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Cycling in Baluchistan


The Iranian-Pakistani border

Man in DalbandinI applied for my visa in Istanbul Turkey. When I applied the clerk wanted to know what I would do in Pakistan so i told him: cycling in Baluchistan and then go north further into Pakistan. He said: "30 days is not enough, I give you 45". He didn't charge me extra! Later I spoke to other cyclist who had similar experiences with the same guy. So it gave me a good feeling for the country itself.

I crossed Iran, see my Iran section, and arrived in Zahedan. I had teamed up with a Dutchman: Guido. Together plus two Germans we had cycled in three days from Bam to Zahedan but the Germans wanted to stay an extra day in Zahedan.

Thus Guido and me cycled together the last 90 km to the Pakistani border-town Taftan.

My diary reads: "the border was a piece of cake, friendly, nice and quick". We stayed at the border at the PTDC guesthouse in the dormitory. There was no need to get a single or double room because we were the only guests.

Later we learned that many people are not even allowed to go on their own from Bam to the border because, as some say, it is dangerous.

We had no problems, found nice people everywhere, even the police was nice enough to supply us with water when we passed a police-station. But now we were cycling in Baluchistan, south Pakistan. This part of Pakistan is rumored to host all kinds of bandits. I had to think of Ali Baba and the 40 robbers.

And it was another 7 days to Quetta, the first sizable city! We had another problem: we had no map! Fortunately in this part of Pakistan it is easy to find the way. All we had to do was follow the road markers to Quetta. It started with Quetta 680 km and it was all the way east, no junctions, just a few towns. We would not be able to get lost.

Resting on a bridge while I was cycling in Baluchistan
Resting on a bridge while I was cycling in Baluchistan

Taftan was no more then a little dirt village with one descent building: the very new PTDC guesthouse. The rest of the buildings were made of mud brick and plastic. But there was food and water available so we had no complains.

While we had dinner we heard there were little towns in between the border and Quetta (remember, we had no map) and there was basic food and accommodation available. The Pakistani told us they saw other cyclists once in awhile here too but none had passed the last days. During our ride to Quetta we would however meet some people on motorbike traveling to Quetta and we would meet them further on in Pakistan again.

The road to Quetta

Let's start with the good ones. We were cycling in Baluchistan in the cooler time of the year! The deserts in south Iran and south Pakistan can be a boiling pot with temperatures over 50 degrees C in the summer months.

Guido and I were there in October and November. Now it was a great temperature, around 20-25 at daytime. The road was in reasonable good condition and the wind was mostly coming from the west, so tailwind.

We cycled away from the border. At first we had to get used to cycle on the other side of the road. In Pakistan, like the UK and many other countries they use the left side. There was hardly any traffic and the landscape was quite empty: rock desert with here and there plants. I recall some beautiful purple flowers in the further grey and brown desert and tremendous skies.

Sure, it looks like many other places but cycling in an area like this felt so good. So Guido and I started our first leg to Quetta. The first town we passed and stayed was Nok Kundi and here it happened: I got a bit sick. We guessed it was because of some digestive cookies we had taken from Zahedan.

The wonderful Pakistani desert in Baluchistan
The wonderful Pakistani desert in Baluchistan

The last one smelled a bit of petrol so we threw them away. However, the harm was done. During the night I vomited all the dirt out and felt relieved. The cookies were emergency food for times we couldn't find anything else.

Sick

The problems were not over, in fact they were about the start. As usual I cycled in front because I cycled in a bit faster tempo then Guido.

But we made the deal I would stop if I would be too far ahead. It worked well. On one hilltop I was waiting until Guido would show up. It didn't seem to happen. I had binoculars with me so I looked back on the road. I could see for kilometers. And I saw Guido's bike about two kilometers back. Guido seemed to have a toilet stop. So I waited a bit. Then I looked and saw Guido lying on the asphalt.

I cycled quickly back and found him lying on the asphalt curved up. He seemed to have heavy stomach cramps, couldn't even speak!

Now I had a problem. I had solved all kind of bicycle problems but this was different. How would I be able to get him somewhere safe? There was virtually no traffic on this road and there was no sign of life either. I had a serious problem.

The mountains of West Pakistan, just north of Quetta
The mountains of West Pakistan, just north of Quetta

But to my surprise Guido stood up after a few minutes. He said he would be able to cycle to the next town, which was Dalbandin and it was only 25 kilometers away.

Guido was surprisingly ok when we arrived in Dalbandin. We had a good dinner with rice, dahl, veggies, chicken, some bread and a coke plus, what turned out to be our killer: eggs! That night I was pretty bad but in the morning I felt relieved and no more problems for a few days. Guido felt a bit weak but good enough to continue.

