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Pakistan

The border post at Mijaveh/Taftan used to be an odd collection of huts with little form to suggest their purpose.  From what I've read very little seems to have changed.   Despite everything, the Pakistani customs donít pose too many problems that a lot of patient waiting and a little baksheesh wonít solve. 

Pakistan Fort near the Iran borderTravellers would be well-advised to over-night at the border post and begin the next leg of their journey across the Baluchistan desert at first light.  We of course didn't follow this advice and would move on as soon as we got the clearance from customs. The quality of the road through the desert to Quetta is variable to say the least, but it constantly affected by drifting sands and flash floods that provide the motorist with hazardous driving conditions. 

On one occasion we got ourselves quite disoriented one night and decided to stop on the outskirts of a small village.  It was oppressively hot, we had only a little water and no booze.  Despite all this there was a magic to the place and we spent much of the night smoking and chin-wagging.

There is little water to be found en route and you would be advised to bring supplies from Iran.  You will see desert wells and even a couple of roadside ones but it would be fool-hardy to rely upon them, especially for drinking water. 

It was here in the middle of the Baluchistan desert on a reverse itinerary that we boiled Belch so I hitched a ride back to a well with a heavily armed group of Pakistanis in a Landcruiser.  From these guys we learnt that there had been another revolution in Iran and Bani Sadr had been deposed as President and the hardliners had taken over. We were advised not to continue on into Iran.  Of course we did!


Crossing the Baluchistan Desert


Supermarket Shopping Darra Style

The road into Quetta leaves the desert plains and crosses the mountains that fall down from Afghanistan through the Bolan Pass.  Depending on the season it may be possible to stop and bath in the swift and cold waters that offer a remarkable contrast the harsh and rock terrain. 


The strategic Bolan Pass


Giving the locals something to look at

You will want to stop and revive yourself in Quetta which remains very much a frontier town.  Architecturally it wears, with many a cantonment in Pakistan and India, its British colonial legacy still.  In its environs you come across a multitude of interesting people; Afghanis, Baluchis and Pathans.  Everyone is armed to the teeth but the ordinary traveller has traditionally been safe, providing they take the necessary precautions of travelling during the day and respecting local customs. 

Benny living the RajThe route takes you eastwards to Sukkur and Multan.  From Sukkur you are driving on the main north-south highway that links the southern port city of Karachi with Lahore.  The highway criss-crosses the amazing expanse of the Indus River which cuts a deep, fertile gash through this very dry land. 

The adventurous (and those with too much time on their hands) will turn south for Karachi.  The drive is a long and dangerous one with the amazingly ornamental Pakistani trucks risking everything as this push their over-laden vehicles to the limit.  Karachi was and for all accounts remains a dirty and dangerous city.  The main attractions for tourists and locals alike could be found in the carnival that appears to materialise on its polluted beaches. 

A good two day drive to the north west of the city takes you to the ancient ruins of Mohenjadharo.  However, the security situation on those roads even in the early eighties made it a risky proposition. 

Most travellers then and now would turn north for Lahore, in the centre of the Punjab.  This region is the breadbasket of Pakistan and the city is Pakistanís richest.  Its attractions include its Moghul Red Fort and Shalimar Gardens.  Female travellers will experience more difficulties than males in Pakistan and the situation will be no different in the city than the countryside. 

Lahore is an ideal centre for having any mechanical repairs done cheaply.  In 1981 the busí bodywork fell across the chassis and this with the reverse journey to London still ahead of us.  The first quote was a staggering ₤2,000 Ė more than the bus was worth!  However, when the reality that we wouldnít pay such a sum set in our ingenious mechanics cobbled her back together again for ₤200. 

For travellers needing a taste of home the cure was a quick trip to the diplomatic precincts of Islamabad, Pakistanís capital city.  Just a short hop up the Grand Trunk Road past Rawalpindi you could find cold Australian beer and frozen beef steaks! With not much else to recommend it, travellers head north-west to Peshawar. 

This was and still is real frontier territory, bordering on Afghanistan.  It is tribal and government control is more apparent than real.  You could buy anything you wanted with guns and drugs being at the top of the list. 


Darra's famous fountain-pen gun


A heavy machine gun being repaired

The village of Darra was in fact the smuggler and gun-runners paradise with machine guns, pistols, mortars, rocket launchers and not to forget fountain-pen size, single shot 22 calibre guns, all on open display in the market. 

From Peshawar you could also explore the Khyber Pass going only so far as the Afghanistan border.  Once again itís a case of retracing your steps Ė this time back to Lahore.  You enter India at the Wagah/Attari Road border post, a very short distance from Lahore. 

   

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