LOG ENTRY 18
Wagha border-India-Wagha border
Today we made an attempt to cross over to India but after half a day of negotiation we had to go back to Pakistan just to get our bikes confiscated.
An Indian custom officer posing with my sun glasses just before they decided not to let us entry India
The night went pretty well at the border. After watching the ceremony we made friend with some of the border rangers. They were very easy going to say the least, especially after a few rolls of hashish they smoked. It was interesting to see the top elite soldiers of the country getting stoned in uniform with their rifles next to them. They are of course offered us some but after seeing the interrogation of that stoned guy at the police station we decided hashish is the last thing we try in this country. After a while when the soldiers were close to reach nirvana we decided it is time to leave our newly made armed/stoned friends and try to get some sleep before the big day tomorrow.
As good the rooms looked in the beginning as bad they turned out at night. Our only one fan broke down middle of the night, taking away the only source of ventilation in the room and I can assure you, the weather is not very pleasant at this part of the world midsummer.
After a slight delay at the border we left Pakistan hoping that we can make it through the Indian border. It didn’t happen of course. The first thing they asked us to produce was the carnet, even before the passports. For some reason we thought that the Indian custom and border officers will be friendlier than their Pakistani counterparts but as usual it wasn’t like this. Being very well informed about the carnet and the difficulties getting it the custom officer quickly diverted the negotiation towards the money instead of finding a solution.
Two hours later and after endless phone calls to their seniors they decided to let us in with the bikes, all they want in return is $10,000. This amount is just ridiculous, especially with their conditions. They wanted us to pay and send a letter to them after we left India and they would send the money back to us. They said all we have to do is leaving the country, getting an entry stamp from our next destination, then send our passports back to prove we are not here and then they will put the money in the envelop and send it back together with our passports.
We earlier decided not to contact with Hungarian embassies anymore as the little help we can get is just doesn’t worth the hassle but at this point we hit a language barrier so we decided to give it a try. Surprisingly the embassy in Delhi was more than helpful and talked to the custom officers and they even called their seniors to figure out what to do. The $10,000 dollars was obviously not the option and at this point we kind of knew that the bikes won’t be able to travel any further without the carnet. The embassy offered assistance to obtain the carnet in Delhi but we would have to make our way there. The custom didn’t like the idea of taking the bikes there on a train so we figured the easiest thing to do is to leave our bikes at the border and make our way down to Delhi. At first they seemingly agreed on this option, especially after we accepted they “storage” fee condition. Not the best option we have but nothing we can do at this point. We took the bikes into a storage room, packed one bag with necessities for the travel to Delhi and of course everything valuable. We were about the take off from the border; all we needed is an entry stamp. We went back to the office and all of a sudden the mood changed there. We don’t really know what happened but the officer we made the deal with became very worried and told us in English that we can’t leave the bikes here. Interesting is that the officers kept switching between English and Hindi and when they spoke in Hindi they refused to say a word in English.
Anyway, things didn’t look good at this point. All our plans to leave the bikes here are scrapped and now we are fighting for an entry stamp. Apparently one of the senior officers decided to exercise his right and not letting us into the country. This really isn’t a solution as we have been stamped out of Pakistan so we don’t have a valid visa to go back anymore. We tried to explain this and also called the embassy back but he was reluctant and basically sent us back to Pakistan.
You can imagine dear reader how we felt. There is now way to try another border crossing as there aren’t any other, we have no visa to Pakistan so most likely we will stuck at the border again.
As we got back to Pakistan seemingly they knew what happened on the other side so they gave us little hassle, only about for an hour or two. The bike keys were confiscated right after we got off from them but luckily the visa wasn’t an issue. They hold our passport with them but issued a paper, similar to the one we got on the other end of the country, saying that they have our passport and we can even travel to Lahore or Islamabad to figure out how to get the carnet.
The owner of the hotel was very happy to see us at the border station, we didn’t share his happiness thought but nothing really we can do. After a nice shower from a plastic barrel filled with water we got dressed and went to the Beating Retreat ceremony again.
I think I don’t spoil the story too much if I say this was not the last time we seen that ceremony.
