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.
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.
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.
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.