The road from Hell
14/02/2009 - 15/02/2009
The cock crowing woke me up, it was not even 6 yet but I had to go and catch the bus to Zahedann. I spotted an eldely couple and asked the if they were going to Zahedan at first they looked at me. Then I just said Zahedan which they understood and nodded there heads. When the bus came they pointed at it a shouted Zahedan, so I got on it. When on the bus they attempted to speak to me, but there english was as bad as my other languages, so in the end they forced food upon me and wouldn't take no for an answer. The bus journey took a couple of hours, after that I had to get a taxi to the savari rank and then get to the first part of border control. The amount of security checks were increasing and getting stricter, by the time I got to the last security checkpoint the guard was not happy with me or the driver as I didn't have a armed guard. He asked to see my passport, unfortunately I had it in my money belt, so as I struggled to get it out the look on the guard started to laugh and he made a joke in Farsi, I may not speak Farsi but even I got it.
The savari(group taxi) dropped us at a border checkpoint, so I thought. The setting was quite chaotic, hundreds of cars, lorries, buses, bikes, people, goats and donkeys all trying to get through this small guard hut. I stood back for a bit to see if I could figure out what to do or what was going on. After watching for 15mins I couldn't figure it out so I just went up to the guard and asked. In broken english he replied must go by car to next guard, wait here. So I waited for about 10mins, I thought he had forgotten about me but he was trying to find a nice car for me to to get lift in. The drive to the custom part took 5mins and was the easiest part of my day.
I walked into the Iranian side of the border control, I was looking around quite a lot for any sort of sign when I was approached by a border guard who asked where I was from, my instant reply was Scotland. At the time I didn't think to much of it a the time and walked with the guard and he took me through to where I got stamped out. Then I faced a problem because I said Scotland, but I didn't know this at the time. The guy on stamp duty asked me to sit down and wait as he had some stuff to do, I thought it may have been to arrange a armed escort to Quetta but no. It was to call in more security guards, his boss, and someone with the internet. The problem is that to a lot of people who use english as a second language, or maybe just ignorance, England is Britain and English is British and Scotland is something entirely different. After a while one of his co-workers whose english was slightly better came across and asked me where I was from again I said Scotland, then e asked for my Nationality. Then the penny dropped, and I looked him in the manner you would look at someone who had asked the most easiest question ever and replied British. He nodded politely and asked how that worked. I brought out my map and showed him that Britain comprises of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The border guard was back on the phone to his friend after telling him to type in Britain and search, he seemed happy with that, but they wouldn't let me leave until they all had a good look at the map and where other countries were.
I left the new border control building and headed across to Pakistan, which was only 50m away. The Pakistan passport control was a complete contrast to the Iranian border control. The Pakistan border control was barely even a building with a few money changers sitting outside. I walked into the border control where the attendant just looked at me, he didn't know what he was doing and it took about 3 of them to figure out how to read my passport and to fill in the relevant forms etc. I left the building and exchange my remaining Iranian Rials, at probably the worst exchange rate ever, but it was enough to get to Quetta but not much more. I had the equivalent of £9 and the bus cost £6. The bus left at 4o'clock and was supposed to take 14hrs. I had 2hours to kill so I went to a small cafe to have some tea. Within seconds I was was surrounded by people wanting to talk to me and test there English. I was also shown some Pakistani 'porn' which wasn't even as graphic as FHM but the guys there were rather excited by it. They told me that they don't get many westerners at that border crossing, they were happy that I was doing the crossing but they also thought I was a bit ad for doing it.
The truth be told I wasn't really looking forward to this part of the trip. The area was allegedly a Taliban strong point and raids on buses were quite common. The bus left from just outside the border checkpoint so I didn't have to go to Taftan, but I got to circle it a couple of times in the bus. The bus left only half an hour late, and we headed off. The mountain range to the left was where the the insurgents were. We headed along beside them for a while before going of on a slight angle. The road was good and we were speeding along the road, and I was unsure how the jouney was to take 14hrs. Looking out the window I kept on expecting to see the next installment and Starwars to be filmed there as I was barren dusty land with little hope of lfe living there. The security checks were happening thick and fast and they were getting more and more rigorous but they quite happy to take them. It got dark pretty quickly and unfortunately my imagination started to get the better of me.
It was just after nine and it was pitch black then the bus got called pulled into the side by two Toyota vans. The bus was boarded by two guys rapped in blankets carrying pretty big rifles they didn't check any passports but took one look at me and ordered me off the bus. I walked down the bus aisle looking around to try and figure out what was happening. The it was to dark to see what was happening outside and the people on the bus jusy stared at me. Even before I got off the bus there was a torch light directed straight into my face and someone started shouting at me in Urdu or Pashtoon. I told him I only spoke English, still unsure what was happening, and he shouted back passport. I handed it over and the torch was thrust even closed towards my face and the he spoke to some beside me. He asked for me Nationality I told him British and then I was asked then why i had an English passport. It was only then the light was taken away from my eyes and I could finally see the army units sitting in the back. I had to show them on the passport that it said British, the guard in charge looked as nervous as me. He had to call the Taftan checkpoint to make sure that I wasn't lying, for some reason this took about 20mins to do. I was finally allowed back.
After that checkpoint the road disappeared completely, the road was no more and was replaced by a dirt track. The top speed mus have been about 15miles an hour. We made it ti an proper resting place where the bus driver went round and hammered out the dents in the bus. The people on the bus came and spoke to me just to assure me what happened was perfectly normal and that it was all good. After the stop it was back on the bus, trying to get some sleep was impossible as the road was to bumpy, so of the bumps nearly threw you off your seat. I ended up just looking at the brightly lit up lorries that passed us.
The bussed pulled in at 0330 in the morning, trying to get accommodation was proving to be a bit of a problem. I got to the Hotel I wanted to stay that but it was shut, infact all hotels appeared to be shut. A rickshaw driver past and asked what I was doing, I told him that I was trying to get somewhere to sleep. He told me that the hotels shut there doors at 12o'clock and don't open till 7 in the morning, whether he was telling the truth or not I didn't really have much option and Quette wasn't reall the place I wanted to hang around all night.
He suggested a friends hotel, I knew it would be a bit of a con but I didn't have any other options. When I got to the hotel I was shown to a room, which was overpriced for what it was and the toilet had a lovely green light. I didn't have any money on m at that point so he held onto my passport until the morning after I had been to the ATM.