Leaving Quetta via creek

Trip Start Apr 29, 2006
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Trip End Nov 15, 2007


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Thursday, September 7, 2006

7.9.06

It was agreed that we should all travel in convoy in Pakistan as far as we could. Our five vehicles departed at 6am to avoid the business of Quetta city. Casper lead in his MAN, followed by Kees and Else in the Merc Unimog, then Robert and Jitke in the Merc 911 ex-army ambulance, Lou and Lynn were next in their Merc 100 MD and we brought up the rear in our Nissan Patrol. We traveled this way for about 20 kilometers, when we entered the Bolan Pass we were met by a huge traffic jam of trucks ahead of us which had obviously been held up by the strike. Nothing was moving. Drivers were outside their vehicles chatting and doing small repairs.

Casper came to Lou and Des and said "You're vehicles are smaller, you might be able to get through OK". The 3 bigger vehicles would obviously have to wait till everything started moving. Bolan Pass is very narrow, so barely room for two vehicles to pass.

Lou inched ahead one truck at a time and at times walked ahead of his vehicle to see how soon he could pull in again, should a vehicle come in the other direction.

One of the drivers indicated for Des to take the creek bed. Des didn't need to be told twice! We had only just entered the creek bed when there was a drop off of about a meter, at which point Des knew there was no turning back now. It was a rough ride in the pebbly creek but we were following a works vehicle, loaded with young men balancing on top who were cheering us on. At one stage the works truck got bogged in the smaller pebbles and all hands jumped off, dig around the wheels and pushed it to get it going. They were delighted to have their photos taken during all this and insisted on standing in a line for a photo shoot.

A little further along there was a drop off too steep for our car, so the boys all jumped down again and made a little ramp for our Nissan Patrol. All the while the works team foreman was following our Nissan in his Toyota Hi Lux 4x4. It was a ride of about 10 kilometers through the creek bed, all the while we had no ideas where we would come out. We could see the line of hundreds and hundreds of beautifully decorated trucks, each one individually different, up above us on the Bolan Pass. The creek bed was very wide and was full of an assortment of soft gravel and large and small bolders which had been well rounded by the tumbling torrent of water which must come down here in the wet. It wasn't muddy, but the big bolders did some damage to our tool box which is bolted under the tray, and unfortunately we lost our Shin Saver

After the first 2 kilometers we saw Lou's vehicle up above us on the road, he spotted us and told us to wave, I saw him ready with the camera, but was holding on too tightly to smile.

It was a crazy ride but there was a camaraderie between us all in the creek bed. We were introduced to The Welder, The Foreman and The Supervisor and they directed us out to an area where the road would join, laughing, waving and cheering these crazy Ozzies.

When we were back on the road it was amazingly quiet as we were just about the only vehicle on the road. We drove slowly hoping the others might catch up to us although we knew the three big campers from our friends would be in for a very long day.

At the second Police Road Check, two hours later, Des got out to tell the officers that there would be 4 other Europeans and Australian vehicles passing, and to tell them we had passed. Des had no idea how much the Police man understood, but left the Check Point confident he had done all he could to contact the others.

Fifteen minutes on from the Police Check Point, we stopped for coffee in the shade of a tree. Des hopped out onto a rose bush which cut his ankle up pretty badly. It was miserably hot and humid and I was very worried about the others, particularly Lou and Lynn. Des and I sat and discussed the situation for awhile and intended to go on to our predetermined destination of Sukkur.

Suddenly we heard a "Cooee" and were delighted to see Lou and Lynn. The Policeman at the Check Point stopped Lou to show him a newspaper. He was confused as to why he would be showing him a newspaper written in Pakistani. Then he spotted on our registration written in English at the top of the page. Good job too, except he got the number wrong!

Another cuppa and an Afghani Melon and we were on our way. We were stopped by a Police Check at Sibi In the Punjab of Pakistan and asked our details including destination for the day and final destination out of Pakistan. We were told to wait for a Police Escort.

To be continued:.....


