A Near Miss: Truck Rides through Baluchistan

The next day we set off in convoy, sat in the truck.  We opted for the rear of the truck and started in a buoyant mood, chatting rubbish and settling in on our drybags.  The Uruguayans followed us.  The German put up his hammock.  The Uruguayan boys jumped in with us, and we all had a party.

A stop for tea in a little shack in the desert saw us taking more gun photos, at the escorts instigation.

We hopped back in, high on sugar and pleased with our adventures.

Then the road deteriorated.  It wasn’t the best to start with, but now it really took the word ‘road’ to its limits.  We bounced over horizontal stripes across the metalled road, and were flung from side to side. 

It became impossible to sit in the back of the truck, so we stood and ‘surfed’ the bouncing, balancing on the balls of our feet for hours.  The sun hit my face and turned me a pleasant shade of beetroot.  I wrapped my hijab all the way round my head and channelled ‘Taliban leader’, offset only by my enormous NHS-type red sunglasses.  It was a good look. 


The hammock turned into a kind of trampoline, jettisoning its occupants into patches of oil in the truck corners.  We took turns.  It was preferable to the enforced jiggling dance at the truck railings.


The bikes bounced happily, sustaining injuries without whimpering.  The boxes got their corners crushed.  The tank got scratched. 

Every now and then someone would fall over.  The water started to run out.  We had no way of letting the drivers know we needed to stop, and they didn’t seem to need breaks of any sort. 

We made it to Dalbandin.  Admittedly we were a day late. 

The reason for the police keeping us in Nokkundi and not allowing us further was that 5 weeks earlier a French tourist travelling by jeep between Quetta and Dalbandin had been kidnapped.  No one had heard anything of him since, and obviously it was making the local constabulary a little jumpy.  

Anyway, it seemed the kidnappers weren’t in town for our arrival.  Perhaps the police were right, and had we been there 24 hours earlier, they would have had a feast prepared, followed by a swift bundling into a truck.  As it was, we had already experienced the bundling bit…


It was good fun arriving though, looking out from the back of the truck at our first Pakistani town.  It was dusty and chaotic, with goats in the street, and everyone in white salwar kameez with no modern clothing in sight.  There were chickens in cages and giant skinned creatures strung up in shack doorways.  There were very few women.  I saw a camel herder with his very scraggy camels. 

There were Baluchi flags and I saw independence graffiti scrawled on walls.


The truck was surrounded by a sea of faces. They stared up at us and we stared down at them. 

We were rushed into the police compound, and not allowed out.  The Uruguayans wandered about the town, oblivious or uncaring….

There was no food or drink.  We had just stopped for a sit, apparently.  Everyone was lovely, but we were getting seriously dehydrated.  They pointed to a well.  No one was that desperate though. 

Onwards we went, same heat, same roads.  We all huddled up to the cabin end where the juddering was less.  That’s where the driver kept barrels of fuel though, and the fumes made me very ill. 

We stopped at a chai stand and before anyone could tell us not to or make us go again, we got the stove working and cooked up a hideous coagulated pasta concoction, and necked 30 soft drinks.  The local kids sat around us, and gawped, having never seen spaghetti before.  They tried to eat it dry. 


And off again, into the desert.  We squashed into the cabin for a change of scenery. 

Suddently the driver moved out of the way of an oncoming truck, and POW- we ploughed over the edge of the embankment.  The truck wobbled sharply, and we all legged it out as fast as possible.

The truck was stuck at a horrifically steep angle, in the middle of the desert, with one giant tyre deep down a ditch.  It could tip at any moment.


There were no other cars on the road.  There was no shade.  I had no sunglasses, no suncream, and no water.  We weren’t allowed near the truck in case it fell.

The driver was worried.  I was petrified.  If the truck fell, our bikes would fall on top of each other and our bike would be crushed, completely.  The German started talking about insurance.  He was insured up to the eyeballs.  We, obviously, were not. 

Judging by the driver’s reaction, he wasn’t either.  He was doing everything possible, but it just wasn’t working. 

After half an hour of various cars and trucks driving straight past us, a tractor pulled up to help.  They attached it with steel cables to the back, and we had the mildly paralysing experience of watching the truck wobble heroically.  And then stop.  It wasn’t working. 

I sat in the Uruguayan’s car and tried not to cry. 

The German attempted to interview Adam with a Dictaphone.  I am not sure that he got exactly the response he was looking for, but then I am not quite sure what he expected, waving recording equipment in the face of a man about to lose his dream…

Finally another truck pulled up, and with one on the front and one on the back, they got it back on the road, and nothing got crushed. 

Everyone cheered.  I wept, but only a little bit, so it didn’t count.   

We carried on, and near Quetta, the drivers swapped over.  Our new driver was about 15 years old, and very confident.  He knew the young drivers mate well, and we watched the bizarre Jeckyll & Hyde transformation of a nice, friendly guy into a cocky little scally.  Our drivers mate had been very nice, and had been chatting along the way.  Now he mocked us in Urdu and adopted a nasty leering expression. 

The new driver stopped for evening prayers at a roadside mosque.  (A roadside mosque in the desert is just a small square marked out by stones on the ground, like a very tiny tennis court.  Instead of washing their hands and feet, as usually required for Muslim prayer, devotees perform a ‘dry wash’, symbolically rubbing hands together.)

He got back in, and floored it.  I think that, having said his prayers, he was now divinely protected from the consequences of his own actions, and could clean fly into town. 

We asked him to slow down.  We separated the two kids like naughty school children.  They only agreed to slow down once Daniel promised to show the footage of the truck nearly toppling when we arrived safely in Quetta. 

We arrived after dark to a town with a very odd atmosphere, and soldiers with mounted weapons hidden behind sandbags on every street corner.  It was a good town though, and despite the weirdness I liked it.  There was a good hustle and bustle about. 

Having said that, our escort numbers blossomed, so maybe they weren’t quite as pleased by it. 

We found the hotel, and the boys somehow managed, with the help of nearly the whole town, to unload the bikes.  There were no ramps, they simply heaved them off the end of the truck into lots of hands, and hoped.  It worked.

We had a peaceful evening sat in the courtyard chatting to the hotel manager.
He told us about the kidnapping.  His had been the last hotel to have seen the French man. 

The kidnappers had allegedly demanded 5 million Rupees from the Pakistani government. 

The government had allegedly told the kidnappers they could take a thousand French men if they wished- they didn’t have the money to pay them.

In the night we heard gunshots. 

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