Sunday, October 14, 2012

Banged up abroad.

Turn right to Pakestan?
Leaving early from our government run basic hotel in Zahedan just on the border in Iran, we aim to get to the border early to ensure we reach Dalbandin some 300kms into Pakistan before nightfall. So we do the usual motor bike queue-jumping through the lines of buses and trucks, being careful not to kill any pyjama-wearing local in between the narrow dark corridors of trucks and trailers.

the first of many
We get through the Iranian and Pakistani customs and passport control fairly easily, however the next set of customs changes all that and time grinds to a halt. I swear Pakistan have saved their biggest idiot to stamp the carnet de passage document for our bike import into the country. I won't mention to the guys that I dropped some of their passports in the middle of a compound and have to rush around to pick them up with help of some more pyjama clad locals.

Here's how it goes everywhere else in the world so far;  open book, stamp two locations, date and sign, tear out bottom bit. 2 minutes at most.

Here is the Pakistan border version, sit, wait, look at form, look at driver, read carnet, write down all vehicle particulars on loose sheet. Look at carnet. Look at driver. Sigh deeply, take deep breath. Write something in foreign language, look at carnet, look at driver.... You get the idea! 20 minutes each for 5 bikers just for this. 

So, we've arrived when the border opens at 9 but we don't leave until 3:15 in afternoon. This means that we're heading along one of the most dangerous roads in the world in falling darkness and unknown territory with nowhere to stop for the night! Along the way the road deteriorates to make things even more interesting on which the other guys in in the adventure style bikes sail on regardless. My sports bike feels every bump. Once again I'm nervous that I'll break the poor bike and soon nearly do as I fail to see a huge speed bump at a remote a rail crossing and too late! I'm propelled into the air like an idiot. I land ok and celebrate my success too early as another hump I also didn't see sends me into the air again, this time I hear a clunk and something breaks. 

We're in the middle of nowhere, aren't we? No. We're in fuckin Taliban country! and we're unarmed! Fuck! We really don't want to break down here. It's getting darker and the stress level, shows on all our faces. Jeroen's bike is making funny noises too. My bike is ok, the clunk was a spare sprocket tied under my seat coming loose. Easily fixed with cable ties. This tells me to slow down but  it's becoming pretty clear that we will not make Dalbandin tonight and decide to stop at a village on the way. If the border crossing had been quicker we would have made it. Bugger! 

There are no hotels here, so, we find ourselves staying overnight in the police station in Nok Kundi. It's fairly basic It has walls, cells, occasional electricity, a roof you can climb onto to see Afghanistan and its less hospitable offspring. Let's hope they don't see us! The police don't want us on the roof as we're a practice target apparently. There goes the idea of rough camping looking up at the stars. David picks cell no 3, the rest of us crash on the dusty concrete verandah outside. Despite the depressing state of the town around us, our spirits are high and were happy to dig up some local food, Dahl, bread, packets,of biscuits and some drinks. No beer sadly, we're still in a dry country. 

Watching  Long Way Round

We're told it's best to sleep before 9:30. Like the banged up bad boys we are, we ignore this, mostly whilst we gather around to watch, of all things, Long Way Round on my iPad. Weird and wonderful moment watching 5 grown men on bikes, sick of riding bikes in weird places, watching a TV show about blokes riding on bikes in weird places. How more weird could this get?

When we finally settle to bed, expecting silence and tranquillity, the police switch on a noisy short wave radio at one end of the station whilst the other two gun toting guards loudly discuss the current state of affairs, or price of chapati's for all I know. They cannot stand the silence it seems. David and myself decide we're still trying to get a handle on things and stay up for some time chatting about the day, trying to comprehend where we are and who thought this would be a good idea? We feel reasonably safe here as long as there isn't a large crowd outside of maybe one or two hundred more who would have no problem pushing down the heavily armoured gate bolted to the sand compound by a weak tree branch.