Cont. 7.9.06
Sukkur

The Pakistani Police were wonderful. All wanted to chat and shake Des and Lou's hand. They all wanted to know how we liked Pakistan and what were our thoughts about it. And, did we know Ricky Ponting?

Pakistan has a large work force and there are many people who want to work. Unfortunately not all can find work, so there are often many people standing around us. They are good natured and curious. We show everyone who is interested, our camper and do our best with the language to tell them something about our selves, our country and our trip often with the aid of photographs. It's always helpful when one in the crowd speaks a little English, but we do not expect that they should.

Our Police Escort finally arrived. This is not something we wanted, nor do we think we deserve it. We had to choose which way to travel East and the choices were Afghanistan or Pakistan. We appreciate the police escort as it is for our safety, but we don't consider it a right. We also hope that all the Police men who were involved in our escort got something out of it too. While we have been traveling, we have gone to some places which don't see too many tourists so we have tried to act as ambassadors for our country, Australia and act with dignity and treat all the people whom we meet with respect. It is their country we are only passing through it and we are very aware of this. We try to help where we can with small hand outs and gifts, and we support the local traders.

We had 8 different Police Escorts this day and we were getting pretty tired of racing through the narrow streets of some very poor villages. The people were all patient though. It seems a requirement when you live in a country with a dense population that you be tolerant and patient and give each other a chance to get by in life. We have seen no aggression in either Iran or Pakistan and the people seem of a calm nature, this is very comfortable for us and we feel welcome.

The Police Lines (station) in Sukkur is where we were asked to stay the night and we were grateful for a secure spot. In the last three countries we've been to, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan we have noticed that the people who have a job often sleep in their places of employment, like service stations, shops, or in their vehicles if they have a tuk-tuk or a bike with a rickshaw, they sleep resting their feet on the saddle. In the Police Lines too, there are officers and families who live on the premises which are quite huge, many buildings and much land and gardens. Naturally, being the new kids on the block generated a lot of interest and the young officers and loads of children came to see us. There was a patch of green and when Des mentioned Shane Warne, one of the kids raced away to get a cricket bat and ball. Lou and Des managed a few overs but with the stifling 35C heat and high humidity, were soon put back in their deck chairs. The kids hardly raised a sweat.

We had tea, amongst the crowd, and I started the washup. The girls stood as close as they possibly could to see how I did things. So, when I was finished, I put the dishes back in the bucket of warm soapy water and asked the little girls if they would like to do them. Some heavy discussion broke out over the tea towel, so I brought out an extra one. Packing the clean, dry dishes away into the camper van seemed to be the most fun as they could each look into the cupboards. Each child put one item away, consequently it took some time before all the cutlery was stowed.

We had lots of fun with the kids everywhere, even when they were trying to sell us things, they still had a sense of humour and enjoyed a little banter. Finding a common thread is probably the key.

I asked Lou if he would come with me to the main office to ask the Police if it was safe for us to go the internet, which we were told was only a kilometer away. We sat in the hot Call Center of the Police Office and waited for an hour or so. Two Police Officers with rifles and side arms eventually came to take us, but asked how long we would take and did we know it was very far and dangerous. Pakistan has 4 districts or provinces which have some rebel elements fighting each other and Westerners are considered a target for the insurgents. We were told it would be a long drive in the dark behind two Police officers heavily armed, but they would do it if we needed it. We decided against it. The Pod could wait.

That night in the hot, still, steamy air there was the sound of ratatatatatat, and single fire. Explosions close enough to shake the earth and frighten the living daylights out of me. I was constantly out of bed checking to see if the Police Officer was still sleeping on the grass beside us, and the one on the chair in the complex was still there, plus the two Officers who were on a cot in the Police grounds. They were unfazed, so I guess 'situation normal'.

While Des was having a wash in the communal wash trough, about 3 meters square with 1 meter of water in it, (the men all stand around it with their buckets, tipping water over themselves), he mentioned the gunfire at night and they all laughed and said it was a very important fireworks evening for a Muslim celebration, not gunfire!
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