In the next BLOG ENTRY we will go to Lahore and try to obtain the carnet through the Pakistani Automobile Association.
Today we are making an attempt to cross over to India which ended up using our single entry Pakistani visa, stuck in Pakistan and technically being illegal immigrants while watching the Beating Retreat ceremony.
I'm posing with the head of the Pakistani "cheerleader"
The night went well except the part that we were terrified of the London bombing which just happened days before but this was the first time for a long while when we had access to any foreign news media. Last night the police officers were very keen to take us to the hotel room, one armed officer even came in the room and checked it before we were allowed to go in. It was surprising and we thought it’s all about showing off but now we think it was probably a precaution.
We set a meeting with two guys from the Citibank who promised to come back today just in case we have some problems. After a few rounds of negotiations –it seems like the morning shift police/custom was not informed about what happened last night- we were good to go. I had to take one officer with me to the border; he carried our passports and the custom papers which he supposes to return us as soon as we get stamped out of Pakistan. By the way it was noon when we left Lahore and the border to India is closes at 3 pm so we had some concerns about getting there in time.
The way from Lahore to Wagga border crossing was very hectic. At Quetta we thought that this is the worst it can get but it was far from that, Lahore and the way to the border was way more chaotic. Dear reader, excuse me for the constant crying about the traffic, to be fair I didn’t mind it at all but it surprised me every time when an elephant horde comes at us or a water buffalo push us aside at the traffic light. There was a point when I almost crashed with the police officer behind me as one buffalo forced me to cross over to the other side where I drove into a huge pile of poop. I suspect it was left over from an elephant from its gigantic size.
We arrived to the border around 1.30-2 pm with a confident smile that nothing can go wrong now, at least on the Pakistani side. We knew that entering India without the carnet will be a hassle and maybe not even possible but we hoped the best.
Our hopes to enter India today was quickly demolished by a low ranking custom officer who wanted some money for the last remaining custom stamp even thought his seniors signed all papers. At this point the police officer from Lahore left already and we didn’t have the guy from Citibank either. After a quick negotiation, just to save time, we paid out some bribe, less than he wanted in order to make it through the border. He obviously didn’t like the amount but put the last remaining stamp on the paperwork, gave our passport back with the exit stamp in it already and sent us to our way. We had minutes left until the border gates shut so we literally ran to the bikes, jumped on them and headed to the gates which was around 200 meters from the place we were. As we were approaching to the gate we seen the Indian side closing down and right after two Pakistani border ranger pulled the gates together on our side as well. We tried to negotiate with them to open it up but no luck here. They said even if they let us through the Indians will never open it.
Now we found ourselves in a situation where we are stamped out of Pakistan but haven’t been stamped in to India. With sad faces and angry heart we went back to the passport control where the same custom officer waited us with a big smile. Since we are stamped out of our single entry Pakistani visa we basically became illegal immigrants with no valid entry permit to Pakistan. Nothing we could do here at the moment. The immigration officer took our passports and told us to stay in a small hotel right next to the border, we can walk around the border area which is actually quite big and nice, looks like a park but we are not allowed to leave this area. They took the bike keys as well just to be sure.
So here we are, being probably the only European illegal immigrants in Pakistan, waiting for tomorrow to finally cross over to India.
The hotel at the border was very decent –in Pakistani standards- and the rooms had English style toilets what he haven’t had for a while, even not in the previous hotel room in Lahore.
The lucky twist of day is that since we couldn’t cross over to India we could watch the famous border parade which takes place every late afternoon at the border. Of course at that point we didn’t know that there is a famous parade. We just noticed buses arriving one after another with people from all ages and gender, carrying Pakistani flags and heading towards the border. It had a football game feeling at first when we walked over and seen that the Indian side is doing the same thing.
The grey guys are the Pakistani Rangers and the browns are the Indian Border Patrol
Lowering both country's flag in a carefully choreographed manner
One of the Pakistani Ranger
The leader of all cheerleaders :)
A Pakistani citizen all dressed up for the Beating the Retreat ceremony
The Beating Retreat ceremony as it called is taking place every sunset in a carefully choreographed manner in which both sides lowering and fold their national flags together. So let it be Beating Retreat ceremony for the evening we thought. We secured a good spot on the tribune –as they had on both sides- and watched the ceremony.
