It is a well known fact that there is continuous open all out war between India and Pakistan relating to the Kashmir issue. Meanwhile they fight it out on the cricket fields. However in this rivalry, in one aspect Pakistan is an all out winner - the roads. The roads in India are very bad is some stages. The Pakistan roads are worse. On the other hand, wherever there is a good road the Pakistan equivalent
is better. All of a sudden I started to appreciate the cows and pigs, etc. of India. As Pakistan is a Moslem State, no cows roam the streets, let alone pigs. Therefore the streets are actually dirtier as the cows and pigs eat most of the things that the people throw away. We had some rain. The roads turned into mud baths and were very difficult to negotiate. In one particular town the main street was totally covered in watery mud as far as we could see. Hidden rocks and pot holes made riding very difficult and at one stage we came to a sudden stop with the front wheel buried in the mud down to the axle. By-standers watched and smiled - incredible that this was the main street of the town. Again we were riding in the dark that night. During a stop in a small petrol station we were picked up by a young Pakistini who took pity on us. He took us to his home in a nearby village. People in this part of the country are friendly beyond belief. During the day we stopped along the road and gathered the usual onlookers around us. A man handed us a bunch of roses and said Welcome to Pakistan.!
Today we crossed the Indus River and were riding on absolutely terrible roads along the western bank towards Iran. The Indus valley is very fertile judging by the healthy looking crops growing on the flood plains. In flood they can reach a width of 50km. The roads are washing away and are partly repaired as required. However, as they build these tar roads on clay, one does not have to have a vivid imagination to envisage the state they are in. The road was so bad that I rode along a 20cm wide path next to the railway line for a while. Finding our way is getting more difficult. In India the majority of road signs are in Hindi plus some English. As soon as you cross into Pakistan it changes to Arabic writing and practically no English.
SNIPPETS FROM PAKISTAN
After crossing into Pakistan from India, we decided to look for an hotel at the exit side of Lahore or go for a nearby town on the way south. Several hours later we find ourselves once again being sent on by police because there is a hotel in the next town they keep saying. Its 8.30 pm and once again we are riding in the dark. We enter a town called Patokki and pull up in a closed Service Station. Small office, 2 pumps and the rest gravel. We are in trouble this time I thought, we might have to sit it out! Within a few minutes a young fellow arrived - only speaks Urdu but understands our plight and indicates that we should follow him. Half an hour later we are having dinner in a simple room with 15 men looking (staring) at us until a person arrives who speaks English. We shared a wealth of information. There has been some rain in the area. The following day we find ourselves negotiating deep mudholes in the main streets of villages. At one stage my front wheel disappeared into a mud filled hole right up to the axle. Bystanders look on and laugh.
40 HOURS IN BULICHISTAN
A bit apprehensive we go north through the Kachi Desert and arrive in the Frontier Town on Quetta. We are now in Baluchistan which means once out of town, new rules apply - or rather, no rules apply. As we have to negotiate 600 km plus of Tribal country, we decide to make the run to the Iranian border in 2 days. Half way is a town called Dalbandin, a police post offering safe accommodation. After a visit to the GPO we leave town at about 10.00 am. Within ten minutes Peter hit the deck at a speedbreaker (hump). The speedbreaker was not marked and the quick stop locked up the front wheel and sent him flying through the air. A bit of damage to skin and bike was repaired in thirty minutes. The reason for this front wheel lock-up was that the bitumen is mixed, not with gravel, but with pebbles. These shiny bits of stone are polished by the traffic passing over them and make for a very slippery surface. We passed a mountain range - Afghanistan on our right flanked by a high mountain range and a sandy desert on our left. Charlie and Peter pulled off the road and rode their bikes along a track to the top of the hill to enjoy the view. I kept going and really enjoyed riding by myself through a desert void of traffic and people. About 15 km along I approached a roadblock set up by the army and was asked to share some tea with them in a mud walled hut beside the road. Fifteen minutes later Charlie arrived and joined us for tea. A truck stopped. The driver started to talk to me. The only thing I understood was the word motorsikklet, while the driver pointed back in the direction he had come from. We got on our bikes and headed back. We found Peter 8km back trying to fix up his fairing and bags. He had come off again at yet another speedbreaker at a railway crossing! We fixed up his badly cut hand and continued our journey.
500 km of stony desert in Baluchistan
We had lost quite a bit of time with these mishaps, so we decided to push on, as Dalbandin had to be reached before nightfall. The road improved and we could now reach speeds of around 90 - 100 kph. The landscape started to change - sandhills and sand mountains were all around us. Coming over a mountain range, I noticed a dark sky before us. I slowed down and asked the others what they thought it meant. The sky had a strange colour with light coloured vertical streaks (like rain in the distance). We were moving towards it but the cloud seemed to move away at the same speed. After a while, I looked in to my mirrors and noticed that the same coloured sky was now also behind us. I concluded that we were in the centre of a dust storm! We passed an adobe mud settlement with a Pepsi sign and stopped for a while. One hundred km to go and 3 hours of daylight left made us stay a bit longer that we should. Off we went to negotiate yet another rocky mountain range followed by a sandy desert - a fantastic sight - thousands of sandhills. Riding down from the rocky hills the situation changes. Our course changed to North. We passed the last mountain and .... we are caught in the middle of a sandstorm that came howling from our left. Sand was sheeting like water across the road at great speed. I made a quick stop to put a scarf around my face, as in a snowstorm. The sand kept coming. New sandhills had covered the road almost completely. The smaller sandhills next to the road were 2 metres high. Eye level sand pelted against my helmet making me cough. Visibility went down to 20 metres. I lost sight of Peter and Charlie. In the midst of all this I stopped the bike and took some pictures. It felt like being sand blasted. In areas sand had now completely covered the road. First gear, half walking the bike, I had to negotiate the sand piles. The road changed direction. The wind and sand was now coming straight for me making it very hard to see the road now, let alone the pot holes! We passed a small mountain range and all of a sudden it was all over.
After a chat we continued, only to face another onslaught of even greater magnitude. Just before dark we reached Dalbandin and found our way to the walled police compound.
The police told us that there was no accommodation but we could camp anywhere within the compound. As luck would have it, we met an Australian BHP geologist with a group of local geologists doing exploration work in the area. They offered to share their rooms and shouted us a staff meal. The experiences of this day I had only read about and had only pictured it happening in the Sahara desert, but here it is for real, complete with wild camels.
MORE ROAD HAZARDS FOR MOTORCYCLISTS
A friend of mine did the overland trip by motorcycle back in 1983. After arrival in Europe he was diagnosed as having contracted Hepatitis. He could not work out why and how he ended up in this condition.
I think that the probable answer might be because we are in The Lands of the Flying Phlegm, possibly due to the dust in the air people spit a lot. Riding a motorcycle past a bus has high odds that someone will spit out of the window. While passing, I have been spat on in many colours already. Red beetle nut spit, brown tobacco spit etc. Usually I close my helmet visor a bit and bend my head at the same time, but sometimes I catch some in my face. Then we have the next category - the out of the window vomiters - no further comment needed! I just slam on the brakes. By the way, most buses have sliding windows or no windows at all plus there might be 20 - 30 persons riding on the roof of the bus.
Or come with me to Iran