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Travel reports

Many hands to shake

The hotel in Quetta in which we did put up was said to be the only one that would accommodate tourists but fortunately was prepared for overlanders like us. There was secured parking in the courtyard and the good English speaking operator was able to provide lots of information about the current situation in town and Balochistan as well as how and where to obtain necessary permits for our further journey. We met a group of four Russians with their motorcycles, who were traveling in the opposite direction. A great opportunity to exchange information.
The hotel owner and later the police made big eyes when we told them that we came via Dera Gazi Khan and Loralai and not via Sukkur as it would usually happen. Because this route is (at least in the opposite direction) closed for foreigners for years now because of "excessive danger".
In Quetta we quickly started feelinglike battery hens. While driving in town without escort was strictly forbidden (I remind of our arrival the day before), it they also refused us to leave the hotel on foot without police protection. A quick trip to the gas station, a walk to the fruit stalls next door. All of it was not allowed. Too dangerous.

That staying in Quetta is dangerous since several bombings became clear once more when a hotel employee rushed into the eating room at breakfast time the next morning and asked us if we had not heard the explosion and the many sirens outside.
Just two kilometers from our hotel, a car bomb exploded. The attack, carried out by local separatists, according to preliminary information was targeted on a higher-ranking military officer whose convoy probably drove along the road. The bombing was not 'successful' since non of the military staff got hurt, but two civilians were deadly injured. The second bombing, which we have escaped.

To get to the home department which was not more than one kilometre from the hotel, we had to use a tuk tuk - with police escort.
Once again we wondered if we were actually better off with police, than without. But we did not had a choice anyway.
Arriving at the home department Izaak and I (the women had to stay back at the hotelagain as expected) got a vision one might have expected from the US embassy in Islamabad. Armed police, street fences, watchtowers, two security checkpoints that we had to go through.

To our surprise after only two hours of waiting (with tea and smalltalk) we received the permit for our onward journey to Taftan (at the Iranian border).
The next morning we were ready to start the actually as most problematic designated stage of our whole trip. The engine oil was checked, the windows cleaned, the air filter provisorily cleaned (again).
On the way out of the town the escorts changed three times - that means almost every kilometre. While we (again) had to wait for the next escort on the side of an intersection, I left the car to ask a question to Izaak when a policman immediately hied to me and chased me back to the our car - 'too dangerous'! As if we were so much safer inside the car...

Armoured police car in Quetta
Landscape near Nushki
Group picture with Anje and Izaak

From Quetta to Taftan it is around 600 km. The road conditions on the entire distance actually allow one to do this in one day (as local busses do, for example). If you, however, are a tourist with own vehicle and are bound to the police, one cannot avoid a two-day tour. Showing passports, waiting for the next escort. Both take a long time due to the frequency. That is why we had a stopover in Dalbandin. The road one or two times comes as close as 20 km to the Afghanistan border and we often were able to spot camels. There was one evil thing about the road: the numerous speed bumps - unmarked, difficult to see in advance, but all the more big - lining the street in front of police checkpoints and railway crossings. If one accidentally oversees such a speed bump has at least the advantage of easily get rid of even the most sticky dust inside the vehicle's chassis which has been collected during the past thousands of kilometers...

Landscape near Nushki
Sand drifts near Dalbandin
Off the road
Landscape near Dalbandin
View from the hotel window in Dalbandin
Camels on the road

In the early afternoon of November 13, we reached Taftan. After 12 days in Pakistan, in which we escaped two - let's say 'close' - bomb attacks and most of the time were "detained" at the hotel, the otherwise friendly nature of the locals and monotonous and wide and for us completely new type of landscape of endless sand and stone deserts could not get us to stay longer in the country - especially since it was not in the interest of the police.
Every now and then during the change of escorts we got the impression that the last escort was glad to got rid of us. Like we would have been magnets for bullets. The same we thought about the police vice versa...

Pakistan was for us - due to the difficult security situation, the police escorts and pronounced Sunni Islam a completely new and in a positive sense adventurous experience which we probably will not see again soon.

In principle, however, we are glad to have this section behind us. Of the not quite 1700 km which we travelled through the country, we did about 1200 km with police escort. We passed countless checkpoints. At 19 we had to show our passports. 42 times our lead vehicle changed. We did not had to pay for the escorts. Only once a policeman in Quetta asked for a tip.

Landscape near Dalbandin
Landscape near Dalbandin
Sand drifts

The departure from Pakistan was quick and easy. The entry into Iran should be marked by quarrels with the police.