Eventually I climb into my sleeping back and lie back, staring at the stars above through the police dipole antennas. I'm hoping they're connected to the American forces 50km away in Afghanistan and just in case, I have my little emergency spot beacon thing alongside that upon pressing the red button would bring the helicopters if we needed them through the night, surely? I stuck with this nice thought which helps me me sleep.

Local shops?
Next day, we're all up and cheery. First thing is new battery for Jeroen's bike. The old one has cooked and is,now totally dead so the police take us to the nearby town where there is a small shop. Well, shop is an overstatement, an indoor rubbish tip behind a garage door is more accurate description. The door belongs in the rubbish tip too. The helpful guys in dirty pyjamas sell Jeroen a battery in a box. It's obvious the box and the battery belong on the rubbish tip as well but we have little choice, and with Taliban surely aware of our overstay in this town we happily grab the only option available. 

So, 2 hours later, mucking around with cables, jump leads and much swearing, the KTM is running, but only just! We need to get petrol and with no petrol stations within 200kms, we buy from local petrol pimp. For him to see 5 unusual bikes with police escort is not a daily event here and apart from occasional killing of bus loads of migrants or suicide bomber excursions, we doubt that very much else happens here either. Before long we have around 50-60 people around us but the police really don't like this, they are more nervous than any of us. This makes me nervous too.

crowd around Jeroen's bike
Trying to get out of town, Jeroen's bike stalls again and stress level is suddenly high once more. We need to get a jump start as the battery we fitted is not charged enough. This takes more valuable minutes, and more swearing as we have to remove,some panels to get at the terminals simply to get the engine going again. It's stinking hot, and we're getting pissed off. Not all of us, mostly Jeroen who screams in anger when it stalls once again. Again I hear the Pakistan catch phrase, "It's dangerous for you we must go, go go"! So we manage to restart the bike and eventually get on the road aiming for Quetta but it was not meant to be.

Filling out more pointless
forms and ledgers
At every roadside security check point stop we're getting fed up with having to fill out all our details, with name, fathers name, passport, reg etc ... Jeroen takes advantage of the guard doing it for us and tells him his passport No. H546 34567 2341223 5432 665765 443 112. The guard runs out of columns, "This is very long number", he waggles his head in Pakistani accent but keeps on going anyway. I have to leave the room as I can barely keep my face straight and walk away holding my breath, trying not to burst out laughing.

We're only 300 Km's from Iran border after 2 days, so we're not too satisfied with our progress but the thought of a mechanical breakdown close to darkness in this country is scary. We'll get this bike right and head all the way tomorrow, we hope! So we decide to find a hotel and stay here well before daylight ends. With slow escorts and delays in changing over our armed convoy we run out of day again. Allah has decided its best we stay in Dalbandin.

 Not everyone is happy with this choice but when Allah provides beer and free Internet, the moaning stops. Especially from me. 

Bomb blast and taking the long way round.

Martin decided to climb in cell No.3 also

View from roof of Police station of local town.

Cell No 4 - Kirk, infidel.

Wild camels on a slow relaxing walk across the deserts from Afghanistan

Heading into Pakistan

Looking back to Iran from police station roof.


  1. Great post, Steven! What a trying couple days that was! I must say I do prefer my scenery with a few more green things. I've frequently wondered how anything lives in nothing but a sea of sand. -Russ

  2. Sounds like a real adventure. I traveled with Jeroen in Africa, well done for putting up with him :) He didn't have enough hassles in Africa so hopefully all the events taking place are satisfying him. Take care of the big guy and of course take care of yourself! Very Jealous, sounds exciting!

  3. I'm reading this with great interest (will be passing through that way this time next year... If it's still relatively "stable"). Hope it all goes to plan anyways. At the police escorted bits in Iran & Pak do they just wait for a day or two and get a group of vehicle together or is it possible to ride on your own with an escort if no one else turns up?
    Have fun! (again relatively speaking :D )