them to him. Then two guys came out of the office in civilian dress and said they were going to take my documents away for checking. I said there is no way you will take my documents before you show me your Identification card as you could be any one. They couldn’t prove who they were and said they were taking them. I said I cannot let them out my site so I will come with you. They agreed and we rode over the bridge which spans the Indus River and arrived at the army headquarters over a kilometre away from the check point.
They looked through the documents with another couple of guys. They took an hour and were not ringing other departments or had a computer to check the information the documents provided.
After an hour they gave me my documents back. I told them because of the 2 hour delay I have nowhere to stay. They took me to a police station in Guddu.
The police made me welcome and said I could sleep in the radio room. They took lots of photos of me with them and posted on their Facebook.
I sat with a couple of the officers by the front entry. The power had gone off and it was dark.
The wind that had been blowing all day had died down and then the thunder and lightning started. It was an impressive show of forked lightening turning night into day.
The rain soon followed and before long the grounds were partly submerged in water.
The Police said the only way I could ride to Quetta is with a police escort as it is too dangerous. The police mainly carry and use AK 47 assault rifles, many without the butt making them lighter and easier to carry.
I was instructed to follow a Police Toyota Hilux. The Hilux has a canopy at the back where the armed Police sit. They escorted me to the next police check point where they left me and the next vehicle was waiting and I followed them. I thought to myself how necessary and dangerous is it really to travel here? Just then the next vehicle turned up and I counted 8 bullet holes in the driver’s door. That confirmed it, it is pretty dangerous.
The pace was very slow. The first part of the day was riding along gravel roads. Because of the heavy rain last night, the trucks and cars had turned them into bogs with pools of water and mud, there was a good scoria base so it was fairly firm. It looked much worse than it actually was. The mud was a clay type mix and stuck to Winston like concrete. As I rode along, I heard a knocking noise.
When I pulled up to look what it was, it was the front mudguard extender being pushed backwards and forwards by my tyre. The mud had gotten that thick that it had clogged the extender and sheared off the two middle plastic rivets. I cleaned the extender off and used some trusty duct tape to secure it until I can do a proper fix.
After 5 hours riding I had only covered 120km. We were travelling half the speed limit. Many of the roads were smooth and straight and I was becoming so frustrated at the slow pace. At this rate I wouldn’t get to Quetta until 3am a20-hourr ride.
Some of the escorts were on small motorbikes one riding and one on the back with the AK47. As the day progressed so did the pace. The scenery also changed, from agricultural land through to deserts.
There are hundreds of brick works in Pakistan. The local soil is perfect for making bricks. Many of the houses are brick or mud which dries rock hard. Winston can vouch for this.
These are the sort of things that make you forget about the earlier frustrations of the day.
I stopped to take a picture and let the Police carry on. They soon stopped and came back on their motorbike. I managed to get a photo of them but they said no more stopping, go,go.
We didn’t make it to Quetta we fell short by 70km. It was 8:30 and dark. The police took me to their station in Mach. I was given the royal treatment and had one of the officers cook me dinner. They couldn’t do enough for me.
They let me sleep in one of the offices. I decided to get my air bed and sleeping bag out of my roll bag and sleep in comfort. I had a good night’s sleep.
We were off at 7:30 heading towards Quetta. As we ascended the hills the temperature got cooler. My Heated grips had stopped working so on the off chance that they might work I pushed the button. To my amazement they did. It was sheer bliss!!
Quetta is a troubled town and I noticed this when I stopped at the police check point and waited for another escort. The guard was a commando and besides having an AK 47 in hand had a hand gun. He showed me the gun and took the magazine out to show me the seven rounds it contained.
When the escort arrived, there were two armed guards in the back, one watching the front and one watching the back. They were standing up with rifles pointing to the back and front. This looked a lot more serious.
I followed along going through the traffic of Quetta where the Hilux left me then an armoured car pulled out and signalled me to follow. I was starting to feel like this was getting a bit too serious.
I was finally escorted to a hotel the police had arranged for me by two guys on a motorcycle.
