Thwarted in the Baluchi Desert

We were at the Iran / Pakistan border.  We got ourselves out of the country promptly by sole virtue of our pallid skin.  I have little doubt it would have taken 2 hours longer at the very least, if we hadn’t been whisked out of the queue to the front of the line. 

Adam met a scared Kiwi biker, crazily pleased to leave Pakistan.  He said it was ‘all going off’.  He managed to petrify Adam completely.  I never met him, and wish Adam hadn’t either. 

The Pakistan side of the border was ramshackle and chaotic, but in an identifiable way which pleased me greatly.  We shuffled after old Pakistani officers in their excellent salwar-kameez denim cotton uniforms with badges on the arms. 

We met some incredibly nice Quetta police men who sat us down and gave us real tea and biscuits, and talked to us about the difficulties in arranging weddings, and other nice conversations like that. 

They laughed at us when we sat outside and ate our boiled eggs and tuna on the steps.

Then the escorts were there for the Pakistani trip, and we were off. 

It was our mission to reach the desert town of Dalbandin by nightfall.  Oh, if only…


The first part of Pakistan as you ride from Iran is Baluchistan. The Baluchi tribe do not recognise borders, and spread across Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.  However, they are campaigning for independence.  They want their own Baluchi country, rather than just a state.  This is, I think, so that they can keep the not insignificant profits reaped from sales of oil and gas from the Baluchi desert. 

The problem is that the campaigning is mainly of a guerilla type, and there aren’t exactly any peaceful UN-style conferences happening. They blow trains up occasionally, or kidnap an errant traveller or two as bargaining power.  

Politics notwithstanding, I found the Baluchi people to be the friendliest people I have met so far.  They were incredibly welcoming. 

There was the added worry of Taliban kidnappings or banditry. 

Anyway, it all made for a slightly tense atmosphere as we crossed the Baluchi desert.  Being surrounded by police probably didn’t help. 

In the distance there were rocks piled on top of each other on top of scraggy outcrops. We all really stared at them to make sure they weren’t lone gunmen in head-rags pointing weapons at the road…  It was that sort of a vibe.


The sand blew across the road in massive drifts.  It whipped up into giant tornado-ish chimneys across the horizon.  It wisped itself into little sandy eddies that pinged into our eyes. 


Then we fell into it.  The bike skidded sideways and we went over.  It was humiliating really... 

Me, Adam and Manfred the bike were all ok, but Adam decided it was just far too heavy for deep sand manipulation. 

I was bunged into the police car, squashed between the two salwar-kameezed officers. 

One of them kept rubbing his thigh against me. 

The vehicle had a ferocious gearstick.  Possibly they used it for neutering criminals.  It ploughed into my hip every time we changed gear. 

I accidentally asked where the music was from, making conversation.  They interpreted it, in a friendly way, as a request for full-volume driving anthems, Lollywood- style.

Half an hour later, with my eardrums somewhat less intact, and my lower half in severe pain, we pulled down a dirt track, apparently deep in the back end of nowhere.  

We were all bundled inside a small house so quickly we weren’t quite sure what had happened.  It was a two-room house with a porch and yard out the back.
There was nothing else in the immediate vicinity. 


We were informed by an exuberant host that it was a guesthouse owned by the local police.  Confused, we sat down in the front room and drank tea while our strange portly host began a debate about Christianity.  He was very proud of his English.  We understood one word in three.  Especially when it came to bible stories.  We all nodded for an hour or so.

Eventually we decided enough was enough, and made to leave, politely.  At this point someone chose to inform us we were not going to be going any further today. We were advised that Dalbandin was hot and mosquito-infested, and we didn’t want to stay there anyway.  I tried to avert my eyes from the heat-haze in the yard….

We tried everything to persuade the police, and guest-house owner, and assorted cousins, that we needed to make it to Dalbandin today, in order to reach Quetta without keeling over the next day. 

We failed miserably.  It seemed we weren’t going anywhere.


Then the German discovered a gigantic problem with his bike.  The drive-shaft was broken. The bearings were dud.

Now we definitely weren’t going anywhere.

Our host was becoming irritating, fast.  Even the host’s family seemed to recognise that he was irritating. 

He started telling our German how easy it would be to fix his bike. The situation became a little surreal.  The German loved his bike, and was upset anyway.  I am not sure it helped to have someone who had never seen a BMW telling him he could easily replace his driveshaft bearings in a tiny Pakistani desert village. 

 He told us he had brought a mechanic to see it.  A man squatted down by the bike and tried to find the chain.   This was not a good start.  He seemed irritated by our host, and the lack of chain to mess about with, and wandered off. 

Our host told us it would definitely be fixed in Dalbandin, as there would be millions of mechanics who could speak English, because it was a very famous learning centre and Europeans and Russians went there for the colleges.  This was fascinatingly delusional, or just straightforward lying,  I wasn’t sure which. 

Dalbandin does get a mention in the Pakistan Lonely Planet.  It suggests you don’t stay there.  It has two main streets and a police station. 

We were a little stumped.  We sat around trying to formulate a plan, interrupted by the host’s imaginative attempts to steer the conversation towards his own merits. 

Eventually we found the host’s brother was able to speak some English, and was far more helpful.  He could help us find a truck to take the bikes to Quetta. 

The armed escort (a friendly rubber-faced Baluchi man) took us in the pick-up to a truck stand. Somehow we engineered, with excellent help from the saintly escort, for a truck to arrive at the guest-house, for the bikes to be loaded in and secured, and for us all to drive off at 6 the following morning. 



Then we sat around with the escort taking photos of ourselves with big guns.  Well, why try and make a surreal day normal?  

As it got dark, a familiar car appeared.  The Uruguayans were here!!  They sat around with the annoying host, completely ignoring him and having a good chinwag.  They had also been brought there by police, and were also quite confused.

Later that night we loaded the bikes onto the truck, helped by a huge number of very obliging locals.  

After an exhausting day I was hoping for a good bed…

The police-owned guest-house didn’t actually have any rooms, it transpired. We slept outside in the yard on our mats, guarded by yet another armed stranger.  

(The following morning the night-guard claimed grumpily not to have slept, having guarded vigilantly.  We knew this to be something of a lie- his gigantic snores had kept all of us awake…)


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