Bam / Taftan (Pakistan)
450 km. Total distance travelled: 6,480 km
We wake up early and get our motorcycles ready to leave at 06.00. On our departure, the temperature is already at 35°C and by 09.00 it has climbed to 40°C which slowly stabilises throughout the day. The technique of soaking a t-shirt during each stop works perfectly to keep us cool and keeping up a good speed on the Iranian roads helps to alleviates the heat.
When we approach the border with Pakistan the police checks intensify, but they are fast and the staff are friendly, as always.
At 11.00am we arrive at the frontier. There is no trace of any cars, only a few trucks. Unbelievable! In just over an hour we are in Pakistan … without being able to stamp our Passage papers. While waiting for our papers to be stamped, we are escorted to the Levies’ Barracks, the paramilitary force of the district, where an Official explains that we have to wait until 18.00. There is no way we can travel today. We knew that. Unfortunately, the area is considered a bit of a risk and you cannot wander around so we are forced to spend the night here. Calling the place a barracks is not quite correct. It is a horseshoe shaped construction in a semi-abandoned state and in the central courtyard we see some half-derelict cars.
At the appointed time we are re-accompanied to Customs where we have our papers stamped. The night ahead is going to be very long.
Taftan / Danbaldin
294 km. Total distance travelled: 6,774 km
This is the worst night of our trip so far. Crowded in the “lumpy” Levies barracks, encamped in a room where the temperature is 40°C in the shade. We tried to sleep but it was impossible. We cannot wait to leave Taftan, a very inhospitable place.
At 07.30 our guards arrive. Two people in black Levies uniform are on board a pickup and are armed with a Kalashnikov. We leave with them and head for Quetta which is 600 km away … and we soon realise that we will not be reaching our destination today. Our security guards never exceed 80 km/h and every half an hour we have to stop so they can change over.
In the many checkpoints along the way, our names are always handwritten in huge books. We count eight checkpoints over 300km. Our hourly average is heavily affected. The road is pretty good with pot-holes in some stretches and sandstones carried in by the desert. The real challenge is to withstand the heat. For the first time, the temperature on the thermometers reach 50°C which, together with the adverse wind, literally cripples us.
Tomorrow, our second day of being escorted, won’t be a walk in the park either.
340 km. Total distance travelled: 7,114 km
At around 08.00 we leave again for Quetta. It’s not as hot and we can travel faster. After the first 100km of road, with terrible road surfaces and the addition of dunes and rocks, the situation finally improves.
We encounter villages with houses made of clay and more traffic on the streets. Riding requires maximum concentration: in Pakistan you travel on the wrong side of the road; on the left.
At around 16.00 we are at the entrance to Quetta and to reach the hotel we cross the centre: it’s not easy to describe what’s going on around us. A unique mixture of people, mopeds, cars, carts and animals trying to move in all directions. It is always the law of the strongest which prevails and we are favoured by our escorts. We were so relieved when we finally arrived at our hotel but soon after check-in we receive bad news: to leave Baluchistan a document called an NOC is needed and due to Ramadan, it cannot be obtained from the appointed office for the next three days. On top of this enforced stop, we cannot leave the hotel for security reasons. Resting for a while won’t do us any harm but we are forced to reschedule the remainder of our trip. We only hope we won’t have other problems and will be able to reach Sukkur soon, the border town from which we will be free to move on.
Quetta / Sukkur
390 km. Total distance travelled: 7,394 km
We have an exhausting morning waiting to obtain the desired “NOC”. At around 09.00 we are escorted from the hotel by an Ape taxi car called a Tuc Tuc; the relevant office is located within a group of super-protected buildings that are in a very dilapidated condition. At noon we finally have the signed certificate. Back at the hotel, always followed by our escort, we are ready to get back in the saddle to head southwards, leaving behind the dusty chaos of Quetta.
We pass by steep mountains and return to the plains following a long stretch of the river bed containing muddy water where children bathe.
Even today the escort has been quite a burden. In 9 hours of riding we travelled 390km with an average speed of 43 km/h. Countless checkpoints, document recording and numerous breaks slowed us down. At 22.00 we arrive in Sukkur, Sindh and the usual chaos, to which we add the police siren escorting us which allows us to quickly reach our hotel. Tomorrow we will finally be free from our guardian angels who have been our shadows for the past 6 days and we will definitely be above to travel more effectively. India is approaching.
Sukkur / Multan
490 km. Total distance travelled: 7,884 km
We were celebrating too soon. As we were preparing to leave, the police pickup reappeared and we were very kindly informed that even today we would be escorted. Fortunately in the region of Sindh and the next, Punjab, police are better equipped. Everything has translated into efficiency with a good average speed and few changes. With a departure from Sukkur crossing a series of barriers on the Indus River; the road is 4 lanes with some irregular stretches. The traffic is made up of vehicles of every type and colourful carriages drawn by donkeys and camels add to the picture. We also see Chinese production engines that carry up to 5 people. The cars drive a few inches away from us, right up to our left and right sides, beeping and flagging. It’s never a relaxed ride but after a while we adjust to it. Fortunately, the landscape eventually changes. The countryside is much greener, crops of corn and rice and many animals begin to appear, including herds of buffalo cooling themselves in the water.
It’s 18.00 when we finally enter Multan, a city of about 2 million people. The usual chaos of traffic and sirens leading the way to our hotel. Once at the hotel, we are told that we will be escorted during the next few days…..sob!! We are going to try to reach Amritsar in India but the border closes at 17.00. Will we make it??