Sukkur – Mach

28.3.2013

Km counter: 37969 today: 295 sum: 2853

N27°41’52.6” E068°51’25” – N29°41’58” E067°23’08”

I get no sleep all night as the mosquitoes in Sukkur drive me crazy again. 15 minutes before 5 my escort arrives. I am pretty pissed at the guy who wants to protect me with his ridiculous looking shotgun. Guys out there have kalaschnikows and rocket launchers. Even if they would send two heavily armed cars with me it would be 3 shots instead of one at the worst case. But nobody wants to harm me! The rebels are only fighting the police not me. The risk is more caused by the police around me which is a target more worth attacking than I am. Aazad mare Balochistan! (Free Balochistan in balotchi language) I already made some little Balochistani rebel songs so it will be no problem there. I ask the guy what he would do if 18 heavily armed Taliban would turn up on the road. If he would run away like his colleague in Nokkundi 10 days ago leaving two Czech girls at the age of 20 and 22 years alone…. His look at the floor I take as a yes.

I tell him I will not care for the escort, jump in the car and go with him following me. Way out of town is saved on my navigation system so I just go on when my escort changes several times…. Road is good at the first kilometers and I don’t see any escort any more. Suryananda is faster than ever… Unfortunately the roads in Sindh are generally donkey tracks so soon my average speed drops to below 20 and the escort has no problem keeping up with me. Still I ignore them stopping in a nice village at a chai shop. When I stop the cop jumps out of the car shouting “Go!, go!” – I shout back “No!, No!, I have chai! Chai!” He jumps in the car again and leaves. I go the chai shop, have chai and a chat with the people around.

Getting closer to Balochistan the people become more and more beautiful. I take out the camera and start making portraits. The problem here, and probably that’s why all people are afraid of this people, they smile and laugh all the time. But whenever they see a camera facing them their faces turn like they are just on the way to a fight about life and death. Still they are beautiful but still I prefer them smiling and joking! When I am just about to order the second chai the police guy comes back and tells me to go now. I don’t really want to fight with him here on the street knowing I have all the people behind me which is proven by what happens now.

I get in the car and reverse to get on the road again. One guy looking at my backside and telling my to go shouting and waving his hand. 1m later I crash into something and people hit on suryananda so I stop at the second. Obviously I had kicked down a motorbike. People that already had left the chai shop come back and a little crowd forms around us. Now the police officer is getting really really nervous. Still most of the people support me telling me smilingly “no problem, accidents happen, just go…!”. The owner of the bike appears at my window too demanding 2000 rupees (15 euro) but not being very confident as the people around us are rather shouting at him than at me. The officer is totally stressed out shouting at me “Go!, Go!” as he obviously does not really understand what is going on close around me. However I hit the road and go. What to do – I love these people here!

For many kilometers I see no escort again, seems like the guy is stuck in the crowd probably explaining why he hunts a guest away. Road is horrendous until I leave Sindh. After entering Balochistan it becomes pretty good soon so I have another shop at a chai shop. I am escorted again but the escort is just going on when I stop. They seem not to enjoy chai a lot. The chai shop is pretty full of beautiful Balochistan “Taliban”. When I come in they look at me like they look when I take the camera. “Salaam aleikom!”, I say and smile at them – they smile back immediately and the ice is broken. I have two or three chai and enjoy the hospitality of the people. Its Balochistan – no way to pay! ” I am the guest! I love Balochistan I think and sing Aazad mare Balochistan for them – Free Balochistan! They love me.

Soon I pass Sibbi and one of the most beautiful parts of my journey is starting. The Mountain road up to the Bolan Pass and to Quetta. Only 140km road and here I really don’t like to be escorted because I want to go fishing today! The first police checkpoint at the beginning of the valley I just pass leaving the guys looking at my back side. The canyon I am passing is amazing and soon the battery of the camera is finished. The second battery was damaged in Hampi so I put the one I have in the charger and continue very slowly. I arrive at a place I already wanted to enjoy the year before but then I had a levies guy sitting next to me.

At a beautiful stretch of the river, right next to the road a few guys were standing, some with kalaschnikows, waving their hands at me from the river bank. I take the next possibility down to the river and stop suryananda. I take some cookies with me and go to where they wait for me. Unfortunately I cant remember one of their names as it was just too many! They invite me for chai and I recognize they are fishing. I get my fishing gear and my guitar from the car and we have an amazing time there – unfortunately my camera charging during that time. After more than an hour police turns up and is very unrelaxed about what I am doing. I just had my first takes and the guys showed me one barbel like fish they caught – but no way, I have to go on.