It was actually very fascinating, of course we didn’t understand a single word from their chanting but it seemed like the crowds on both side shouted messages to the other side in an ever increasing volume. Both side had its “cheerleaders” as we called them, who shouted out a few words at first and then the crowd followed them and shouted the same message again and again.
Little we thought that this ceremony won’t be our last one and for the following days we will see it over and over again.
In the next blog entry I will tell the story how we tried to cross the border to India but ended up back again in Pakistan and how we will try to cross over daily for the next couple of days unsuccessfully.
LOG ENTRY 16
Arriving to Lahore after a lush train ride just to end up in the police station and get rescued by a group of bankers from Citibank.
Approaching the Indus Valley
We are on the train for at least 6 hours now, the assistant of Mr Khan left somewhere and a new police officer took his place. This new guy, Detective Tariq is a three star captain and he claims that this is the highest rank a detective could get in Pakistan. It is worth to look into it dear reader. He is a very pleasant company thought, both of them speak very good English but since Mr Tariq arrived Mr Khan aren’t that talkative as before.
The night went well on the train, we had a many sudden stops in the middle of nowhere when soldiers jumped of the train and guarded it. We couldn’t figure out what was it all about. Around 8 pm I went out to have a cigarette and find myself together with a group of Afghani guys. They all looked very strong and some of them were taller than me. I’m 6’2 by the way so it was very unusual to see such a tall central Asian guy for me. They were just as surprised seeing me as I was but they gave me a not very friendly glance at first. They asked me whether I’m an American which I quickly denied since there is a war going on. I told them that I’m Hungarian but we also fought against the Soviets just like them, this really broke the ice and we shared some cigarette of unknown origin and content, given me by them.
When the sun came up the landscape changed and the water from the Indus River turned the dessert into a green and seemingly subtropical environment.
By the way, as of today in our second week we are already 2 months ahead of our schedule so we decided to slow down from now on, stop for taking pictures, save the pictures as we lost a loads on CD’s and head up north towards the Himalayas.
Lahore Railway Station
As we arrived to Lahore and thanked our train roommates for the pleasant company we left alone standing next to the train with our bikes still up on it. No ramp as usual and no one to help getting them off. The conductor is keep hurrying us so out of anger we attempt to take the bikes off. Luckily one well dressed guy came for our aid and the three of us managed to lift the bikes off from the train one by one. Not bad considering a fully “round the world” loaded V-strom could weight around 250-260 kilograms.
After we managed to get the bikes off from the train an army of railway workers turned up and told us to push the bikes into a store room. First we didn’t know why, all we understood is to “push, ush, there, push, push, hurry, hurry.” It turned out that they want us to leave the bikes there for overnight and go to Wagga border, sort out the custom papers and come back for the bikes the next day. We thought no way. The storage room was more like a dump area where they kept all the left over trash, let alone the safety of the place. It looked like everyone has access to that store room so we put up a fight.
First we tried to deal with the railway police, no luck there, and then we tried the regular police next to the station, even less response from them. In a final attempt we called up the Hungarian embassy which was again turned out to be a waste of phone credit. We were about to give in and already thought about just staying with the bikes for the night when Dad had a great idea. Why don’t we ask the help of Ahmed?
Ahmed used to be my Mom’s boss at Citibank and they were pretty close. Mom always talked about him as one of her best bosses and he is happened to be Pakistani. Not just that he is local but her dad owns the very same railway company as we are having a problem with now.
After about 10 unsuccessful try, we finally managed to reach Mom and explain the problem we have. She said she will try to reach Ahmed and let’s see how it goes then the line disconnected.
