Licking my lips, I feel my tears crunch between my teeth, which only must mean I have a sand streaked face, one that must look pretty ridiculous for those who look at it. ‘Don’t pass me on to another police station just take to me a hotel for fuck’s sake, it’s been four hours and all you have is done is pass me from one polices station to another. I’ve been up since 3:30am Iranian time, with nothing to eat or drink all day. Just take me to a hotel, I just want to sleep’ I wailed while sitting in the gutter of a huge round-a-bout with cars streaming passed us, my escorts looking down at me and I feel their panic as they don’t speak a word of English, but now realise I’m at my wits ends.
If this was a normal situation I would have driven off, found a hotel or camped somewhere out of the city, but I had no idea where I was, as I had been dragged around the city so much from one police station to another, in complete darkness, in this alleged dangerous city and most importantly, the policeman had my passport in his top breast pocket. This is what was keeping me there, my passport, the one they had taken off me at the border and never given back. I guess other overlanders must have gotten so sick of theseoutrageous charades that they must have taken off, so now they hold your passports as security so you won’t do a runner.
Until, I reached the Iran side of the border, I had had an awesome day. It started with me waking up the whole hotel at 6:30am (Pakistani time) to leave, since they really didn’t believe I wanted to actually go at that time despite me saying so several times to several people. To finally get them believe me, I had to pull out my passport and show them I needed to leave today as my visa runs out, and ‘IF’ I was late then my two police escorts (who slept at my hotel room door) will be held accountable. This got them moving, they finally started calling for my next escort.
The road was the smoothest in the whole of Pakistan, it made travelling easy except for the sand storm which hit me half way to the border. The sand streamed across the road like a golden river until the black paved road dissolved below it. Blindly, I just followed the dark shadow of my police escort’s pickup truck hoping it wouldn’t lose its direction and head straight for the sand dunes. Eventually, the sandstorm eased and I drove on passing huge dunes that edges themselves onto the road almost covering it completely.
On the Pakistan side the border was really easy. I was directed to the customs house and got my motorcycle stamped out of Pakistan even though my carnet had expired and my bike was in Pakistan for more than 3 months (In the customs rules – it states that any temporary import must be exported after 3 months). I found the immigration shack and I had to show my exit permit that I received from the Home Department in Quetta. Luckily I kept that piece of paper. Then I was free to drive through the gates into Iran but forced to switch sides of the road – I didn’t realise Iranians drove on the right!
I drove past a building, wondering where I should enter it. Normally, there are police checks, people telling you where to go, but there was no one. I could have entered Iran without any stamps or my carnet checked. But I parked my bike, locked my helmet and walked inside the building from the exit side. I found a person who pushed me to the customs guy and I had my bike stamped into the country.
This was the first time since starting my trip that I didn’t have to explain how to use a carnet. Then they called over immigration. They quickly snapped up my passport, demanded I cover my hair (which I had completely forgotten to do in my confusion) andwas told to sit. I don’t know how long I was made to wait. I fell asleep and was only disturbed when people came in and out of the room I was sitting in.
One man who could speak a tiny bit of English was made to translate, but he couldn’t care less for foreigners let alone a single woman. He explained to me that my escort would cost me $30 USD. I had to laugh and say no way, I’ll take my passport and go myself without an escort. After an hour of trying to convince me to pay this fee, he eventually said how about $5. I still demanded no, the police should provide their own transport. Then they agreed to give me one for free, but 30 minutes later took that agreement back and threatened to send me to Pakistan. I laughed again and said how can you? I don’t have a visa! This went back and forwards for ages. I didn’t really care, but I wasn’t getting the greatest feeling from the Iranian people. In fact the Pakistani’s crossing into Iran was much nicer.
My single escort arrived without transport, still this problem wasn’t resolved. I then had an issue of changing money and finding fuel. My translator was making a huge deal out of nothing, you cannot get fuel, you cannot change money, you must take the escort on your bike. Mean while all the Pakistanis were asking me what was happening why I couldn’t leave!
Finally an arrangement was sorted, my escort would sit in a bus and I would drive in front. As we drove out of the border compound we were stopped once again for a carnet and passport check. While I was in the building with my escort our bus just took off. Then the guard said you didn’t get a piece of yellow paper, please go back and get it from the customs guy. This was starting to become a circus, Pakistan was much more organised!
The customs guy slapped his head and said sorry, my escort and I looked at him grimly. Now we had to start again and organised another ride for my escort. Eventually, it was arranged a share taxi man would give me gas and take my guard to the first check point. Now the problem was, the taxi man drove 120 km/h, I only 80km/hr so eventually I couldn’t even see my escort. This was a crazy, stupid system that just doesn’t work.
In the pouring rain, a police checkpoint loomed ahead and I was waved down and asked to turn my bike off. The rain slowly started to seep through my layers of clothing, as I was made to stand in the rain for 30 minutes just waiting for my new escort. This was becoming a joke, exhausted and hungry I was starting to lose my patience. Pakistani police were much nicer and most of them could speak English!
Against all advice I still ended up in Zadan, a city known for its drug smuggling and kidnapping. I still needed to fill my tank and I still needed to change my money, so here I was being passed from one police station to another, crying to get any attention – all I want to do is go to a hotel and sleep. -Again this is photoless – its impossible to take photos in sandstorms, rain and at borders generally. I didnt want anything else to hold me up!