As the battery of the camera is still empty I go very very slowly and enjoy the landscape. At the next restaurant I make a stop and get food. After eating I ask the people there for a shop as I need batteries for my torch too. They point out to the desert so I go the direction for about two hundred meters and find nothing. I go back to the restaurant to find out the “shop” is a tiny container in front of the restaurant – in a complete different direction! However the cameras battery is charged again. It is little past 5 p.m. so sun will set in around an hour. I remember a beautiful police station in Mach, just a few kilometers ahead where I had chai last year. I stop there and ask for to stay that night. No problem they say and I park in front of the police station and jump out of the car with my camera.

The landscape is crazy, the light perfect! I take a few pictures and ask the police officer for a shop as I still need batteries for my head light. He takes me down to the river shows me a waterhole where the water is filtered by the gravel and points out to the desert when I ask for a shop. This time I see something like a roof out there and go. After a few hundred meters he starts shouting at me so I change the direction but keep going. Its already getting dark when I arrive at the house I have seen. There is nobody living in there still its in a good shape. I hear voices so I follow them and arrive at a tiny little village with house made by palm leaves and amazingly beautiful people living there.

They don’t have a shop of course but they offer chai. I like the people a lot as they ask me for my language and we start teaching each other immediately. They don’t like me to take pictures of their houses even though I think they are beautiful nomadic buildings. As its getting dark soon they give me company on the way back. We nearly run back through the gravel bed of the river to met the police officer when they just leave they police station to search for me. Last years history is kind of repeating – I am sorry again. Apologizing I take out the guitar and make music for them. They enjoy a lot and some chais later we go out to have food. Still I don’t get batteries and I am not really confident about the electricity in the car. However I got up very early so I fall asleep as soon as we come back from the restaurant.

Islamabad – Sukkur

25. & 26.3.

Km counter: 37674 today: 993 sum: 2558

N33°42’17” E073°05’18” – N27°41’52.6” E068°51’25”

Monday morning I go to get passport pictures and my payment for Iran visa done. I am ready by 11 so I take a taxi to take me to the entrance of the embassy district. I get searched several times, have to leave my cellphone and everything but money and papers there and then take a shuttle bus to the embassy. There I hand my papers to a guy who tells me to come back in 3 hours so I take a shuttle back to the entrance, a taxi back to the camping ground and relax for half an hour before I have to take a taxi to the entrance…… Fortunately all is well so I am back at the camping area starting suryananada at around 4 o clock. I will try to catch up with Abu and two Austrian guys who are one day ahead so I have a lot of motivation for driving.

A lot of traffic brakes me when leaving the city but then there is an amazing highway that I use for about nearly 100km. Then I leave the highway short before sunset to take a shortcut south. I am not quite sure about this as the police checkpoints of the highway are annoying and take time even though I started ignoring their attempts to stop me. At night they will be probably worse and I plan to drive thru the night. Surprisingly police goes to sleep short after the sun and is not to be seen until late morning. I pass a few hills at dusk.

The electricity problem still exists so I connect the batteries to have music when driving. A little after midnight the light switch is finished. For a moment I am afraid I have to stop but when playing around at the fuses the light turns on again. I take some wire, switch on the light and arrive at Multan at around 8.30 in the morning. I need cash so I wait for the money changer (only available in big cities) and then hit the road again to reach Sukkur in Sindh. I slept there at the police station the year before and the guys there where little annoying but under the score pretty helpful. On the way there I enjoy the hospitality at many toll stations in Punjab again. “Ciao” the guys say, – go. And many times I do so without paying the toll. When I arrive in Sukkur it is Tuesday evening. I have been driving for more than 26 hours and done nearly 1000km by now. And I am done too. As soon as I find the police station with a little help of some locals I get some food and go to sleep.

Sukkur

27.3.

Km today: 0

I wake up because of the heat in the car. Soon the “tourist officer in charge” comes to help me with everything I need – he even offers me hashish (!) telling me that is his duty being responsible for the tourist. Nothing of what he offers is of any need but half an hour later we are at a mechanic who repairs the light switch and refills the second battery – water was low! I hope the problem is solved now and as someone offered me to repair the damage from the accident with the bus in india I take the offer. All is repaired for less than 10 euro! During waiting for the electricity I unpack my guitar and start making some music. Within seconds I am surrounded by people and within minutes I am stopped by the police. Working area – no possible here.