We were sitting with this group of agitated railway workers who are obviously running into overtime with us as its already past 6 pm when a group of very well dressed bankers in cut suit turned up in probably the dirtiest place in Lahore. Eventually Mom managed to reach Ahmed who sent half of the management of the Lahore Citibank to our help. At this time Ahmed was the head of Citibank’s South Asian operation. The discussion from this point moved into the railway police station where we were offered tea and water which was a God given gift after hours struggling in the super hot storage room. Funny enough life just doesn’t stop because we and a group of bankers are there. The police kept bringing people in for what appeared to be questioning. One guy was obviously high on something, probably opium but the police kept interrogating him in a not very western way if you know what I mean. After they police got used to our presence they even made jokes with the poor guy, one gave me his automatic rifle and asked me to keep an eye on the motionless “suspect”. Luckily he didn’t get offended after I refused to hang on to the gun.
Until this point with my naïve teenage mind I always thought that bankers are good for nothing (I’m sorry for every banker who read this blog, I ended up pursuing a finance degree in the end too) but these guys sorted out everything so quickly. We still had to leave the bikes there but at this time half of the railways police officers were there to and they were instructed to guide our bikes in the night. We also got 2 police officers who took us to a nearby hotel for the night. The deal was that the next day we have to go back in the morning. One of us has to take a police officer to the border on the bike, check out the bikes at the border and we are good to go. Sounds like a deal for us. Considering that we got this far without the Carnet is already a small miracle.
As I have promised in the last LOG ENTRY, I explain the whole story about our misery with the paperwork and border crossing which was ultimately the result of not having a Carnet de Passage.
The LOG ENTRIES will continue after this one so sit tight and don't go anywhere.
Dear reader, I’m sure you are already wondered why we are having so many difficulties whenever we cross a border and why are we so amateur and unprepared for this trip. The fact I haven’t mentioned yet much is that this trip started in 2005. At that time internet was widespread though but we lived our life without being addicted to daily web use. In fact, when we left Hungary we did not have an internet connection at home, only at work so we hardly used the help of the mighty World Wide Web for our trip. It was all prepared in the old fashioned way, no reviews of other travelers have been read online, only in books, and no equipment was selected because someone wrote a nice review on it. Our planned route was highlighted on a paper map with green marker, following Zoltan Sulkowski and Gyula Bartha’s route and to save space and weight, we did not carry any Lonely Planet or other guide books. So if you ever wondered why we are taking hours finding accommodation is because all we did is ask locals where we could sleep. Also, we carried no device which could log onto the internet. Lastly, all our visa and paperwork preparation was done by the same way. Weeks of footwork from embassy to embassy, collecting visas and the necessary information what we need to enter a given country.
One place we went frequently was the Hungarian Automobile Association, the representative of the FIA in Hungary to gather information about all the necessary paperwork the bike might need for such a trip. With detailed itinerary we approached them a few times and it seemed that everything works out well. We got a paper based international driving license, a FIA certificate showing that our bikes are registered and insured in Hungary, all written in 10 languages and international insurance.
With all this in hand we felt invincible and all the border hassle we experienced basically after Bulgaria was considered as just nuisances of travelling what we already experienced firsthand in our previous African journeys. However, as we got deeper into South Asia and our problems got bigger than something we could solve with smiles and a few dollars here and there we had to realize that we are having a serious issue. At this time I found out about horizonsunlimited.com and since we had some time in our hand after Lahore I started to dig myself into the site. That time my English was limited –it is not much better now- and finding the crucial information wasn’t easy at all. This was the time when I first read about the Carnet de Passage, a yellow booklet every custom officer is asking about since Turkey. It was when everything became clear, all that bribes and fines we paid so far was actually a result of not having this damned paper. On a very same day we went to the FIA’s local office in Lahore to get the so needed Carnet. As probably all of you know it by now, the Carnet can be only issued in your home country with a deposit of 50% of the bike’s value. No luck here.
Countries in red which are require the Carnet, basically half of the countries that we are going to.
I am running a little bit ahead of the story now so please forgive me to kill joke, you should consider it as a preface for the grand final. Our bikes got confiscated in India after the third attempt to cross over from Pakistan in a period of one week. Don’t worry, I will write the whole detailed story in the following log entries. So as we were standing with no bikes, no clothes –except what we were wearing- we had to make the decision that one of us has to fly back to Hungary and get a Carnet.
