We did it! Yesterday we arrived in Sukkur……. It still feels surreal. Five days ago, we crossed the border of Pakistan and as of than Levi’s (British Police Reinforcement) guarded us. At the beginning of our trip we had a lot of doubts about Pakistan. If you take a look at the travel website of our government, Pakistan is coloured almost completely red with a little bit of orange. Which means, do not travel…. (just to compare, South America and a big part of south-east Asia are already yellow which means, be careful, safety issues). We know red is a different colour and it made us insecure. We were not sure if we wanted to cross Pakistan. We could skip Pakistan and take a boat from Iran to Mumbai but we really wanted to drive as far as possible. We spoke to so many other travellers and they all said GO to Pakistan! The Baluchistan area is not safe but you will be protected by Levi’s and the rest of Pakistan is really safe and great. The country is massive, Pakistan is the size of France and the United Kingdom together and the population is around 220 million people!
Pakistan was often voted as “best place to travel” in many magazines the last couple of years. Especially the North with the start of the Karakoram Highway but still we had to cross Baluchistan. Slowly we gained more confidence due to all the reading and talking. We made the decision and applied for our Visa. We always said to each other, we can do “stupid” things but we have a big responsibility with our daughter and we will never put her at risk. The night before crossing we slept well and drove off early in the morning to cross the border. The crossing was really easy and after 3 hours we arrived in Pakistan. We got picked up by the Levi’s straight away at the border and were brought to the police station to wait on our escort. In Zahedan (Iran) we met Matthias, a Swiss biker who joined us the whole way. We laughed a lot together so it made it all less “heavy”. All the Levi’s were super friendly and curious about who we were. After a night at the police station (sleeping in our camper next to jail including prisoners) we drove the first day 300 KM to Dalbadine. It took us the whole day. We stopped at many checkpoints to give our passports and visa. We felt like celebrities. We had 24-hour guards with big guns and even more than in Iran were watch and starred at. It again felt like a different world. Definitely back in Asia. The roads are worse, houses are made of clay in the small villages. The different is that there are no ladies on the streets. In the last couple of days we say just a handful.
The second day we arrived in Quetta. Only 300 km again but it even took longer. Changes with cars and Levi’s were every 20 – 30 KM. The last 13 KM in Quetta the guards changed at least 6 times. New car, bike in the new car and new Levi’s. We later found out that’s because the police have only authority in their own district. Everybody was very friendly but bloody serious with massive guns and protective vests. It didn’t help it rained the whole day and when we arrived in Quetta it was dark. We never felt unsafe but it felt we were in a (cheap) action movie with us in the main role. Extremely impressive. In Quetta, we needed to get a NOC paper (road clearing document towards Sukkur) and Stephen got it at a different police station. Five different bosses needed to approve it:-). Six hours later we got the papers. We were camping in the police station again. On Thursday we could drive our last 400 km and, in this part, we understood why all the protection is necessary. In Quetta and surrounding were many soldiers and the look and feel of the people in this area made it a bit scary. It wouldn’t be a place where we would do some wild camping… After 11 hours we arrived in Sukkur. Sukkur lies in a different province and is safe. We had read that some people found the whole escort horrible because you really aren’t able to do anything without a Levi. You are not allowed outside the premises of the police station and are guard 24 hours. They found it not necessary and irritating. We felt the escort is necessary and we feel privileged Pakistan is willing to do this for their tourists so we are able to visit this beautiful country.
We got so used to all the habits of Iran after almost three months we now have to adopt again in Pakistan. We left Iran on the same day President Trump decided to kill two high military guys of Iran and Iraq. It’s going to be an uncertain time again for our friends in Iran. We wish them lots of love and strength.
The December month we spend in the South of Iran on the Persian Gulf. True heaven. 26 degrees on the beautiful islands of Qeshm and Hormuz. We spend a lot of time just relaxing at some beaches between the camels. After Qeshm we went to Kerman. We celebrated Xmas with other French travellers and had falafel as Xmas diner. Perfect!.Morgan even could hereself a Xmas present! A new gitar. Iranians are living in a different calendar in the year 1398. They also don’t celebrate Xmas and New Year and their New Year is on the 21st of March. We saw all the Xmas photo’s passing by on social media but it didn’t feel at all like Xmas. Next to Kerman, you can find the Kaluts, Lut desert. Before leaving to Pakistan we wanted to go deep into the desert and find some beautiful sand dunes again. Unfortunately, our car is not able to go deep into the desert (even do we try sometimes :-)) so we decided to go with a guide in his 4×4. What an experience! The Kaluts were fantastic and driving through a dessert is something special. Funny enough we got stuck after 15 minutes but after help, we drove around for 3 hours with perfect steering. On the 30th of December, we drove to Zahedan to prepare for our border crossing. We “celebrated” New Year with Matthias. No fireworks or early mornings this time but it’s all good. We are living our dream so we aren’t complaining.
After a deserved resting day, (Morgan did amazing with all the driving and waiting) we probably will drive directly to Islamabad tomorrow to get our visa extension. We don’t know how long our visa will be for India so better have a bit longer in Pakistan just in case (for now we “only” have one month) Some say you get 3 months; some say 6 months India Visa. If we get 6 months and we leave within a month out of Pakistan we will hit the rain season in Nepal. If we get only 3 months we will move faster and will be in Thailand when the rain season starts. Which is fine but quick… We just arrived in Pakistan but are already busy with the next countries. Sometimes it feels strange to do so but better plan a bit ahead…. Life of a traveller can be hard sometimes 😉
Once again, we wish everybody an incredible 2020 and lots of love from Pakistan.