I beg a little and in the evening we go to an amusement park with a nice little restaurant where I can make a little concert. Its really hot here and I need a shower which I get at the barber shop. Cold shower is just fine at beyond 35° in a very humid surrounding. I enter the recommended barber shop and find out the showers need a shower first. No problem they clean one for me so I can enjoy! In the evening we go out to make music in the park – not without heavily armed escort of course. When I start playing I see lightning in the background and when I starts raining two hours later people are not leaving before I finish the last song in the pouring rain. After rain is too much I hand out many business cards to people who want to see my homepage.

When we take a rickshaw to a restaurant from the amusement park it rains heavily. “Nice weather” the officer says, “fuck off”, I think and agree. Having told me all day it is his duty to stay with me and protect me (yeah u did I had the feeling I cannot even piss without protection) he tells me now he is looking forward to some “refreshments” and opens his hand. I don’t understand, look at him and ask myself what he wants… And then he honestly asks me for Alcohol, porn, drugs or money! I am really shocked as I had the feeling he is a good guy all day being just a little too nice (annoyingly nice). Now I find out he did this to get “refreshments” after. I bargain a few minutes and give him 500 rupees not without telling him how disappointed I am. A police officer in Pakistan begging for Alcohol, porn, drugs and money whereas the first three things are completely illegal in Pakistan! I tell him I will leave at five am and I don’t want to see any escort before Quetta. He looks at the floor, agrees and wishes me a good night.

December 13. Sukkur – Okara

December 13. Sukkur – Okara
[30°48´02”, 073°26`51.6”]

Km today: 643

We leave Sukkur in time and as soon as we are on the Highway we make way. The landscape is incredibly….. boring! (Well at least this is new to me). At lunchtime I get very tired. I feel like sleeping for about an hour but then it gets better. It feels like I have been driving home a long way at night and these are the last 10 minutes of driving. Well at least its only 800 to be done to the border and I hope as soon as we are in Punjab I can drive alone. We cross the border an my bodyguards give me hand sign to drive on. YEAH! 20 more km, I think and then I stop for a chai! (When being escorted this is not easy to do) Suddenly I hear a horn and see the police car again. They stop me and I have to go back with them – it was a misunderstanding and I will get an escort until we are at the border. What to do. In the afternoon we stop in a small village for chai and little food. As soon as we stand we are surrounded by more than 50 people who look at us curious. I am not allowed to leave the car and my bodyguards bring food and chai to me. It feels really strange being guarded all the time. Even on the motorway the have the blue flashlight turned on all the time and the other traffic has to give way for us. When the sun sets I count little more than 400km but I feel fresh so I go on.

Two hours later I get hungry and ask the escort if it is possible to get some food. Several times I tell them I want no hotel, local food and things like this but when we stop after half an hour (after passing many small roadside restaurants) we stop in front of a restaurant with a lot of big cars in front (No, no trucks and no caravans too – more the mercedes and bmw kind of). I want to be polite so I take a look at least but inside there are people in western clothes sitting on chairs at tables eating with knife and fork…. Escort waits outside so I go back to tell them this not possible and to illustrate what I want I sit down on the floor and pretend to eat from the floor. Faster than I can react the take me under my shoulders, lift me up and smile at me. The oldest officer takes me at the hand and we go to a place right next to the first one – this time the escort comes in with me. I get amazing Chana Masala with rice and chapati. Probably the best food on this trip yet. When I want to pay for food and chai they say no. The owner of the restaurant invites me for eating like them and trying to talk in urdu…. What to say – the feelings I have are hard to be described by words – I am more than happy for this gesture of friendship that is offered to me. Pakistan people are really same like Persians in their hospitality – It seems like never ending.
About 160km before Lahore the guards are changing again. 5 Minutes later we stop and they say hello and ask me if I need something, where I want to go and what they can do for me. Wow this is the first time something like this happens until now I had more the feeling like they want to keep me moving…
I tell them a chai would be great and sleeping, well I feel pretty awake now but I don’t want to make them drive all night so I tell them if they want to sleep we can go to the next police station and make it their choice. We go on to stop again 5 minutes later at a chai shop. We talk a little and they tell me they have decided I should sleep at their police station. I accept and 5 minutes later we are there. I am told to put suryananda behind the door directly into the entrance – we can´t drive in the yard because the second door is too low. We block all the vehicles inside but no problem…. I have a nice talk with all the guys from the police station, clean suryananda properly for the border and fall asleep very late surrounded by police :).

