PAKISTAN OR BUST

Trip Start ??? 06, 2001
1
7
10
Trip End ??? 07, 2001


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Flag of Pakistan  ,
Friday, September 1, 2006

My initial instinct was not to come this way,after reading of 12 hour journeys,and looking at the remoteness of the location on the map.It sounded like a journey from Hell,especially in this day and age,post 9/11,in a region of Pashtun tribesmen and close to the border of  the dangerous southern region of Afghanistan.
My options were limited by visa problems for ex Soviet countries to the north,however,and so I had little option but to venture this way if I wanted to continue my overland expedition.
I left Bam in south east Iran early-well,8 am anyway-not bad when you are on holiday and an increasingly worn out 40 something.After a several hour bus ride bus ride,through a landscape of  Sun blackened desert hills,we arrived in Zahedan.I didn't have long here.My Iran visa expired today,and I had to get across the border before it shut in early evening.I stopped only for lunch in an expensive hotel's restaurant.The salad was memorable,along with the english style fish and chips.I was unsure of the kind of food that would be available across the border so I filled up on familiar food to ease the long road ahead.
 One hour later,I was riding by taxi to a shared taxi terminal for the rest of the ride to the Taftan border.We crammed into an overloaded minibus,and descended through more desert terrain,my Pakistani travel companions videoing the route with their camcorder.We were all entranced by the whirling,mini twister,dust devil,sandstorms that were kicking up around us.Some way before the border,we unexpectedly had to change vehicle to an open backed truck for the last few miles as taxis were stopped at a police checkpoint area,itself a busy terminal.I faced backwards to prevent the thick dust irritating my eyes,and we were unloading at the border within 15 minutes.
Formalities were reasonably brisk on the Iranian side,although the bags had to be fed through two scanner machines,which always makes you feel nervous for your photographs in case the X-Rays are harmful,although I have never come across a problem yet,in 17 years of travelling.The process was enlivened by a surprisingly intellectual border guard who wanted to quiz me about the correct meaning of various English phrases,most of which I had never heard of.I informed him that his guess was as good as mine.His knowledge of  English literature,from which most of these appeared to be derived,clearly outstripped that of the average native British citizen.
I was allowed through a gate,adjacent to which Ayatollah Khomeini and President Rafsanjani frowned down at me from a wall mural.Arriving at the Pakistani border post,I was summoned into an office where formalities were brief,and then out,past the welcoming wall mural that reminds you of the founding father of this nation,to face the money changers.I was far too wary to actually change any money,and humped my heavy bags past them and to the nearest hotel,but I was to return later when I realised what a good rate they were offering,and took my picture of the mural in the process,initial caution thrown to the wind.

When I had first arived,a coach was just about to depart from right outside the border,baggage piled high on it's roof,heading for Quetta.Some of the people staying at the same hostel in Bam were no doubt on it,having left just before me that morning,although the interior was too dark in the fading early evening light to see them through the windows,and I didn't envy them their cramped conditions.(I was to bump into one of them nearly two months later in the north of Pakistan,and he confirmed that they had seen me cross the border).All things considered,this entry point hadn't proved nearly as daunting as I had expected.
I was to meet no other foreigners for the next couple of weeks but the local people were a delight,behaving with all the curiosity and hospitality of a people who rarely see tourists in their midst,most travellers long hauling straight through to Quetta,if not Lahore or Islamabad on marathon non stop 26 hour journeys.
I stayed the night in Taftan.A smallish dusty town,but not as bleak as I had expected.
The hotel was a little too much,I thought at 600 PKR(5) for a single ensuite room,but they endeavoured to get the air conditioning working,pouring buckets of cold water into an ancient generator that spewed out only filth.By the time I returned from exploring the town,this dirty air had even become warm as the water evaporated.I switched it off before more harm was done.A mouse scurried along the far wall,temporarily freaking me out,and I picked up a blunt instrument in an attempt to put an end to it,but couldn'd find it.In the end I gave up and fell asleep regardless.It had looked like quite a nice,country,brown mouse anyway,I suppose,and in retrospect,I was glad I hadn't harmed it.As long as it wasn't in my bed!
        

   
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