In the main time my Mom was gathering all the information how to get a Carnet in Hungary. When she specifically asked abut Carnet no one really knew about it in the Automobile Association. After a few tries and phone calls somebody finally had some clue about it but what that person said was more than worrying. He said that due to a lot of misconduct and cheating with the Carnet, the Hungarian Automobile Association is no longer providing it. The problem with this is that every Automobile Associations are only keen to issue the Carnet for their own citizens or if the bike is registered in that given country. After spreading news about this unfortunate situation, one biker friend from Slovakia, who happened to work in the Slovakian Automobile Association, light the bulb up in the end of the tunnel. He offered help as he had connections in FIA and he could organize permission for the SAA to issue the Carnet for us. How great is that, yet somebody would have to fly back to Slovakia to pay the deposit and pick up the Carnet. In a paper-rock-scissor game Dad came out as a winner so he flew back (I’m kidding by the way) to Hungary and then drove over to Slovakia to collect the Carnet.
In the main time we published this story in the MotorRevu Hungary which is the sister magazine of the Motorrad, one of Germany’s most prestigious motorcycle magazine. Thought the result is not what we expected, soon after the magazine started to appear in the newsstands, the Hungarian Automobile Association contacted my Mom and threatened us with a lawsuit for defamation. More to the story is that after Dad flew home he went to the HAA and proposed the same itinerary and asked about the necessary paperwork. It happened to be the same lady we visited months before but she didn’t remember Dad. She then denied anything after Dad told her that he was there a few months ago and now he is here, flew back from India, blowing a substantial part of our budget just because she didn’t give any information about the Carnet. Her reply was the same what the HAA wrote us in the letter together with the possibility of lawsuit is “since the Hungarian Automobile Association is no longer providing the Carnet de Passage, we are not legally entitled to notify about it”. Also they wrote that our trip sounded ridiculous to their representative in the office that she simply did not take us seriously. Oh well, welcome to the bureaucratic part of Hungary.
I stop spoiling the story from here, I just felt it important to write this down before you, dear reader decide to move on from my blog, thinking what are these two idiots are all about. It was partially our fault, relying on 20th century way of preparation when the 21st century methods were available but we tried our best and this is how it ended.
Luckily our trips continued after Dad arrived back with the Carnet so don’t leave us and read Riderslog for the daily trip reports.
LOG ENTRY 15
Quetta - on the train to Lahore
Today is the first big decision to make. Take a train, ride the bikes with a soldier or get our bikes locked down.
We had a great night sleep and slept until quite late in the tent. We had an appointment with the custom officials at 9 am but our tent was literally 10 meters away from the office so we didn’t mind sleeping a bit longer. As it turned out we could have slept even longer as the official only came right before lunch and of course we had to wait for him to have a lunch.
Fairly quickly, about in 2 hours they made a decision that the bikes aren’t allowed to leave Quetta. You should have seen our face when we got this news. Especially that one part of the refugee camp/custom office yard was a depot for confiscated motor vehicles.
It is not an over statement if I say we almost passed out, I was actually closer to piss myself. Luckily we are in Pakistan, there are always some solutions, and we just have to find the right person and the right price. After arguing with them about an hour they called their superior who we haven’t met yet. I forget to tell that at this point we talked to about twenty officers in the custom office so it was hard to believe that there are still officers around who we haven’t met yet. But there was this guy Ismail who turned out to be the big boss. We only guessed this as none of them actually wore a uniform or any type of insignia.
Very bad quality picture of one of our helper
Ismail offered us two solutions. One is to take a police officer with us to Lahore and he will accompany us to the border. We would have to pay for all the expenses like his salary for the time together with accommodation, food and also a hefty price for this whole thing or put the bikes on a train and spend a day on the train to Lahore. Also, if we choose the riding option we would have only 2 days to get to Lahore which clearly not enough. It looks like that our plan to visit my Mom’s ex boss in Karachi and also go up to Islamabad is vanishing.
After a few calls to the Hungarian embassy and Mom who contacted the Hungarian Automobile Association we decided that the best option is to put the bikes on the train.
I will post a complete story what happened with the Hungarian Automobile Association but we threatened with a lawsuit.
