Hell on earth

Bam/Zahedan/Taftan, 20 degrees Celcius

Tire changing Patience turned out to be a real virtue. On December 11th we started our journey from Bam to the border of Pakistan with four other people! Overlanders Minna and Rami from Finland (Yamaha Tenere) and Sandan and Hakan from Turkey (Honda Transalp) had also arrived at Akbar’s guesthouse, so we could team up with them. Everybody was a bit apprehensive about the upcoming part of our overland route: What would Pakistan be like? How dangerous is it really? Will we be kidnapped? All of us were somehow comforted by the thought that if we would be abducted we would at least be in good company. The plan for the first day was to either stop just before the border in Mirjaveh, where there was suppose to be some dodgy hotel, or to cross the border and stay on the Pakistani side in Taftan (‘Hell on earth’ according to the Lonely Planet). The distance to be covered was about 300 km, which we thought we could easily cover in ten hours of daylight….

Overland line up A few years ago a Japanese tourist was kidnapped in Iran on the road between Bam and Zahedan (while hitchhiking at night!). Apart from that there has been quite some narcotics and petrol smuggling going on along this road. Therefore we would be escorted by Iranian police up to the border. Sounds like a nice service from the Iranian government, right? Unfortunately, having an Iranian police escort involved a LOT of waiting… we were handed over to a new escort several times. At each of these occasions, passport and visa details had to be written down for all six of us, which seemed to be a difficult task for the soldiers, as it took AGES. Not all escorts had their own transport, sometimes they hitchhiked in a car or truck, and if they had their own transport they made us wait for them to get ready. So despite an early departure it was already quite late when we arrived at the final checkpoint of Zahedan, a smugglers hole, still some 100 km of the border. The armed soldiers took our passports and instructed us to wait for the escort. After 1.5 hours waiting dusk set in and the soldiers blank-facedly told us that in the dark it would be too dangerous to ride and that we had to go back to Zahedan for the night. After all the the patience we had shown the whole day this was too much, we were outraged, but realized there was not much we could do. Disappointed we checked in at the PTDC hotel, where we tried to enjoy our dinner accompanied by some -non-alcoholic- beers.

What happend in this corner of the room? The next day we did reach the border, where a -this time helpful- soldier showed us which offices we should go to. It took about 1.5 hours to get ourselves and the bikes cleared. On the Pakistan border side we could only see a small, palm-tree covered hut, which seemed promising. However, we had to visit five different counters: passport control, customs I, police, the levies (some type of local police) and customs II. When we finally arrived at the last post it was time for lunch.. Forty minutes later the official studied all documents meticulously and wrote down the motorbike details in his huge book in the most painstakingly slow manner… The clock hanging on the wall made it clear that after two days of riding we would have to spend the night in “hell-on-earth” Taftan. Slightly intimidated by our worried police escort, the moneychangers and all kind of other dodgy people hanging around us we tried to negotiate a reasonable price for our overnight stay in the most dirty hotel ever… The mattress was nonexistent, the carpet on the floor was stolen from a refugee camp and full of spit stains and cigarette holes. The bathroom was completely off-limits due to its dire state of maintenance. Apparently previous guests agreed as indicated by highly suspicious stains in one of the room’s corners. Maybe the Dutch embassy was right: One should not venture into Pakistan.

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3 Responses to Hell on earth

  1. Wim van Steenhoven says:

    Hoi jongelui,
    Het was weer een tijdje geleden dat ik jullie ervaringen gelezen had. Gaat goed met jullie dus. Een oom van mij zei eens:”Op vakantie moet je afzien en pijn lijden dan duurt hij lekker lang”. Maar op deze manier duurt hij inderdaad wel heel erg lang. Fijn 5 sterren hotel trouwens. Het ga jullie goed en tot ziens.
    Wim

  2. Ria en Rinus says:

    Heftig……. blij te weten dat, bij het ter perse gaan van dit artikel, de escortes, jullie groep reislustige avonturiers, zeer veilig Pakistan hebben doorgeloodst. Alle formaliteiten mogen dan wel veel tijd kosten, maar jullie hebben er heel wat voor terug gekregen, veel goed gezelschap en alweer nieuwe hartelijke en gastvrije vrienden, we kijken weer uit naar nieuwe verhalen en foto´s over jullie belevenissen in dit toch ook weer mooie land. Doeg, veel groetjes van thuis, namens allen, Paps en Mams.

  3. Anja Trommelen says:

    Zo zo, dat is weer eens totaal een andere, zeer spannende keerzijde van alle spontane lieden die jullie voorheen ontmoet hebben! Zeer verstandig om met meerderen verder te reizen! Je hoort weer andere ervaringen en staan met meerderen sterk! Ik hoop toch dat alles wat vlotter gaat verlopen, interesssant is en die moeite van alle spanningen waard zal zijn.
    Geniet ze! En Paul, wat lijk je toch veel op je vader!

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