@ 8 August- India

Wagah Boarder Guard
A beautiful Indian Boarder Guard at the Wagah Crossing

After our arduous journey through Pakistan it was time to stop for a couple of days to rest and do all the house work so to speak. Amritsar is a relaxed and pleasant town compared to where we had come.

After organising our riding gear and clothing to be washed it was time to get out and explore and went shopping with Ralf and Yin to buy a few bits and pieces. Adding to the fun was having all 4 of us piling into one Tuk Tuk.

We managed to find a descent coffee which was the first in many weeks. Steve was happy as he found an additional SD card he had looking for recently.

Later in the day the four of us had orangised a guide to drive us to several sites around Amritsar. First we were off to Hindu Temple which was a bit like a maze that you would find at a fun park, except with various reliquary related shrines located around the outer section of the temple and a large open area where the disciples would congregate for worship.

Hindu temple
A couple of religious men at the Hindu temple
Ringing the Bell
David gigging the bell a “bit hard” and surprising himself

We were then off to witness the evening closing ceremony of the “Wagah” Indian/Pakistan boarder crossing which has been a practice dating back to 1959. Basically it is an Indian/Pakistan version of the New Zealand Haka But with automatic rifles and a bit more Bollywood to it.

It was great to watch but interestingly Ralf our German friend witnessed a different side as he could see similarities between this and the bad days of the Nazi’s due to the hyping of the crowds who were chanting negative cries to the Pakistani’s the other side of the boarder. This certainly did detract from the cerimony and certainly does nothing to improve relationships between the two countries.

Indian Boarder Guard
A very imposing and well dressed BFS (boarder force security) guard

After the Wagah show it was off to to visit the Golden Temple which we were advised is best viewed by night. As with al these significant temples we have visited throughout our Mad Ride the size was staggering and effort put into building was impressive to say the least. Something we find ironic when there is extreme poverty all around.

The temple we were told had approx 750kg of gold leaf covering the roof and various parts of the building. The water area in front of the Temple that people were bathing in as there are meant to be healing properties in the water.

Golden Temple
An impressive Golden Temple

Our driver left us at the temple which allowed us time to explore and have dinner at a local Indian restaurant which is always fun and a bit of a gamble with your tummy.

The evening ended with a Tuk Tuk ride back to the hotel. All in all a pretty good day site seeing.

@ 6 August- Pakistan

After a lovely breakfast and a slow start following yesterday’s hell ride we were heading to Lahore. We still had approx 450km’s to get to Lahore and we were to be escorted from the hotel.

The  pollution was horrific, however the scenery did start to change with more greenery with trees. We had to force the escorts to stop on a couple of occasions today as they are very reluctant to stop at the road side, however we insisted on at least a couple of snack breaks and to give our legs a stretch.

The roadside shops were very basic, however one shop owner refused to take money from us as he considered us guests in his country. A very nice gesture.

We were finally set free by our escorts 100km short of Lahore which then allow us to crack on at a higher pace . Stopping 15km’s short of Lahore we were checking our maps and we received a note from Ralf and Yin (aka, The Germans) that they were at a hotel and have arranged parking for our bikes and a room  great news, so we were off and all we had to do was find the place!

Having ridden to within a few hundred metres of the hotel we then spent the next 1/2hr getting to the front door as it was dark when we finally arrived and the streets in the centre of the city were manic. We arrived and were greeted by our friends and settled in for the evening.

The hotel staff were great and very accomodating making room in the back yard for our bikes. Lahore itself was a very average so tomorrow we planned to head straight to the boarder.

Pakistan truck
A typical truck and its load in Pakistan defying physics
Trucks of Pakistan
A view from behind of a slightly overloaded truck

@ 4 August- Pakistan

Today we have to stay in Quetta as we had been told that we needed to obtain a travel permit from the local government office before we could move on.

This was to be a lesson in patience as we were about to find out. our German friends, Steve and i climbed into a Tuk Tuk and were off to the government office flanked by armed guards on motorbikes which certainly was a fun site.