As with everything so far in Pakistan we received lots of help buying train tickets. To be fair they bought it for us and we got police escort to the train station too. Whether they got ripped us off with the ticket or not the price was dirt cheap, about 50 USD for two of us first class plus the two bikes.
Loading the bikes on the train was an experience itself, let alone the pounds we lost in sweat as the station didn’t have a ramp so we had to lift the bikes up into the carriage. We got about 5 locals helping us but they wanted to lift the bikes at the mirrors, one guy even grabbed on the indicator so you can guess we did most of the work by ourselves.
LOG ENTRY 14
Dalbanden – Quetta
The day when we cross the mountains of Balochistan and arrive to it's capital Quetta and spend the night in an Afghan refugee camp.
After the great night in Dalbanden we gave the head of the compound –who turned out to be a town chief as well- a T-shirt and some other things we didn’t really need.
The way to Quetta is about 350 kilometers but it is even worse than it was a day before. The quality of the road is similar with more frequent holes but what really cracked me up sometimes is the traffic. From the border to Dalbanden the traffic wasn’t heavy at all. Mainly there were trucks but not too much passenger cars or other weird kind of rolling vehicles. This has changed on the way to Quetta, lots of cars and really all sorts of vehicles on the road slaloming between the holes and other incoming vehicle.
As we are from Hungary and drove in most of our life on the right side, Pakistan’s left hand sided traffic is challenging sometimes. Not much of an inconvenience for me but Dad -with his twenty plus years of driving on the other side- is struggling sometimes. Today one truck almost hit him as he was on the wrong side of the road. By the way wrong side, it seems to me that every side is a wrong side and you go wherever you find some space.
Before we arrived to Quetta we had some very scenic mountain passes which we and the bikes really liked. The road also tended to be better here but on the way up we had to fight through our way many slow or broken down trucks.
On the way to Quetta
After arriving to Quetta we found the Custom Office fairly easy. Quetta is not a very small town but still so many farm animals straying (or looks like to be straying) on the streets. So after fighting our way through the donkey and horse wagons we got to the Custom Office where we supposed to meet the soldier to collect our passports and hand it over to another soldier who will take it all the way down to the border.
Welcome to Quetta
The Custom office is more of a refugee center by the way. We are in the year 2005, the war in the neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq is going on. The backyard of the custom office is filled with tents and cars and hundreds if not thousands of people.
As we finally met the soldier in the hallway of the office we showed the way up to the guy where we have to pay an extra 400 rupies charge. We assume this is for to cover the soldier’s trip here and back to the Iranian border.
For our biggest surprise the 400 rupies charge quickly escalated to 4000 rupies, our soldier disappeared and it looked like that no one started to understand English. As we later found out they made a big deal out of not having the carnet and they are waiting for a decision from their superior which may come tomorrow but until then our passports are held back.
The Kandahari Bazaar, Quetta
Brilliant, so what’s now, no passport, no hope to getting it back today and it seems like we might even stuck here for a while. At least we don’t feel threatened. Pakistanis have a talent to tell you bad news in a way that you feel ok with it.
Just in case we called up the Hungarian embassy in Islamabad to find out what are our options and got a clear answer that we should leave the area immediately, we shouldn’t be here at the first place and they can’t help anything. Oh well, we set up the tent in this “very dangerous” and “very scary” backyard of the custom office with hundreds of Afghani refugees around whom are actually super nice. They are keep coming to us with fruits which they pick from a tree and they are also invited us to eat with them.
Mom, as you could have guessed is freaking out back home and trying to solve our paper issue.
LOG ENTRY: 13
ODOMETER: 6150 KM – 6564 KM
Zahedan – Mirjhaven – Dalbanden
Sadly leaving Iran and crossing over to Pakistan where our passports quickly got confiscated which it turned out works for our favor.
The sad day has come when we have to leave Iran. It has been a great few days with hardly any negative things about this country. The people are extremely friendly and welcoming; the country is beautiful, especially if you are into deserts. The different culture, personal cult, architecture, all which is totally different in our western countries are making this place so unique and interesting, at least for us.
