Wednesday, 16 July 2014

leaving Iran and onto Pakistan !

Silk carpets cover the floor of a local gym in a repurposed water holding tank . Its a cool place  30 feet underground. Classes were complete for the day, so no work out.  While in Pakistan I did have an opportunity to watch some fights..
It was a full 9 hour day to travel the final 50 KM of Iran. It started in the morning at the hotel reception asking for our passports. It seems during the night the hotel had called in the troops of our position and at 7am the police were waiting.  Police held onto our passports ensuring we travel with them to the Pakistan border.  An untold number of checkpoints made travel very slow.The Pakistan border post is Taftan, in the province of Balochistan.
The ongoing conflict and attacks by sectarian groups in Balochistan put any hopes of  security escorts ending when in Pakistan.  A warm " Welcome to Pakistan !! " as I road across the border by police was comforting.  Like many border towns Taftan is no different, dirty, dusty, money changers, etc.  .. keep on riding if possible... It was already to late in the day for police to arrange escorts, but they did give up some floor space in their compound. It's also shared with prisoners and pilgrims .
Bomb attacks on pilgrims were of a concern in the area, and with two large pilgrim bus's parked outside the police compound,
 I wondered how safe I really was that night. To my relief that morning the pilgrims were gone. Maybe part of a way to relieve tension we joked as we traveled the province,  Pilgrim bus's constantly seemed to be close by. Escorted the entire country of Iran , I was more than ready to travel freely again, but the next 1500 miles or so in afternoon heat of 109 degrees made the next 8 days go pretty slow. Check point after check point we stopped , showed our passports, gave details, drank water and road off again. Police escorts changed often, sometimes every 10 miles. If there was ever an incident it was will documented where we were at all times.
Invited to spend the night at the home of a friends contact, I was given some in site to the culture. The Government of Pakistan and the police had taken responsibility for my safety and were not about to release me into the hands of someone else for an evening . Police preferred a safe hotel with security , and to escort us if we wanted to go out for food. We met out host who invited us to stay at his home in a parking lot with our police escorts. The parking lot is where a poker game started between our host and the police.. Who would win the right to take care of the American, English and German !
There were a number of phone calls to who's who in Pakistan . We went from staying at our hosts home, to some big developers place. The police went from local authority to provincial and political authority. At one point the police had claimed victory and we were on our way to a hotel for the night. 30 miles down the road their cell phone rang and we changed course again to a private home. Our original host was not a strong enough figure in the community to stay at his home, but he was not about to be shamed by the police and started calling his friends to one better the police. The struggle ended with a full police envoy pulled up in front of a prominent doctors home. I was greeted first by a senior intelligence officer who took our passports and then  introduced me to Dr Khurram.  Only minutes earlier the Dr said bring us to his house,  he was inviting us for the evening. The police had  agreed to let us stay unescorted until 7am the next morning.
Its Ramadan and everyone fasts until sunset. At sunset Dr Khurram fed 20 or more police men and officials in his garden, and invited us inside to feast on local food and drinks.
The doctor seemed to take some pride as he smiled and asked me : " What do you think about our excellent security ? "
Pakistan wants its
its visitors to be safe., and escorts are a big part of that effort.  About 80 miles before Lahore the police left us ride unescorted. I am now in Islamabad and if I can get a permit to travel the Karakorum Highway before my visa expires, I will see the mountains of Pakistan !!


  1. So glad to hear you are safe and enjoying a trip of a lifetime.

  2. Garth, I reposted this to my FaceBook wall. I will let you know what kind of comments I get!
    Sis #2

  3. Great trip. Last year we have planned the same, but because of Taliban activity in Pakistan we turned back in Iran and had a good time in the Caucasus and Ukraine. -