‘What a fu****?’ ‘What am I doing here?’ These questions I asked myself several times when I crossed Pakistan especially Balochistan. However, crossing Pakistan was one of the best experiences I have made on our road trip.
Crossing Pakistan from India to Iran
Travelling in Pakistan is not really recommended by the German foreign office. Due to security issues there are a lot of travel warnings for some regions in Pakistan currently. And I have to pass some of these regions to cross from India to Iran.
To get more information about the current situation in Pakistan I talked to many travellers who crossed Pakistan during the last months, checked a lot of websites, newspapers and so on.
The good information is, travelling there seems to be safer then some years ago. There were no incidents against foreigners reported the last 2,5 years. However I am going to be accompanied by the police at one point of my way.
From India to Sukker
Another point the people I talked to mentioned is the extreme friendly and open-minded people in Pakistan. An experience I made the first time when I cross the border.
On the Indian site of the border (Amritsar) the officials want to see everything. I have to show them everything at Loki. It takes more then two hours for the security check and another two hours for the immigration. Disgusting.
On the Pakistan side I get a smile of every security man and a warmly “Welcome to Pakistan”. The paperwork is done in a record time of less then 30 minutes. Now I am in Pakistan.
The first thing what I had never expected are – the roads. The roads are in a pretty good shape, much better than in India. And the traffic outside the cities is quite relaxed compared to India.
Later the day I stop in front of a restaurant between Lahore and Multan. The probability is high to get a police escort around Multan. However I want to keep my independency tonight. The people at the restaurant are really friendly. I am starving. So I order some traditional Pakistani food. The owner of the restaurant offers me to stay here for the night. It is late and so I stay close to restaurant. In the evening we talk with hands and feet. The Pakistani are really interested. When I ask for my bill, they denied. “No, you are invited.” I get a last tea and I go to bed.
The next day I drive further to the South. I pass Multan, but I cannot see any police – lucky me or not? Later the day the police stops me at a checkpoint. ‘Will I get a police escort now?’ Not really, I am invited for a tea and some food. Afterwards I can continue my journey. This evening I stop close to Sukker at a restaurant. The same procedure like last evening. I have a nice talk, I am invited for dinner and I can stay there. ‘It is save, here’ they tell me.
The next morning a pass Sukker and reach the border of Balochistan.
Border Balochistan to Quetta
“Where are you going?” “Are you alone?” “Where is the police?” Four armed policemen jump on the street at the border to Balochistan. “I have not got any police escort.” I answer. “It will change now. You are in Balochistan, now. It is dangerous, here!” And so it is. My escort is changing all the time. Sometimes I am accompanied by a truck, by motorbikes, sometimes only an armed person sitting in Loki or sometimes nobody is there. ‘Nobody? Shall I drive alone? I presume, it is so dangerous here?’
I have all the stories of the last kidnapped foreigners in this region in my mind. Even it is more than 2,5 years ago, I start to think about it. There is no Police to protect you like in some cases of kidnapping. In this situation every person, every car passing me can be a potential kidnapper. ‘Really, or is it just in my mind?’ In this stunning, hot and confused desert landscape every person could be a potential kidnapper. So I drive kilometres after kilometeres alone. I am really scared. However the most of them is just in my mind, it is not real.
I am always really happy when I see the next checkpoint. Late in the afternoon I reach Quetta.
Quetta and the NOC
Here I must spend the night and I have to apply for an NOC to get the permission to continue my journey to Taftan (Iran border).
The police stopped me in front of an hotel in Quetta, Here it is save, I can park Loki and spend the night. Unfortunately – so I know from other travellers – the gate is to low. “I made it higher, it is now about four metres.” the manager tells me. ‘Yeeahhh, four metres, maximum 3,5metres and Loki ist more than 3,7metres high’ I think. “It is not possible to drive in here” I say. “Of course. You just need release some pressure from your wheels.” he answers. “I guess, it will not be possible to gain 25 or centimetres with releasing air pressure.” “Of course it is.” he answers again. A long discussion starts. However I have been driving for 14 hours today and I do not want to make the senseless try to release pressure to pass the gate. Finally we get an agreement, that I can park Loki in the Policeland of Quetta and come back to the hotel.
The next day I have to get my NOC to continue my journey. It means I must go to the government office to get a paper with many stamps and signatures. However it is not allowed to leave the hotel without armed men. So I am waiting for my policemen, which are driving me around the city. And there they are: Four policemen armed with automatic weapons.
In the office building I must drink a lot of tea, but I get my NOC quite fast. Surprinsingly the boss in one of the offices is a woman. It is not usual in a men dominated world like Pakistan. And I could see that it is quite hard for Pakistani men to talk to a woman, when they need some permission, stamps, ID-cards or something else.
After two hours I get my NOC and could go back to the hotel. ‘However, where is my security?’ Not here. It is an unarmed policeman from the government building on a motorbike, who drives me back to the hotel. ‘Is it secure? I presume, it is so dangerous here?’ Back in the hotel I find my securities drinking tea. ‘Ohhh, nice! However I am back now, and I am safe.’
From Quetta to Taftan
The next morning I can start for the last 620km on my trip through Pakistan. We want to leave early, however it need some time until the police is ready. We cross Quetta. Unfortunately I must wait for hours in total until the police manage to put my new police escort in place at the changing places in Quetta.
Finally we leave Quetta. Everything is fine until the left front tyre of Loki is flat. ‘Ohh, shit! I am on one of the most dangerous parts of our road trip and have a flat tyre. They fixed the tyre last week in India and the spare tyre as well.’ It is around 50+ centigrade outside. The police running around like startled chickens. “Fix your tyre fast!” ‘Haha, fast? My record is 50 minutes and it is not so easy when you`re running around like….’ And I am really fast. After 30 minutes we can drive further.
I check the tyre nearly every kilometre while driving. The – in India fixed – spare tyre looks good.
I reach the hotel for the night around 5pm. The next day I want to let the flat tyre fix. In the next village the police stops. I must drive Loki on the property of the Levies Force – the local police. I have to hide myself in the house. The people from the garage take the tyre to repair it. After two hours and again with four armed people around me, I am allowed to leave the place and have a look what the mechanics are doing. Again iam invited for a tea. It is a relaxed atmosphere. The tyre is fixed and so I feel better.
The next kilometres everything is fine. The road is good. The police drives a good speed. It is just incredible hot in the desert.
Everything is good until I get a new escort close to the border of Iran. First they have to refill diesel. In the next village they need more diesel, jumping out of the car and running around without any weapons. Additionally the radiator is leaking and they need to refill water. ‘You want to protect me. Can you really protect yourself?’ I think. The next 120km is the procedure the same, every 20-30km they are jumping out of the car, refilling water and we drive the next 20km. I do not really know if they are armed or not.
Finally I reach the border. Unfortunately the border is closed for today. So I have to spend one night more in a Policeland of Pakistan. The night is quiet. Just one time around 100 or more people are brought to the Policeland. It seems they are Pakistani refugees, which are catched by the Iranian police.
The next day I leave Pakistan. However I am still in Balochistan and so I am still accompanied by the police.