The morning started pretty well when they charged us half price than we agreed last night for the hotel. We don’t know why, maybe just the different receptionist last night told us a higher price or the one today liked us for some reason. Before heading to Pakistan we scheduled a quick oil change for today. Petroleum products are very cheap in Iran and also they are very decent quality wise. Apart from the cheap petrol they have all sorts of engine oils and fuel additives, all for a very cheap price. We heard that the fuel will be more expensive in Pakistan but half of the country uses Iranian smuggled petrol which you can buy on the side of the road from barrels.
Iran - Pakistan border
The border from Zahedan is about 100 kilometers and as we expected the border crossing will be time consuming and chaotic. With a full tank of last Iranian fuel, new oil and full belly we proceeded to the border.
The Iranian side was very crowded and we ended up waiting four hours to get checked out. After we gave the passports in we had to visit a few different counters where officers came and checked our bikes, making sure that they are the same bikes we came in with. The absence of the Carnet de Passage is painstaking and will starting to get costly from here. Surprisingly when we paid that 200 dollars on the other end of the country they made the effort to phone down here and let them know that we are coming, after all the money wasn’t a bribe as we thought at first.
Departing Iran brought up all sorts of fears in us. Seeing the Pakistani side and thinking how we going to get in and whether the absence of the mystical paper –which was the Carnet as we found out later on- will get us in any more trouble or whether the Pakistani people will be as nice as the Iranians. Lots of question which we were about to find out.
Looking back to the Iranian side
The immigration on the Pakistani side was much smaller and modest than its Iranian counterpart. No wonder the fewer people made bigger mess there and its all felt way more crowded than it should be. Ten minutes after we submitted our passport they took us into a separate room and offered teas and biscuits. First we were cautious of this hospitality but then realized they are just being nice. Of course the Carnet and its absence was the main issue they wanted to talk about but after 3 hours of talking over endless amount of teas they let us in. The only restriction was that they took our passports, issued an official letter that we are the guests of the Pakistani state and we have to report every day in a pre-determined police or military outpost on the way where we can stay for free. Sounds like a good gig for us.
The soldier soon arrived and took our passports, he will take the bus to Quetta and then to Lahore and he will give the passports back at the border in Waga. We offered the guy to come with us on the bikes –we were just joking but he took it seriously- but he got scared after seeing the size of them. Luckily he didn’t come with us because he would have sat behind me and after we left the border I had a small crash.
So after 3 hours and lots of teas we are sorted and on our way to the first night’s reporting place Dalbanden. On the way we encountered military/police checkpoint where we had to write down our details in a huge, Harry Potter like book, drink the compulsory tea and tell the same story at each point about our trip.
Regular truck in Pakistan
The roads here are way different than the ones in Iran. The quality is bad; sand is blown on the surface everywhere, sometimes forming 5-6 meter tall sand dunes. The wind at many places blew the sand out from under the road making the whole bloody thing collapse, creating huge craters. All this obstacles with the overloaded trucks with stickered out windshields made the ride quite interesting at least to say.
When we arrived to Dalbanden it wasn’t exactly how we expected our first town in Pakistan. It was small, dirty and rather scary looking. It turned out that the confiscation of our passport is the luckiest thing happened to us so far. There were no camping or motel in town and wild camping seemed a bit risky anywhere near the town so staying in the closed military compound looked like our best option.
As we arrived to the highly protected compound the guard didn’t understand at first why we are there but after a few minutes of activity style sign talks they got the leader out who spoke almost perfect English. We showed him the paper we got at the border and he was more than happy to let us in and accommodate us.
First he wanted us to stay inside the building, which was in fact very creepy looking so we tried to convince him that sleeping outside in a tent would make us much happier. He insisted that we are his friends and we must sleep on a bed and he ordered the guard to bring all the beds outside to the assembly area and tonight everybody has to sleep there. It seemed like that most of the soldiers liked the idea of sleeping outside. Soon after our arrival we got a fairly big dinner from them, also for free and spent the rest of the night with storytelling. Surprisingly the head of the compound was much updated on current European and even Hungarian politics. What a great way to end our first day in Pakistan.