Monday, 15 September 2008

The Road to Queta (Iran to Pakistan)

So much has happened since my last post I will probably leave some things out but I am going to start with Bam. It is a town that was levelled in an earthquake about 5 years ago. The whole place was destroyed and around 15 thousand people died. Everyone we spoke to lost someone in the quake. Usually 2 or 3 family members. In the hotel we stayed in 2 travellers died, one a motorcycle traveller coming back from India on an Enfield Bullet which now lies around the side of the hotel a twisted peice of metal. A testament to the life and death of just one person. Bam was considered one of Irans best tourist attractions due to a citadel in the north of the town. It was a beautiful building which was nearly totally destroyed. Here it is before the quake:

Currently it is undergoing repair and restoration but the money just isnt available and it will take many years for it to be rebuilt. The same goes for the city. The hotel Akbar where we stayed is about to open 3 rooms for use but plans on having a total of 15. We stayed in a cabin which guests having been using for 5 years. People seenm happy to pay the expensive rates for pretty poor conditions. Akbar the owner was really friendly, used to be an english teacher so spoke very good english and knew quite a few riddles to keep us entertained.

We left Bam very early on the 13th to try and reach and cross the border before 4pm Iranian time (it shuts at 4) We gave ourselves 9 hours to travel 400km as we expected the police to hassle us (provide an escort) We ended up missing the closing time for the border and stayed in a hotel between Iran and Pakistan as the police kept us at one checkpoint for an hour, escorted us 5 miles down the road and kept us for another 45 minutes. In the end we did a runner while their backs were turned. All of us starting engines at the same time and just blasting out of town.... To the next road block....

In the morning on the 14th we started getting our paperwork sorted and discovered that I was only allowed 26 days (instead of the usual 30) inside Iran and I was 2 days late! $150 and 4 hours later we crossed the border. Or I did anyway, the others crossed 3 hours and 45 minutes earlier!

The Pakistan side of the border was great, I honestly could have ridden through without showing my passport or Carnet etc, the passport office was just a building by the side of the road as was the customs office but I went in and got it all sorted. Not screwing up the paperwork twice in one day. After the customs office there is a small town called Taftan and then the Road To Queta begins!

Queta is 600km from the border. 600km of single carriageway road turning into a just one lane for both directions road. It is potholed, covered in sanddunes and in some places nothing more than a rough gravel line passing through empty desset which, in some places, is less than 80km from the Afghan border and 30km from the mountains where the Taliban like to hide from the Americans. It is supposed to be done all in one day without stopping for anything more than fuel. It is quite rightly considered one of the more dangerous legs of a RTW trip. And due to the border cockup we had to stay the night somewhere. I eventually caught up with Graham and Tino in NokKundi and almost drove straight past them but was lucky to stop for a drink and Tino came and found me as I was about to carry on. So we stayed the night in a walled compound with men walking around with AK47s loaded and with spare clips.

So a free nights accomodation, free food and free chai we headed for Queta at 6 in the morning. I wish I could explain this road to you but I wouldnt be able to do it justice. Just try to imagine a single lane road with big lorries coming toward you and small patches of gravel on either side. We passed some of those lorries at abotu 60mph with maybe an inch or two to spare. Sometimes you had to turn the bike onto the gravel, clench your butt and close your eyes. We hit invisible "speed breakers" at 60 turning them into back breakers. Tinos bike took a stone to the electrics which took about 30 minutes to fix and I am pretty sure I reduced the life of my rear shock by about 10000 miles. It was a hard road but it never felt so good to arrive somewhere than it did to arrive in Queta. For starters they have beer here and a good variety of spicy foods which beat beef kababs hands down.

Only been here a couple of hours but already I prefer it to Iran. The people are mostly in complete poverty, the city is incredibly dirty and yet there is a life to the place that Iran didnt have. The trucks are all painted in bright colours with amazing designs, some play music from loudspeakers, some are covered in bells. They all have christmas lights on!

 The streets are full of people. Many friendly faces, many beggers too but they dont bother you for long. I did have a couple of stones thrown at me by kids on the road to Queta, they run to the side of the road and rub their fingers together asking for money and as you pass they throw stones. I got hit by 4 but none hit the bike so it is all good.

I will be staying in Pakistan now for about 3 weeks, maybe 4. Going to head up north to the KoraKorum Highway which is the second highest motorable road in the world and then part ways with my travelling companions and find out what India is like. Looking forward to getting into the cool mountains in the North, the heat here in the south of Iran and Pakistan is crazy, it just saps your energy. I am going to start putting teabags in my water bottles along with some suger. After an hour on the road they will be bloody hot and I should get a good brew out of it!

I am going to go grab a beer now and relax for a few hours. It has been a hard few days and a very dry month so I think a beer is well earnt!


Anonymous said...

Hi Babe. Good to hear from you after the sheeps brain incident! I'm glad you got through Iran without any difficulties, apart from outstaying your welcome a little. Aunty B and I are in Cyprus at the moment. the weather is fantastic if a little too hot for my taste. I don't think Pakistan will be on my list of places to visit! The temperature here is about 35 but it went up in the mid 40s in August. We've been to visit the ghost city of Famagusta which is in the Turkish occupied zone of Cyprus. You can't get into the city itself but you have to view it from a little cafe in the no go zone. It's all very sad and I think the world in general forgets that northern Cyprus is in control of a foreign power. Neverthless the Cypriot people are lovely and friendly and we've had a really good holiday. We'll be back in UK on Sunday. I will email you next week. Keep safe. Take care and God bless. Love you and miss you loads. Mum XXX

Andy said...

I think we should have a Mrs. Francis blog. Budapest and now Cyprus. Sounds far more exciting than Ollie's adventures!!


Pete said...

Agreed Andy but don't forget the 'Dude Ranch' in Texas earlier in the year!!

Nice one Ol, we all await your blogs with great anticipation, itmakes great reading.
Bet you'll get a good curry out there old son!
By the way, who runs all the corner shops out there???
Go for it

Anonymous said...

......also Barcelona in April Andy! Not quite the adventure Oliver is having but good fun all the same!