The night bus was comfortable but warm, and with very frequent stops at police checkpoints. I think we were pulled over at every stop, probably because we the foreigners were on board as other busses would breeze past. Never mind, we made it to Zahedan in the end.
Arriving in Zahedan at 5am we decided to stay in the city for the day, find a hotel room and make sure we were ready for the border crossing into Pakistan. We had heard all sorts of horror stories about Taftan, the border town on the Pakistan side. Money being hard to get, the bus tickets being scalped all sorts of stuff making us a bit nervous about crossing the border.
From Zahedan the border is another 80km but though we hadn’t crossed any border yet we were definitely in a new region. We were in Balochistan, a region that extends over the border of Iran and Pakistan and Afghanistan. A lot of the people here wore the Shalwar-Chemise, sported big moustaches and had darker skin than the Iranians we had seen before.
After much searching we at last found a cheap hotel willing to take us, a lot of the accommodation won’t accept foreign guests. They won’t straight up tell you, just direct you to another place and they’ll send you to another place until there’s nowhere left.
We found somewhere eventually and crashed, resting after the night bus. We spent the rest of the day getting ready to cross the border, checking the bus times the exchange rate all that good stuff.
The next day the hotel wouldn’t let us leave until the police arrived to escort us. This was the start of our troubles. We had hoped to get going early, cross the border in the morning and be out of Taftan before dark. The police were late. When they arrived, they led us on a series of seemingly random excursions across town, from the station to a roundabout, back to the station, back to the roundabout. We just wanted to get to the bus station where we could hire a truck to take us to the border.
The police really were clueless. After wasting about two and a half hours they finally listed to us and took us to the bus station, or so we thought, they thought we had said post station and took us to the post office.
This prompteda bit of irate gesturing from us which eventually got them to understand what we wanted, and took us to a roundabout where all the taxis hung out. There was one van there that could take all the bikes, driven by a portly old haji (one who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca, you can tell by the white hat). He didn’t really want to drive us but the police strong armed him and our money convinced him and soon we were loaded up and driving out of the city.
Or so we thought, we actually drove to another police station where we waited for an hour for whatever reason until the escort was ready to drive with us out of the city. This was a bit annoying but we waited and eventually got going, it was still bore noon, the border was open until 4.
Finally we started driving, we left the city got on the main road to Pakistan and stopped at the first police checkpoint. The escort pulled in and parked and said we had to wait. So we waited. One hour, two hours, there hours…we had no idea what was going on. Nobody could communicate, we called up people we had met throughout the trip in Iran to translate for us but the connection was so bad we could barely get through.
At about two o’clock the escort and the haji driver started saying what we thought meant go back to Zahedan and try tomorrow. There was no way we could do that, the last day we could enter Pakistan tomorrow. Luckily the military escort from the border we had been waiting all this time (four hours in the end) for decided to show up right then. We piled the bikes in their van as the haji driver wasn’t coming with us past the checkpoint (don’t know what we paid him for then) and we were finally, at last, mercifully on the road to Pakistan.
We didn’t make it to the border in the end though. We had to stop a couple more times at other checkpoints along the way. At the end, outside the final checkpoint the guards told us the border was now closed and to go to Mirjaveh. We argued with them to let us camp in their grounds first and then to let us camp outside their grounds but nothing, we had to go stay at the hotel in Mirjaveh.
Mirjaveh is a small town near the border. We were hoping the hotel would let us camp in the garden but of course not, they wanted the money and after arguing for a bit we had to pay for a room. At this stage we were hungry and tired and we didn’t have much spirit left.
The next morning we left with a fresh vigour ready to get to Pakistan. We had to make it today, it was the final day our Pakistan visa would be valid. First step was to get our passports back, which we did by walking down to the police station down the street and making a fuss back in the hotel and in the end the police organised the escort and the hotel gave us our passport. Next we loaded up the bikes and started cycling to the border on our own. The police wanted us to wait but after our experience yesterday we knew that was a loosing game.
At the first checkpoint we had to stop, as we had presumed, but now we were in the road at least and not waiting around in the hotel. Once again we were waiting for the army escort to arrive, but unlike yesterday we kept badgering the checkpoint guards until we were sure it was on the way. Ten minutes later it arrived and thirty minutes after that we were at the border.
It had been quite the ordeal getting here but now were leaving Iran, and just in time too. Apart from the last few days the stay in Iran had been fantastic, and amazing, eye opening journey through a land diverse in history and rich in culture where everyone was welcoming and trying hard to shake off the bad image their country had.