Having a fun ride in a Tuk Tuk in Quetta on way to station complete with armed escort
Having a fun ride in a Tuk Tuk in Quetta on way to station complete with armed escort

We then proceeded to spend the next 4hrs being taken from one office to another with very little happening. WE were observing our bit of paper just sit on a desk for an extended period while the person who was required to sign the document tried to look very busy by shifting various other bits of paper around without there being much actually occurring. The final “kicker” was that when we complained, the document was simply signed off back by the original person!

So we had our signed travel document and next stop was to get the German’s a train ticket which also involved a rather convoluted process including having to produce passports.

During our stay at the hotel in Quetta we met a Spanish guy traveling solo who had just come from a trip around the “stan’s”. Fortunately he had a complete set of soft copy maps that we were able to upload onto our Garmin GPS device for India, Nepal and Myanmar. This was a result as the maps we had unfortunately had failed earlier in the rip so we were resorting to hard copy maps and the trusty Google maps on our phones.

So tomorrow we are set to move on and hopefully we will only have an escort for the first 200km from town and then we will be free to head to Lahore by ourselves. The German’s will also be able to travel by train once more.

@ 5 August- Pakistan

 

Anything goes over here. Check the minimalist cabin.
Anything goes over here. Check the minimalist cabin.

We bid farewell to the German’s and hoped to catch ip with them again once we reach Lahore. Steve and I were looking forward to the ride today as we would believed we would be free to travel without an escort shortly.

Quetta was a tip of a city and we were very pleased to be leaving. Our police escorts assisted in cutting an easy path through any traffic on the route out of town. There was nothing unusual about our jorney that morning, Steve and I had discussed the route the previous night with the guards so there was nothing to worry about, just follow the armed police vehicle.

The first thing that started to concern us was that the escort did not stop at the 200km mark, we also later that morning realised we were not being taken on route we had discussed the night before which should have been around 400km’s straight through to Lahore. It turned out the police on the day decided (without telling us) the direct route was too dangerous so we were taken on a much longer (nearly 1000km) route heading south east and then  we were to head back up.

We were finally cut loose by our guards after nearly 400km’s, but by this stage we had to completely re map our journey through to Lahore. It was now going to take 2 days to get there and it was later in the day and we had no accommodation arranged for the evening.

We had a chat and decided to push on and make out way through to what we believed to be a reasonable sized town and get accommodation there.

The day turned into evening and we were then stopped by police who made us wait until an armed escort could once again take us on our journey.  We waited for approx 1hr until police arrived, we were wet with sweat and the pollution was disgusting.

Check how soaked our shirts are! Typical in these hot conditions
Check how soaked our shirts are! Typical in these hot conditions

The police officer in charge then offered to have us escorted the  150km to a “safe” hotel as the area we were in was not considered safe for westerners. So once again we were off, by now it was 7;30pm.

As the journey progressed unaware to us, the original instruction given by the organising police officer got confused, with Steve and I finding ourselves with police who tried to “dump” us at the road side at 10;30pm saying we were free to go with us not knowing where we were. The day had quickly turned hell and now getting dangerous.

The conversation quickly changed at this point with me having a very frank conversation with the police at the road side. The police then made several phone calls and found a hotel for us, but it still involved another 45 minute journey. We were off again.

Finally we made it to a hotel in a town call Badawalpur at 11:30pm. We had been on the road 16hrs and covered 780km’s. We had not had breakfast, lunch or dinner due to the escorts not wanting to stop. We were shattered!

Yeh, dodgy photo but it demonstrates the pollution we consumed after a day riding through Pakistan
Yeh, dodgy photo but it demonstrates the pollution we consumed after a day riding through Pakistan

As it turned out, the hotel was the best accommodation we had experienced since being on our Mad Ride.  There is a god.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

@ 3 August-Pakistan

 

Pakistan Desert
Riding the deserts of Pakistan. Hot!

The sleep last night on the roof turned out to be far nicer than expected, with cool temps and a lovely sunrise to be viewed without having to open the curtains. The only issue was the number of dogs barking throughout the night across the township.

Today our journey is through to Quetta with the road taking us along side the Afghanistan boarder for most of the 340km ride. At one point we were within eye site of the boarder.

The journey was pretty much the same as yesterday with various handovers to different guards and numerous check points which certainly tested our patience in the 43deg temps.

