My route east always had one area of concern for me.
Balochistan is the largest of 4 provinces in Pakistan and there is conflict between the Baloch Nationals and the government of Pakistan, there have been many bombings, killings and kidnappings over many years.
Also Taliban groups have been attacking Shia pilgrims for years, their usual tactic is to bomb them in their buses as they return from a pilgrimage.
Whilst I’ve known about the issues I have had a desire to cross Balocestan that I couldn’t shake.
My day of concern had arrived.
We wanted to leave the hotel at 7 as we were told to be at the Iran boarder at 8am so at 6.45 I went to the hotel reception to check out and collect my passport. The receptionist was taking ages and I was getting annoyed as she didn’t seem to want give me the passports, after about 15 minutes 4 policemen came into the reception and the receptionist gave them our passports! The hotel had called the police telling them we were there for some reason, thanks! We followed them as they walked out with our passports to see a couple of 4WD vehicles and 7 military police. 30 minutes later we were being escorted to the boarder with a 4WD in front of us and one behind, each having two armed guards with rifles in the back. I wasn’t sure whether I should feel presidential or a criminal?
After a couple of minutes the rear bumper of the lead police 4WD fell off, I thought I was in a ‘Key Stone Cops’ film, Garth & I laughed.
Crossing Balochistan is a serious business and whether you call it a war or conflict people are getting killed all of the time and 99% of overlanders are avoiding the area, with this in mind we had two rules 1) blend in, don’t stand out. 2) keep away from the pilgrims.
There is one road out of Zahedan (50km) to the boarder and one road heading east once your in Pakistan from Taftan to Quetta (700km), this road runs right along the Afghanistan boarder. The military escort took us a few kilometres to the edge of town where Javier from Spain and his French wife Lauranne and their dog turned up, we all had to wait about 3 hours in the dusty heat for another guard to take us the rest of the way to the boarder. We had to change guards another 5 times in the 50km to the boarder and got there at about 3pm, after being taken from office to office to get signed out of Iran it was 4.30pm and had taken us 8 1/2 hours to get to the Pakistan boarder. The last boarder guard in Iran said as I passed the rusty gates into Pakistan ‘be careful there’s a war between the Shias & Sunni’s over there’, we were the last to leave Iran that day and they locked the gates behind us.
The Iranian boarder is no ‘picture post card’ but as I heard the rusty gates slam behind me I looked out at Taftan, Pakistan and thought it looked like a nightmare, even more run down, dry and dusty than Iran!
Welcome, welcome said the Pakistan guards as we road towards them. The buildings may have been dilapidated but the Pakistan boarder guards were very efficient and at 5.30 we were in Pakistan. They joked, smiled and made us feel very good.
When I say we were in Pakistan what I mean was we were taken to the police secure compound come local Jail in Taftan not 500 metres across the boarder for our safety. We rode our bikes through two sets of steel gates with barbed wire above, into the yard and on one side were the prisoners and we had an empty office to camp out in on the other. This was ‘Pakistan Levies Taftan’ and all guards had a rifle.
At about 8pm 20 bloody pilgrims were brought in for their safety and put in a room next to the prisoners! We’ve been in the country a few hours and we’re broken rule 2 already!
I may joke but this is a very serious situation and tomorrow we start our ride along a very dangerous road led by armed guards.