Playing in Pishin

Trip Start Apr 06, 2009
Trip End Jul 12, 2009

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Flag of Iran  , Sistan va Baluchestan,
Thursday, May 28, 2009

We had an early start the next morning to try to get to the border. Tempers started to flare on the truck as the temperature reached a mighty 52 degrees. Apparently, in Iran the temperature never officially goes above 50, as then the government is required to provide free electricity for the air conditioners and everyone gets the day off work, but the truck thermometer reached 52 on the last day before the border. After a long day of driving we luckily managed to find a camp in a rocky riverbed, about half an hour before the border. Everyone was so desperately hot that we all jumped straight off the bus and into the river fully clothed; headscarves and all! After 4 hot nights and days in the desert, I washed my hair and clothes, and even shaved my legs, in the river. I put up my tent in a little sandy hollow with Adam, Alison, Chris, Jasper and Amy and went to sleep to the sound of frogs and howling dogs under the stars.

None of us were prepared for what happened the next day at the border. We drove the half hour, collecting fresh cold water on the way. The border looked like a hole in a barbed wire fence with two armed guards either side. We were all taking bets on how long it would take us to cross the border, with some people guessing 2 days and others guessing not at all. We waited in the queue, were counted and recounted by the guards, had our passports inspected, got on the truck and off the truck and on the truck and off the truck, and Steve, Adam and other Steve (who spoke a small amount of Farsi) were involved in broken negotiations before finally, after 3 hours of waiting, we were turned away. The guards were convinced that the border was not safe for us to cross. We drove back to the nearby town where Steve could get on the phone to his contact in Tehran to help us formulate a plan. We waited for another hour on the truck in the heat. The water we had had come from the tanks on the truck, so not only did it taste and smell like chlorine, but it was almost too hot to drink from sitting in the sun, in a metal tank, next to the engine all day.

About an hour later, Steve came back and told us that apparently the owner of the phone shop where he was making calls had invited all 37 of us back to his house for lunch. We were all so bored and hot that, skeptical though we were, we agreed and off we chugged in the truck. To our delight, we found his home was large (by Iranian standards) air conditioned and comfortable. The men and women were split up as soon as we arrived, but this didn't bother us. We all sat in awe at the coolness of the room, drinking mango juice and eating cake. The floor was covered in a beautifully soft Persian carpet and the walls lined with cushions. So we all reclined to watch BBC News for the first time in 2 months! This was a mixed blessing. We were alarmed to learn that a bomb had exploded in a mosque in the town of Zahedan, where the original border crossing was, on the day that we were supposed to arrive there. Secondly, we also saw just how serious the unrest in Pakistan had gotten. Thirdly, the news from Steve was that they would not let us cross at this border, so where were we heading? Zahedan...

After a delicious dinner from our hosts consisting of mountains of roast chicken, salad and rice, and after playing for hours and hours with the local Iranian children, teaching them high-fives and talking in broken Farsi-English, we headed back to the same river campsite as the night before to formulate a suitable plan.

Adam and Steve told us that they were still going to drive the truck through Pakistan. They believed we could get to the main border without having to go directly into Zahedan. Once in Pakistan, we would drive straight through the Baluchistan Desert, around Quetta and through the country into India, mostly likely with a police escort. They told us this could mean driving 24 hours a day without many stops. They again gave us the option of flying over, as we apparently would pass a number of internal airports on the way up to the border. After much deliberation from a large portion of the group, including myself, and much talk of Goa, Kerala, Mumbai and other possible destinations late into the night, I decided... to sleep on it.
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