One of the many officers who were assigned to protect us on our journey through Pakistan
One of the many officers who were assigned to protect us on our journey through Pakistan

 

 

@ 2 August- Pakistan

When we started to see Camels we knew the conditions were getting harsh!
When we started to see Camels we knew the conditions were getting harsh!

The sleep last night was pretty average for us all, due to no breeze and the heat built up in the brick buildings just makes life horrible and sleeping outside was not an option due to the overflow of prisoners that were brought in late last night.

We bid farewell to our hosts and the Germans tourists were loaded into the back of a canvas covered Hilux ute along with a couple of guards and we were instructed to stick close behind and follow. This was to become the standard way of traveling for us during our stay in Pakistan.

As the morning progressed we stopped at various military check points and the guards were changed as we passed through different precincts on our way to Dalbandin. During our ride this morning were came across our first sighting of wild camel’s, so we knew we were getting into serious desert country and the heat and boredom certainly confirmed this.

Stopped at a Pakistan military check point in the desert. Looks hot? Yes it was.
Stopped at a Pakistan military check point in the desert. Looks hot? Yes it was.

We arrived at a secure hotel in Dalbandin hot and tired, along with the German’s. We had two guards assigned to stay with us for the night and it is customary that we pay for their meals while we are being guarded.

The two guards assigned to stay with us
The two guards assigned to stay with us

That evening we were not going to be caught out by the heat of the room again and followed the guards lead and took the option of sleeping on the open roof of the hotel despite having paid for the best room in the hotel.

Temps were so high inside and with not a/c and power blackouts it was best to sleep on the roof
Temps were so high inside and with not a/c and power blackouts it was best to sleep on the roof

Statistics for the week;

Distance travelled for the week: 2,073km’s

Average speed  to date: 79.5km/h

Fuel consumption: 4.7 litre per 100km

@ 1 August- Iran to Pakistan

We were up early and both of us were preparing for the days ride  I think we were a little less chatty than normal, probably due to the armed escort and crossing into Pakistan.

The escort arrived on time. A car with two officers and a motorbike with a very boyish looking officer carrying a  Kalishivov.

We set off and as headed for the boarder which was a ride of approx 70km through pretty Barron land. The ride was interspersed with stops at various police checks where our passports were required to be produced for some reason?

A Pakistani flag flying high
A Pakistani flag flying high

We finally made it to the boarder and were ushered  us to the front of the que and left in the hands of the boarder control police. Fortunately this worked in our favour as we had  personal offical ensuring we completed all the paperwork (including having our bike Carne’s signed) ready for our entry into Pakistan.

Passing through the Pakistan boarder control went pretty smoothly apart from having to reinforce that our Carne’s needed signing to ensure the bikes were cleared for entry.

Steve and his new friend at the Pakistan boarder
Steve and his new friend at the Pakistan boarder

Once we were cleared, and we thought we could be on our way, we were then escorted accross what could only be described as an old rubbish dump to a compound, creating a destinct concern for both Steve and I. As it turned out this “compound” was the local Police compound which was to be our home for the night as we were advised we could not proceed without armed police escort until tomorrow.

Within the compound we found ourselves sharing with a “people smuggler” who was locked up and appeared to be pretty much forgotten about, half a dozen young Afgan boy refugees (between 16 & 23y.o.) who were due to be handed over to Afgan officials any day. We were suddenly seeing the reality of what life in this part of the world is like.  These boys had trecked hundred’s of kilometres in a search for a life only to be arrested and now looking at a fate of being handed back to the authorities from where they escaped! You can only wonder what the fate of these boys will be over time?

The far wall comprises of goal cells complete with a People Smuggler
The far wall comprises of goal cells complete with a People Smuggler
The Taftan Police compound toilet. Pretty much as base as you can go!
The Taftan Police compound toilet. Pretty much as base as you can go!

Steve and I were joined later in the evening by a German couple who had also crossed from Iran into Pakista, however they were travelling by bus. They also had been instructed to stay put until an escort tomorrow.