Quetta was still another 3 days away. The next day we decided to camp out. It was a really cold night but we had sleeping bags, made hot coffee and noodles. That night I got again diarrhea. But in the morning I was ok.

We cycled to Lakpas. It was the last stop before Quetta. Lakpas is a junction for road to the Iranian border and the road from Quetta to Karachi.

Guido in Pakistan
Guido working his way up at Lakpas on the way to Quetta

We arrived just before dark. Guido went out to find us a place to stay. We ended up in a restaurant where we got a back room.

The people, as we were used to now, were happy to see us and we shared meals with them. Sometimes it's amazing to find such nice people, so much hospitality when you're on the road.

From Lakpas to Quetta was only 32 km. But the day started with a serious climb up to the pass before we would descent all the way down to Quetta.

In fact I enjoyed the climb very much, it wasn't a steep climb and it was easy enough to keep an eye on the surrounding. In fact, we cycled in a half circle up which gave us a great view to the right to the lands south of us. As usual I was in front but Guido was not far behind.

When I was up I took my camera and lie down on the asphalt to shoot the above photo. After coming up, we had only a long nice and easy descending to do before we would arrive in the first city, we had been cycling in Baluchistan to the capital of this province: Quetta.

Quetta

After days in the "wilderness" Guido and I decided to find a nice hotel. We needed some rest and recover our strength. Diarrhea had weakened our bodies, and Quetta was a nice place to hang out for a few days before we would continue our way north and east.

Street life in Quetta Pakistan
Street life in Quetta

Quetta was such a lovely place. It was wonderful to walk on the streets, visiting the bazaars. We met some very nice people there too. We had made it to the more populated areas of Baluchistan although we had not reached the central lowlands.

Quetta was also a meeting point. We had met some motorbikes, a Japanese who had done a world tour in 4 years, a nice Dutch couple Jolanda and Leon and a Swiss motorbikers couple Martin and Barbara who were on their own world tour. But there were a few cyclists too.

And in Quetta we finally found a map. It wasn't a brilliant map, quite rough to be honest but it was in English and it was usable. Since we knew where we wanted to go, all we need was a rough idea what was possible. The map was good enough.

From Quetta to Fort Munro

There were two roads to Fort Munro and whatever we wanted to do, we had to choose one of them There was the old road to Ziarat, but we spoke to some people and heard it was really cold there now. So, we decided to take the northern and newer road to Loralai.

We left Quetta on a bright morning. Soon after we left the city, we found out we had missed a junction! We were actually in Pishin, and police stopped us to enquire where we wanted to go. The road we were on would lead to the Afghani border, definitely not a place we wanted to see now.

So we cycled 15 km back and came at the junction, turned left and went to a little town Khanoza. Here we were able to find some very basic accommodation which we needed badly.

Just before we arrived in the town, we suffered a serious sandstorm. Guido was just behind me but I couldn't see more then just my bicycle, the sight was no more then a few meters.

Lunch with a group of Pakistanies on the road
These guys offered me a lunch when I passed by

By the time arrived in Lorelai we were happy to have taken this road. The weather was quite cool now and when we looked south we saw just mountains.

People in Lorelai told us there may already be some snow in Ziarat. Lorelai was quite a nice little town with a busy bazaar and a very good hotel. Actually, Lorelai was at the junction for the both mentioned road to Quetta, the one we had taken and the one that leads to Ziarat. The continuing road would lead us to Fort Munro, two days cycling.

Just across the border into Iran
Just across the border into Iran

Lunch

While we cycled to Fort Munro, we made a crucial mistake, we didn't take any food with us. And as it goes at that sort of moments, there are no villages or even road restaurants. And it would be another 60km before we would reach Fort Munro.

Cycling in BaluchistanWe passed a broken bus. The guys were yelling at us, so we stopped. They were having their lunch but also had some serious troubles with their bus.

We shared their lunch of chapattis, rice, chicken and some veggies before we continued. The above photo we developed and gave it to people at the bus-station in Fort Munro.

Fort Munro

If all climbs in the world were as easy and comfortable as the one to Fort Munro, I would not do anything but climbing! But that is the road from Quetta.

It was a great slow ascending road to an old British Hill station with fantastic views over the eastern flat lands of the southern Punjab! I could understand why the British had taken this place as an escape from the heat in Karachi.

Fort Munro was just across the border in Pakistan Punjab. Our cycling in Baluchistan journey was over although I would come back some weeks later.

Then I would be on a bus to Lorelai from where I would cycle the other road through Ziarat. By that time I had said goodbye to Guido and was back on my own. You can read about that leg of my journey here.

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