When I arrived at the hotel, I was told I could not leave and would have to stay until Monday as I need to get a special pass and more police protection. The trip from Quetta to Taftan near the Iranian border is the most dangerous part of the country.
Another bout of food poisoning.
Day 217 Monday 6th April 2015
I was picked up by the armed police and taken to the police station so I could get my Provision of security document. I had to visit many departments and then finally the Chief of Police.
Once I had the document I was taken back to the hotel and told I would be leaving tomorrow at 8am but be ready by 7.
The Police arrived exactly at 7 and we headed off under armed guard again southwest towards Taftan, which is the border crossing into Iran. We planned to get to Dalbandin which is 350 km West from Quetta.
It was the usual tag and follow procedure with the Police and Levies. The police look after the towns and usually have beaten up Toyota Hiluxes with no tail lights, while the Levies have new Hiluxes in good condition and look after anything 5km and beyond of the town.
The scenery changed quite a lot today from sandstone type Mountains to jagged rock mountains, culminated in a sandy desert interspersed with a few green crop fields.
The locals must be using underground springs for their irrigation systems as there were no signs of any type of river.
The desert dunes were becoming larger and had started to engulf parts of the road. In my mind I could hear the theme tune to the film, Lawrence of Arabia and envisioned Lawrence and his troops galloping over the largest of the dunes.
Then it was back to reality and a straight black road into Dalbandin. Once into Dalbandin it was straight to the hotel the police had arranged. I was not allowed out of the hotel and had two armed police officers stay with me overnight. I was a prisoner yet again. How I long for the freedom to come and go as I wish. As the officers stayed the night I had to pay for their dinners.
The Afghanistan border is less than 100km away and the Teleban often cross this border. The police and Levies have orders to shoot and kill any terrorist on sight. It’s strange that on the way here I saw a guy dressed like the Teleban come out from behind a tree with an AK47, he lifted it up and aimed directly at me, I waved at him, he lowered the AK47 and waved back. Was he going to shoot? did my wave to him humanise me, or was it the fact that the Levies were armed. I will never know. What I do know is the Levies never even noticed this incident.
The Levies wanted to pick me up at 9am this morning so it gave me a good hour to check Winston over. The chain needed adjusting and I noticed the chain guard was broken and was hanging on by a thread. More duct tape and it was secure for now After I’d clean and adjusted the chain. We had breakfast. I had to pay for the two officers again. After breakfast we left and headed towards the Taftan border.
It was a long straight road through the desert with plenty of stops by the military. At each of the military checkpoints I have to fill in a form. They all require the same information. Your name, your father’s name, country you are from, passport number, visa number, where you’ve come from, where you’re going and vehicle registration number.
Today there were only three Levies vehicles that escorted me.
When the first one stopped to leave me, one of the guys came over and asked for a gift for escorting me through this part of Pakistan. He suggested a watch or something similar. I said I have a much better gift than that for you. ………...you can have my friendship and with that I gave him a good firm hand shake. He repeated friendship and I said “Thank you for escorting me today, mate. He walked off.
The pace again was slow and the day was getting hotter and hotter as we progressed into the desert. First there were wild donkeys, then camels, then no life at all. The road then worsened and the going got even slower.
Some parts of the road were covered partly by sand dunes and then on a dozen occasions totally. A couple of the dunes were difficult to negotiate on a fully loaded Winston. We got through the deepest driest sand in the hottest part of the day. We ended the day at Taftan. Because of the earlier slow pace, we had arrived too late for the border so the Police took me straight to the Taftan Police station where I stayed the night.
The Levies escorted me down to the Taftan customs office at 9:30am.
When I arrived at the office the customs officer was rushing through the carnets he had on his desk. He told me to sit with my carnet. I thought, this should be quick. He completed all the carnets on his desk and then got up and walked off. I had to wait 30 minutes before the guy came back and did anything with my carnet. He was away on his tea break.
Once I had my carnet stamped it was off to Immigration to get stamped out of Pakistan. With my passport stamped out I was a free man again, at least that’s what I thought.