Ralf and Yin, the German husband and wife travelling by bus and train
Ralf and Yin, the German husband and wife travelling by bus and train
Bikes Parked up inside the compound
Bikes Parked up inside the compound

Ralf and Yin (the German’s) were a lovely couple whom we would spend the next day’s travelling through Pakistan with. Tonight however we all had to bed down in the Taftan Police compound, which Lonely Planet described as “hell on earth, and worse in summer”.

Let’s hope tomorrow is a better day………

@ 31 July- Iran

If we thought Kerman was starting to become more basic, then Zahedan was even more so.

The ride itself was more desert with the most extreme conditions both Steve and I had ever experienced on bikes! Riding into gale force winds bringing dust storms with it and 43deg temps. We really struggled for a good 150km section with these relentless conditions. Adding to the wind was the issue of oncoming trucks causing a major upset due to the draft every time they past.

We arrived at Zahedan around 5.00pm and found the hotel we had pre booked from the previous day. Fortunately it was pretty easy to find.

At one point we had to navigate around a group of approximately 300 to 500 men kneeling and praying along the road, outside a mosque. This was the first time we had witnessed such extreme religious devotion. The number of men praying was blocking our side of the road, which meant we had to ride past down the wrong direction of traffic flow, which for Iran was not such an unusual occurrence.

Once we arrived at the hotel, armed police (with Kolashinkov’s) arrived as were clearly instructed we were not to travel outside the hotel compound without their escort! Things were suddenly changing.

We needed fuel for the ride to the boarder tomorrow so for the first time we received an armed escort in order to secure our safety. We filled up at the petrol station and quickly made our way back to the hotel.

The reason being, as this was close to the Afgan and Pakistan boarders we were at risk from Bandits and other “groups”.

Tomorrow it was agreed we would be escorted to the boarder by the police at 08:00am.  Not really conducive to a good nights sleep.

@ 30 July- Iran

We rode from Esfahan to Kerman today. The stop off in Kerman was simply to split the distance on our way to the Iran Pakistan boarder. As we moved further from the capital (Tehran) we were finding (as with pretty much every country we visited) that things become basic and less western. Finding people who could speak English was becoming harder to find.

Personally, I was finding the nerves starting to build as I was becoming concerned about what was to be once we crossed the Pakistan boarder.

For now it was about making our way through Iran and the heat we were facing; after all this was the middle of the Iranian summer and we were riding through their desert region.

Today reached 39deg with strong cross winds causing serious concerns as we passed oncoming trucks. At one point I watched Steve nearly being swept off the road by the draft from one of these trucks.

Pollution was  still evident with many large heavy steel manufacturing plants were located in this region.

Tomorrow Zahedan and closer to the Pakistan boarder.

 

@ 29 July- Iran

Qum to Esfahan

One of the several historic and beautiful bridges of Esfahan
One of the several historic and beautiful bridges of Esfahan

The ride today is from Qum to Esfahan. The ride itself was just hot and pretty boring as we road through desert region with small mountains surrounding. Temps were in the high 30’s.

We came across another tragic vehicle crash today with a car that had left the road at high speed and cartwheeled across the desert. This has become an all to common event seeing major crashes in Iran and makes us all to aware of our vulnerability being on bikes. We pushed on and made Esfahan around 3.00pm.

The two cities could not have been any different, with Qum being considered the most conservative Iranian city while Esfahan was what we considered the most beautiful with well manicured flora along streets and it was clear the locals cared about their town.

We pulled up at a fast food restaurant in order to grab a drink and bite to eat and it was not long before 3 school girls approached Steve while is was out checking a hotel out. It was a funny site upon my return seeing Steve as the centre of attention of the girls who were  keen to practice their English speaking skills. The girls asked to take a “selfy” with us and then departed.

Once we orangised ourselves in the hotel it was off for a walk to check out the several spectacular bridges crossing the river in Esfahan. The down side was that the water was no longer flowing due to a recent dam that had been built upstream effectively stopping the water flow of what was clearly a spectacular river previously.

After the river walk it was off to see a lovely palace located in the centre of town. Iranian tourists were plenty with horse rides being offered around the square made for a very energetic scene.

Esfahan Palace by night
Esfahan Palace by night

The  evening ended with making our way back to the hotel after a very long walk ready to head for Kerman tomorrow.