We were totally under police control while staying in Balochistan. We couldn’t leave the hotel without there escort and we couldn’t leave the city without obtaining a No Objection Certificate. Getting the certificate was free, but we had arrived in the city on a Saturday night and the office was closed on Sunday. So we spent a day in the hotel doing nothing, which suited me as I had caught a cold over the last couple of days.
On Monday we went to get the NOC which wasn’t hard, just a cause of patience as the bureaucratic machine worked. The police drove us to the city hall where we gave our passport info and waited. It took about two and a half hours. After we went to buy train tickets, but the system was down and our escort didn’t want to wait so they took us back to the hotel (after we made them take us to get lunch). In the evening I went out to get the tickets which took a bit of time as the station wanted copies of our passports and NOC’s but we were sorted in the end, tomorrow morning we were leaving Quetta.
The next morning we got up early, ready to go to the station with time to load our bikes up. We were ready to go on time but the escort was late. We were about to just cycle to the station on our own, given it was only 5 min down the road when the police showed up just in time and told us to cycle anyway.
We had just enough time to register our bikes and get them into the luggage compartment on the train. We the loaded up our panniers around our seats and got ready to sit down, when a large family came through and sat down. They had gotten their tickets mixed up and changed two hours later at the first big stop. From then in we settled in to the slow and dusty train out of Balochistan and into Punjab.
Punjab is mostly alluvial plain and we all enjoyed watching the arid, sandy desert slowly change into lush green fields over the course of the day. First the green patches of crops grown in the desert though irrigation canals, then some trees, then the green patches increased in size and frequency until we were at last surround by green. After so long in the desert across Iran and Balochistan, the green of Punjab was such a relief.
The train was full, but not overcrowded or with people hanging out the sides or on the roof as we had seen with the buses. We were even able to pull down the sleeper bunks once we had manoeuvred the panniers off them and sleep for the final hours of the journey.
We pulled into Multan at four am. Richie and André went to rescue our bikes from the luggage compartment porters while Finn and I unloaded all the panniers. Somehow throughout all the loading and unloading over the last four days all we had lost was a couple of straps.
We went to kip on the train station benches while we waited for dawn. The station guard found us and after getting over the shock of finding three foreigners sleeping on their benches they brought us to the waiting room where we could sleep in the beds there.