Hamid is on time the next day, leaving Zahedan at 07h, a little hard considering how late we went to bed the day before. We test for the first time the ride in the cell while Loïc is driving to avoid shaking the children. Not bad, as long as the road is good, we are barely shaken, just like in the car on a train.
The 80 km to Mirjaveh and the border crossing pass quickly, and we must all come down soon to start the formalities. Barely 9am, but already the sun is beating hard. Photos in Hamid’s office, in the company of Taraj, who came from Ukraine on his motorcycle and with whom we are likely to cross the border. Then it will be a succession of offices for the verification of the passports, the logbook, all punctuated with a bit of waiting. We gain a lot of time in the long line of heavyweights thanks to Hamid, to whom we said goodbye a little before noon.
Finally, our 6 wheels and 10 feet tread the Pakistani soil for the first time!
The formalities will go quickly on this side, and even more for the logbook since there will be no inspection of the truck… We are really surprised hallucinates by that, but at least this time, the bike will not attract looks and questions.
Change of language (English is more present), accent, clothing style (almost all men wear the traditional long-sleeved shirt and loose-fitting pants and women…there is hardly any), direction of traffic, and decorative style for trucks!
It is past 1pm when we arrive at the Taftan police station, where we learn that the departure is for the next day, as it is already too late to get an escort that allows us to arrive in Dalbandin before 17h. Good, less road for the day, and we can relax and eat (quietly because it is Ramadan, dutifully practiced here).
Ouch, doesn’t make for a soft awakening, the escort comes knocking at the truck at 7am instead of the 8am announced the day before. We do not waste time preparing everyone, and get on the road with Taraj behind the pickup and his two armed policemen. First checkpoint a few kilometers away, it takes a little time because they write down all the passport information, and take ID photos. The flat road, rather monotonous (except for some villages) and not always in very good condition, stretches between a railway 500 m to the right and the mountains marking, in the distance, the border with Afghanistan on the left, and it is after more than a dozen checkpoints and escorts relays (all nice even if we can feel they are tired by the fasting of Ramadan), we arrive in Dalbandin, about 300 kms further.
Escorted to a hotel in a narrow street, we won’t be able to avoid the low cables and the tense maneuver to bring Arty back into the courtyard of what appears to be the only place in the city that can accommodate strangers. We can finally sit down to eat and relax, under police watch, waiting for another long day’s drive the next day.
It’s definitely a habit! New awakening earlier than announced, new start a little rushed, new maneuver (a bit simpler) to get Arty out, before following the escort and Taraj in the streets of the city. Change of scenery: mopeds loaded with 1 to x people, rickshaw (tuk tuk) galore, trucks with caps all more decorated than the other with loads often oversized, carts pulled by donkeys, first small mountains of rubbish in water stagnating on the sides of the road…
We do not go unnoticed in the landscape, but obviously not the time or the right to stop, we rather quickly leave the « suburbs » to find a quieter road. The checkpoints and the escorts are connected more smoothly than the day before, between pick-ups, mopeds, and even a police officer without a vehicle in our cabin, before reaching the outskirts of Quetta, the main city of the pakistani Balochistan province.
A bit of confusion before knowing where to take us, but it is at the Bloom Star Hotel that we are taken to, after a ride in the dense traffic of the city (again, all eyes follow our convoy) that will allow us to experience a less stressful driving than in Iran: despite the confusion, the uninterrupted horns (including the very funny ones coming from trucks), they are much less likely to force the passage!
No problem for Taraj and his bike, however, we are stopped at the entrance of the hotel: too high to pass the porch. Plan B just for us, the police station where their families also live: small houses, huge cricket ground and…a few goats on a small dump. Not very healthy, but at least we will have space.
It is in this not very fun setting , but at least in a different country, that Edrian will blow one more candle with crêpes (fortunately we have anticipated, because it is not here that we would have been able to go around the bakeries!)
Our little neighbors met in the morning, a group of children and teenagers living in the camp, are waiting for us impatiently. Here we go for a very cool afternoon: bike races, small discussions with those who manage in English as spokesmen, badminton match, and of course photos to immortalize their fine features (probably the most beautiful faces seen since we’ve started that adventure), printing the shots at the end (success again)! We meet some dads, however, no trace of wives and mothers who stay behind the walls of houses…
After this break, our escorted little convoy is back on the asphalt, crossing tuned trucks, overloaded minibuses with snowmen on the roof. Ntyalé is not in very good shape but holds up, between the checkpoints, the road sections of small mountains (which will contrast with the flat desert landscape), and the more tropical landscapes: big trees, a little more humidity, fields, strong horned black cattle typical of the subcontinent cooling in the muddy waters of streams.
Not very clear this escort business, we are supposed to be in a safe zone, but they do not seem to want to let go… And yet, with a tourist visa of 30 days, we intend to visit as much as possible! We will probably have to go about it slowly to make them understand… After a morning drive, 50km after Sukkur, we expect to see a new pickup take over … well no, it would seem that we are free to ride! For how long ? To be continued…