So, again, it's been a while... I'm really not doing very well at this blogging malarkey. I'm finding it really hard to juggle photo, video, social media, my article with RiDE magazine and actually riding around the world all at the same time. But hey, better late than never... right?
I'm going to split the last couple of months into three posts because so much has happened and I've crossed such a large distance since the last update.
Iran was hot. Very, very hot. Temperatures reached 50 degrees Celsius and the desert roads were littered with the sun baked carcasses of camels. You can't withdraw cash in Iran which meant by the time I got to the border I had no money left. Uh oh. Riding to the border I was meant to be escorted but the police were so useless that I ended up skipping a pick up point and making a run for the border. I had gone to meet my escort at 7am, after they figured out who was doing what and led me around in circles it was almost 12. When I got to the border it was really quiet, a few trucks were entering Iran but no one was heading into Pakistan. After an hour waiting to speak to someone and get my documents stamped I was told the Pakistan side had decided to finish early because of Eide celebrations at the end of Ramadan. Great. My visa was on its last day, I had no money for a hotel, food, water or petrol to get back to a town. I called my guide, who I had left in Zahedan, slightly aggravated. I had asked the hotel staff to check the border would not be affected by Eide and they all assured me it wouldn't be. The Iranian customs guards were really friendly and said I could sleep in the office as long as I didn't touch their computers. They brought me some water and after they had watched the world cup match they came and fetched me for dinner, I ended up staying in the guards accommodation on the floor of their spare room which has to be the hottest place I've ever slept.
The next day I was up at 7am ready to cross the border. The Guards did not wake up until 11am, threw on a shirt and headed to unlock the gates. I was shown to the passport control and managed to get through even though my visa had expired. On the Pakistan side I went through about 7 check points where they all checked the same documents and asked me to fill in the same information. My Levie (tribal police escort) was getting more and more aggravated by the delays, we didn't end up leaving the border until probably 2pm. I had been speaking with one of the officers at the border about my money situation and my trip, he gave me a big bottle of water and a man standing by reached in his pocket and gave me 1000 rupees for fuel. I was really taken aback by this but it was the same through out Pakistan, everyone was friendly, polite, genuinely interested in me and the trip, and extremely generous.
We left the border and headed for Quetta. We only made it to Dalbandin on day one. I was taken to the local prison and handed over to the guards. Apparently this was going to be where I stayed. There was no bottled water anywhere, even if their was I couldn't have bought any. The heat had not died down in Pakistan and I was really suffering. I was paranoid about drinking the water offered to me but I didn't have much choice. Luckily it didn't make me ill at all.
Staying in the prison was a surreal experience. I was introduced to a child terrorist who ran around bringing everyone tea and sweets. The only English speaker was a student, imprisoned for murder. the conversation was so normal and it was hard to relate any of these people to their convictions. That night I slept on the roof of the prison looking at a starry sky and wondering how the hell I got here, what a mad turn of events.
The next day I headed to Quetta and finally got to a cashpoint, food and water. I had to wait days to get the NOC document needed to leave Quetta due to Eide and then after I had the document I couldn't leave because of military operations. All this time I was restricted to my hotel room at the infamous 'Bloom Star Hotel'. There are only two hotels foreigners can stay in in Quetta. A posh one or the Bloom Star. The boredom was intense. No TV, no internet, no books, constant power cuts, no AC, no hot water, the same super spicy chicken neck curry three times a day with slices of bread that had mould on them and a child who kept trying to break into my room to steal a pen-knife.
I finally left Quetta with my armed escort and headed to Sukkur, I was meant to be free to roam after leaving the Baluchistan region but the police did not want to leave me. I managed to escape in the crazy traffic leading into Sukkur. At about 10pm I had a knock on my hotel door and there stood a police officer with a big ol' gun. He was really polite and asked a few questions before saying he would send me an escort in the morning. I told him I was planning to leave at 11am and made sure I left at 9...
It's a real shame that I don't have any photos or videos from Baluchistan because it was a really stunning landscape. I couldn't stop for pictures due to my escort and didn't want to cause any issues by using a GoPro.
I rode from Sukkur to Multan, when I entered the city a sandstorm started and obscured almost all vision. I tried to check in to three hotels who all told me they couldn't take foreigners, even though they were all listed on booking.com... The only place, it seemed, that I could stay was a 5* hotel with a "you don't have any choice but to stay here" price tag. The looks I got when I walked in, head to toe covered in sand, were as expected.
I left for Lahore in the morning, excited to be meeting with Affan, who had contacted me on Instagram. Affan and his friend OJ travelled from Islamabad to come and hang out, which I was really humbled by. We had a great dinner and good chat and even filmed a little interview for OJ's YouTube channel.
A lot happened in Pakistan in a short amount of time. It was a crazy part of the adventure so far and the first time I really felt comfortable calling this an adventure. I can't emphasise enough how lovely everyone in Pakistan was and how I did not feel in danger once throughout my time there. It is a beautiful country with beautiful people and if you have the opportunity you should not miss it. I only wish I could have stayed longer to see Islamabad and the Pakistan side of the Himalayas.
Crossing into India was easy enough, I had to empty the entire contents of my bag at each border but hey ho. I rode from The Wagah border to Delhi in great time then got completely lost, rode through some sketchy parts of Old Delhi at midnight, followed what I thought was a highway on my map but turned out to be the subway and didn't arrive at my hotel in Gurgaon until stupid O'clock in the morning. I must have slept for most of the next day. I was in India, ME IN INDIA... a country I had dreamed of but probably never believed I would visit and better yet a guy called Sabareesh, who I had been talking to on Instagram way before this crazy trip came about, had been riding from Kerala for 9 days to spend some time riding together.
India needs a blog post of it's own so I'll end this one here.
Typically after not updating this for two months or so, I will now attempt to upload three blogs over the next couple of days.