Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bomb blast and taking the long way round.

Burned out bus in Baluchistan
So here's the good news.
We're happy to be on the road heading for Quetta. Spirits are high and we happy to be moving.

Here's the bad news.
Quetta is the place where a Scottish guy had his head removed back in April. I'm trying not to think about it but can't help to worry again when we pass the remains of a bus in which  18 people heading for the Iran border we're murdered just recently.

We keep making jokes about Taliban, being abducted and held to ransom often to break the monotony. But I think in the back of our mind we really are slightly bothered even if no one admits it. The Taliban won't be interested in tourists surely but the police are convinced we are a risk. At the last checkpoint before the city of Quetta, the police guys mentioned that 2 people are killed everyday here, usually police. The police car driver waves his arm and beeps the horn to gesture everyone is ready to go and  to stay close by. Ok let's move then!

Our destination is a hotel is on the outskirts of the town but the police driver has been told by someone we want to visit the bazaar in the centre of the city! Just what we wanted to do, parade through the centre of a dangerous city with the local police then go shopping for herbs and spices after 8 hours ride Of course, that would be great thanks constable. 

Our destination hotel
Since arriving in Pakistan We keep hearing, "It's dangerous for you, we must go quickly" or " You must not go out at night, its dangerous for you". So here we are plodding along in full sight of the entire population of Quetta as its getting dark, trundling along at such a slow pace we feel we are in a funeral cortege  I've noticed most of us are wearing lots of black so that's convenient. Everyone else in the streets are staring at the infidels arriving. Just staring. Am I paranoid, or is that bearded guy phoning some gun toting Taliban waiting at the ambush ahead? 

 Jeroens bike is overheating again and he explains this in his usual persuasive banging on bonnets and shouting at "You fucking idiots, your making us a target"! They seem to take this well, all things considered, and bring around another police car which has a good second gear, this speeds up our procession and helps to cool Jeroen and his overheating engine. It's now dark and everyone is nervous. To add to my excitement, the fuel warning light reminds me I'm about to run out soon and be left at the side of road as fresh meat but thankfully after around an hour we arrive at our hotel and are relatively safe in the fenced grounds of the Gardenia resort just before the bike dies.

The place is OK  offers hot showers , a real toilet and WiFi  Great! More importantly, beer is available so I'm happy. So happy in fact, the dripping tap which I use as a shower to clean my toes doesn't bother me. The lack of any toilet paper makes me snigger, I shrug off the fact that although the the WiFi is quick , it isn't connected to anywhere outside the hotel. Ah well we have cold beer on its way, nothing will bother me then. We've driven into one of the worlds most dangerous cities so running water, WiFi and a clean bum doesn't bother me, I'm happy i still have a bum and use it to support my beer drinking activities later that night.

So next day were looking to get out of town as soon as possible but Pakistan has other ideas. We need a letter of permission to drive to Lahore, and just to make it interesting, the road is closed.

Dave and Richard head off to get some cash from the bank, get a permit to drive out of Quetta and hopefully come back with their heads still on. The rest of us take advantage to carry out some maintenance on the bikes and our mental health.

When David & Richard return they have some good and bad news.

The good news - We got the permit to travel from Quetta.
The bad news. - We have to go via Karachi!

Apparently it's too dangerous to take the more direct sensible route, a diversion of 1500kms south is whats needed

By now, we're not really phased by anything Pakistan bureaucracy can throw at us and happily get on our way. What we didn't know is that whilst we were driving through the city, some nutter blew up a bus killing a child and injuring 16 in the city centre. This is no place for a holiday.

 The northern part of road to Karachi is beautiful  amazing scenery of sharp golden mountains  dark brown rock formations, excellent roads and the never ending friendly people of the countryside welcoming foreigners to their land along the way. 

I can now understand how rock stars and celebrities can get pretty used to this. I've waved to a million smiling people today. 

The day is long and we've relaxed into a routine, stopping for photographs and occasional drink. Perhaps being careless with daylight  we arrive in  the outskirts of Karachi in the dark. The route on David & Jeroens GPS Sat nav's agree to take us direct route to the hotel. The traffic is absolutely crazy and the heat and congestion force us to take a 5 minute break. Jeroens bike decides it's had enough and stalls. So here we are in a busy busy part of town, our popularity hasn't weaned yet and around 50 people circle our group. One kind man even feeds Martin and me with some pastry. What lovely people live here, or so we believe. 

When we do get to our hotel, we're made aware that last week local police abandoned a week long fire fight in this same suburb in which we'd stopped for refreshments and snacks.

In addition to avoiding, toll roads, ferries and even gravel roads, why don't Garmin add a function to the GPS unit for travellers to avoid dangerous Mafia controlled suburbs as well?

No room at the Inn.

Some pics from the day.

Another burnt out vehicle

View from Karachi hotel

Richard and Martins pad.

Karachi hotel


  1. For your heroic journey in Pakistan I can remember a nice quote .. here it goes

    -Life's Journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out and bleeding while shouting..Holy Shit!! What a Ride!!"

  2. What a land of contrasts - welcoming hospitality and crazed bombers. Hard to imagine..Love your blogs Steven, and certainly hope we see you again! You won't forget this trip anytime soon. Keep smiling. -Russ @Manish - I love that quote!