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Smile I got a gun!
d_Pakistan

Smile I got a gun!

These escorts are not those escorts

2018. április 13.

I was really happy to get to Taftan by 1PM, because I thought then I wouldn’t have to sleep at the police station, and I could continue to Quetta. But obviously things aren’t always going the way little Tom imagines it. After the border a guy with a machine gun showed me to the police station, locked the door behind me. It’s too late today, we are not going anywhere further. Tomorrow night!

img_4917.jpgSmile, I’ve got a gun!

I’ve read it on different blogs, that on these occasions, the dear tourist sleeps in a prison cell. I however got shelter on the floor in the office of the station boss. Turned out soon enough that the jail was fully occupied. I’ve known this from the weird noises I heard coming from the courtyard. Bangs and whoomps. First I thought this must be some sort of ongoing maintenance, but then these noises were accompanied with shouting and crying, I realised, a prisoner was being beaten. I went there straight away pretending I’m taking a walk around there, I thought this might stops them and leave the poor bastard alone. But they didn’t give a fuck about me, continued with their business. I was however getting increasingly anxious, so I went back to my reading.

One of the guards came over occasionally asking for gifts. It went down like this: first, he asked for the insulation of my motor jacket. He started touching it and saying “gift”. Then we played the same act with the jacket itself, then he was ready to settle and get my brake disc lock, but I continued playing stupid, and offered him an orange. He got so offended that he left me alone for the rest of the time.

img_4751.jpgThis wasn’t the demanding dude. In general, most people were nice, just wanted a selfie with me.

A few hours later we went to the custom house to fix the papers of the motorbike. Everyone was extremely nice to me, they cooked dinner for me, I had an awesome chat with one of the officials there, then they took me back to the police station. By that time they busted a refugee group of 40-50 people, all kneeling in the courtyard, being whipped with all kinds of rubber remains. It was incredibly hard to keep lying in my room not being able to do anything, just listen to this. Luckily a few hours later a bus arrived and that took everyone. The station turned silent.

taft-dambald.jpgFirst day’s journey

One tea and go

I woke up early the day after. Too early. My phone got a bit crazy, and it woke me up at 6 AM instead of 8. I was sitting on some ruins chasing the colors of the sunrise so I wouldn’t freeze to death. Then suddenly they invited me in, offered me some tea, and told me, we are leaving, right now.

Suddenly, everything was accelerated. We left, but only about a 5 min later, we had to pull over, and my guards started to fix themselves some extra wheels. I wanted to take off my bike to just take some pictures, but they told me not to move, stay on the vehicle. There was a growing amount of people around me, everyone was talking to me. At first I was a bit scared, thought maybe this is the last time I see my guards, and I will just vanish for good. But the feeling passed real soon, everyone was super nice and they were just genuinely interested in me.

From then on, my day continued in a monotone rhythm, from checkpoint to checkpoint. At every single freaking checkpoint I wrote my passport and visa number into a dirty notebook, changed escort, and then I had to look at a dodgy Toyota Hilux’s ass until the next checkpoint, where the circle started again.

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German beer in the parking lot

On the first day, I did 290 km in 7 hours like this. So one can guess the pace. In the afternoon we arrived in Dalbandin, where I had to sleep in the by far the most disgusting room on my travels yet. There are technically no colors in Balochistan. Everything is a shade of brown, ochre and drab. This was no different in my room either. It was fully covered in dust, it was totally like fifty shades of grey except I didn’t find anything erotic in this. The floor was literally covered in cigarette stubs and litter, and the toilet was clogged with shit. That had a weird sweet smell that created an impeccable atmosphere.

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I of course wasn’t allowed to leave the hotel. Suddenly a really old and dodgy caravan parked out in front of the hotel. I was really happy that I might just got a travel buddy, but turned out Max happens to be on his way home from India, so obviously going the other direction. We started chatting, exchanged our sim cards, so I got Pakistani 3g, he in return got an Iranian one. At one point, kinda jokingly I asked him if he happened to have a beer. Most surprisingly his answer was yes, and he took out two German beer bottles from the fridge! I was literally rofl. We drunk them, then I went to my homeless shelter to get some sleep.

img_4890.jpgdrinking a beer in Pakistan: priceless - for everything else, there’s MasterCard.

go! go! go!

I woke up to the sound of someone banging on my door. It was my morning escort. In the evening they said I should be ready by 9 AM, but this dude was there at 8. We had to leave straight away. It was fucking annoying to pack hurrying with three armed guards in my feces-smelling room. They didn’t even let me drink a tea. 15 min later, we were on our way. One dude’s machine gun kept pointing at me along the way, while the car was rocking on the bad roads. In the beginning I was trying to signal them to move it, but later on, I just let it go, and concentrated on the music in my ears.

We got to Quetta fairly fast. This city is definitely not one of the nicest cities. Suddenly my guarding got an upgrade on strictness. Armored car in front, two men on motorbikes with machine guns behind. The switches between escorts happened on a lot slower pace, and sometimes it was as frequent as changing every 500 m. While they were constantly pressuring me to hurry and surrounding me closely in the crazy traffic, I was getting random passer-byers saying hi to me and asking where I was from.

dambald-quetta.jpg

They escorted me to the legendary Bloom Star Hotel, and locked the metal gates behind me. We agreed that they are gonna pick me up at 9 AM tomorrow, because we have some paperwork to do in some sort of office. That I needed a NOC document to be able to continue forward. I almost fainted I was so hungry. I hadn’t had food for 1,5 days at this point. I was eating my dinner like miserable stray dog.

