Not in Kansas any more
CROSSING FROM AZERBAIJAN into Iran, things were immediately different. I passed the border quickly and without any issues, other than having to pay $30 in bribes. As a British citizen, I wasn’t allowed to travel unaccompanied but there was no mention of this at the border and I could have left without an issue; saving myself a chunk of money. The guide-accompaniment situation was restricting and felt unnatural after travelling on my own for so long.
Between cities, the guide took a taxi which I had to try to follow as it sped down highways at 140km/h! Motorcycles are banned on highways and this complicated things on the two occasions the taxi was pulled over for speeding. I was so disappointed by my lack of freedom to stop whenever I wanted to take a photo or enjoy the view.
Traffic became a nightmare; pedestrians were suicidal; 70cc bikes carried families of four and a goat, all without helmets and with the rider on his phone. In Tehran, I had a low-speed collision with a pedestrian which broke my headlight mount, my laptop and left my handlebars in need of adjustment.
Crossing into Pakistan, I got stuck at the border for a day when the Pakistan side shut early for Eide celebrations. I was allowed to sleep on the floor of the customs office and was kindly given food and water by the guards. I crossed the next day, with next to no cash and hoping to find an ATM or bank in Taftan. Not being able to withdraw money in Iran is a major issue and this continued in Pakistan. There were no banks and no ATMS. A complete stranger gave me 1000 Rupees (£6.30), enough for 15 litres of fuel, and I started my again-escorted journey through the Baluchistan region.
I made it to Dalbandin on the first day where I slept on the roof of a prison and was introduced to a terrorist who was no older than ten. He brought me tea, soda and sweets, which was surreal. The next day I was escorted to Quetta, to the famed Bloom Star Hotel which I was not allowed to leave. Due to Eide I could not get the certificate required for onward travel for a couple of days and I was delayed a further day due to army operations.
Eventually it was time to head to Sukkur. Eight armed motorcycle police officers took me out of the city before handing me over to the levies who escorted me out of Baluchistan. Then I headed to Multan and Lahore before crossing into India.
Not once did I feel threatened or in danger during my time in Iran and Pakistan. I was shown great kindness and generosity by people who had very little. I was given fuel, food, drinks and gifts on numerous occasions. I wish I’d had the freedom to stop to take it all in but unfortunately, the paranoia from both governments restricted my ability to truly make the most of my time there — a real shame.
One advantage of being accompanied...Above: The Golestan Palace in Tehran is one of the city’s oldest monuments
Top right: One of the many mosques in Isfahan in Iran