Not in Kansas any more

RiDE (UK) - - Travel -

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

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