The red tape

I’ve read a lot of blogs, so I was perfectly aware of how these things go down, and that I should really watch the time if I don’t want to spend another night in Quetta. In the morning I was already 100% packed, waiting for the escort, so we could leave directly from the office. Of course they were 1,5 hours late this time, and the procedure took us almost 4 hours as well. The only difference between Pakistani and Hungarian bureaucrats is that while they’re equally slow, the Pakistanis are at least really really nice to you, and offer you tea and cigarettes all the time.

img_5004.jpgthey love paperwork

I finally held one single A4 page at 2:30 PM. By this point I have been through 6 offices, had a chat with 6 officers, told them exactly the same things 6 times, while I had 6 cups of teas, and I was trying to hide my growing anxiety behind my spastic smile.

It was fairly obvious that I would have to spend another night in Quetta. I was nagging my escort til he let me go to a Petrol station, where I could execute the most prompt oil change, at 59,995 km, exactly 5 km before the mandatory limit. In the afternoon I got to do a little maintenance on the hotel’s courtyard as well. I washed the air filter that made my entire room smell like gasoline, and I finally got to clean the chains as well.

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Starting to get angry

The next day my escorts showed up in time, asking where I wanted to go. I told them Multan. There are two roads to Multan from Quetta. One is going through the mountains, the other one is through Sukkur and it is a 500 km detour.

Look at Pakistani levies from behind! This is what I’ve been doing for 4 days.

Of course we went towards Sukkur. And it was fucking slow. I think we must have switched escorts for 30 times. Lots of them were on motorbikes, not riding faster than 35 km/h. We did 400 km in 10 hours...

sukkur-multa.jpg

I have been on the road for 7 days now, and I started to get really fed up. We left Balochistan behind, theoretically I no longer needed the escorts. Sometimes they left me alone, but on the next checkpoint I always got an assigned machine-gunned man.


I was speechless

I was literally on my last reserves when we got to a dodgy hotel on Sukkur’s dark streets. They locked the gate and told me they will be back in the morning.

The hotel was clean, but still I would rather call it dodgy roadside motel. The owner said the room is 50 USD, which is an absolutely ridiculous price. I told him I can get a 4-5 star hotel room in Europe for this much. He said this was 5 stars. I really started laughing and said, in that case I arrived with a limousine not with a motorbike. He was cool, we agreed on 30 USD for the room, dinner and breakfast, which was still ridiculously expensive, but a significant discount at the end of the day.

Where are the women?

I got several comments on Facebook after posting some images, asking about where the women from the pictures are?

Until then I somehow didn’t even notice that I’m not seeing any women running around on the streets, but seeing the place I can think of some scenarios. Like they are in the solarium or at the beauty centre, or they are instagramming some food for their food blog...

Catch me if you can!

I was promised I can be on my own from Sukkur, but in the morning they told me I have to go with an escort again. I was chatting with the hotel owner, we got to be buddies by the morning. I told him I’m not gonna do another day with 35 km/h average speed, I need to escape. He said I should just leave, because Punjab is not dangerous at all, and the escort won’t be punished for this either.

Sometimes the guards were fun. They loved my night goggles for example

In the morning my escort came: a chubby guy well into his fifties on a 70ccm motorbike with an AK-47 hanging in his neck. He said he was gonna be with me for the next 120km. I only waited until we got to the highway, then I pulled the lever and left him behind. He had no chance catching me with that small thing.

sukkur-multa.jpg

I felt a bit sorry for him, and I was scared that they’re gonna catch me at the next checkpoint. But I’ve only passed two of those, and I managed to slip through unnoticed by hiding behind some trucks.

It felt ecstatic being able to ride alone finally. The next 400 km I did in about 6 hours.

Almost a spy

I got to Multan quite early, and found the hotel I chose relatively fast. But there they said they can’t have me, because they don’t have the right to host foreigners, so they are gonna take me to another place that is guarded. At the end, this really nice man was with me to check 9 hotels that can have foreigners, but the cheapest place we found was 90 USD.


When you become the most exciting sight in the city

This was the most amount I’ve paid for accommodation until now, and this was already result of a long hustling. Honestly, I was just so tired of it all, I was just ready and happy to get a nice room with clean bed, hot shower, but after the fancy lobby I was taken to a room on the ground floor with windows to a dark place full of trash.

I was just about to stretch myself on the heavenly white sheets after a hot bath, when they called me from reception to come down, because two police officers wanted to talk to me. They asked me why I came without an escort and where am I going to? When I told them I’m heading to India, they asked if I have been there before. When I told them this is gonna be my fourth time, and I’ve even worked there before, I started to become really suspicious. Once they’ve figured out I’m travelling with two passports full of working visas of strange countries, they started asking me a lot of questions. At the end they said I’m free to go forward, but for the rest of my journey in Pakistan I need to be escorted. And of course I couldn’t leave the hotel.

impossible to be happier

In the morning I packed my things and told the receptionist to call the police, I want to leave. Once he finished the call, he told me I can leave alone, I’m not getting an escort. I almost shat myself I was so happy! I was riding like a madman, didn’t even stop until Lahore. I already knew where I’m gonna stay for overnight, because Max told me about a good backpacker hostel when we were having the beer. I’ve found the place really fast too.

multan-lahore.jpg

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