December 12 Sukkur

YEAH I crossed the border a few hours ago so I am in Amritsar now. Blog for today and yesterday I still have to write so you will have to be patient. In the meantime here the 12. December in Sukkur:

Km doday: 0

Yesterday I finally arrived in india. The city made me curious and I have to get some things so I decide to stay here one day. In the morning I have a talk with the police (I sleep at their headquarter) and they give me a police guide (he is police man and tourist guide) who shows me the city and comes with me all day. He shows me the irrigation system – a huge dam system which divides Hindus in 7 huge channels for irrigation of three million hectares in Sindh. Needless to say photography is strictly prohibited for security reason. Endemic river dolphins exist too in town my guide tells me – we are not lucky enough to spot any though.

I have a lot of chai (now finally with milk but without masala yet), samosa and pakistani sweets I take with me for the evening. Compared to Pakistan india is like the west in times of sowjetunion. Here there is a real poverty problem. Still everybody is smiling – at least the men, women I hardly see and if I see any most of them wear chador. Much more than in Iran even though here it is not by law.

Internet in the morning is annoying: connected, no connected, connected, no connected – I somehow manage to update the blog but then my guide is already back to pick me up. I am not allowed to make one step without him. Sukkur very danger he explains. Never mind he is a nice guy who really tries hard to make this day wonderful and he is successful! There is a temple in the Hindus on an island. We go there and when I ask him to take the boat to go there he says “no possible”. Now I am standing in front of the first hindu temple and am not allowed to go there! What to do…?

Chai is always a good solution for any problem so we go to get one. On the way I see a 4 liter water container with a tap. Perfect for suryananda! Much more comfortable for nearly everything I need water for. In the evening he goes home to eat and at 8 he is back at suryananda so I can go to the barber and get something to eat. I pick up a few samosas again and enjoy them at home.

One more decision I make – tomorrow I try to be from Hungary, I am sick of the „no kangaroos“discussion! About Pakistan I have to say I am very surprised in a positive way! Since now all people I met were to some extend afraid of, if not hating their neighbors’ not so Pakistan people even though they are in war with india! „Pakistan & India same same“, I hear many times. People see me on the street and without knowing they call me by my name – „Hariom!“ I enjoy. (One of the records I listen to is Madonnas like a prayer. The first words of the lyrics are: „Life is a mystery everyone must stand alone. I hear you call my name and it feels like home – When you call my name it´s like a little prayer…..”)

Coming closer to india feels like coming home. I have been in Amritsar just a few months ago and know exactly where to go. I can´t wait to see the people there again! Its only 50 km to india, a few hundred to pushkar but still I have to drive nearly 900km to cross the border only. War bahout baggle hai – too much stupid is!

Peace!

December 11. Quetta – Sukkur

[27°41´52.6“, 068°51´25“]

Km today: 384

Today I wake up late and the others are ready to go already. I quickly put some petrol in and hurry up so I will be ready too until escort is coming. Adam tells me they want to go alone too because of my low speed. I don’t know what to think, however I take the same escort leaving the hotel. (By the way I can’t recommend Bloom Star Hotel – if you go Quetta try to be there at daytime so you have time to search a good hotel!). 2 kilometers after leaving I recognize I forgot my tank cap at the hotel. I sound the horn twice and turn around. What to do, this was a quick farewell at the end.

On the way back a boy rides a small bike next to me shouting at me. I don’t know what he wants but he sounds angry and makes money signs with his fingers. I don’t care and go on while he is getting more and more angry. Only a few meters before the hotel police stops me. I feel some tension as they want my passport and have a look inside the car. I take my camera to take some pictures and in the same moment they say „Ok, go! “. Whatever the boy told them, whatever was his problem, I go to the hotel to get my tank cap and wait for another escort. Soon a police guy comes and takes me to the police station. I am being asked to come in and have chai so I lock the car and go inside the yard to sit in the sun. But what is this? Inside the police station there are two big marijuana plants…. I can’t believe it and ask the officer who got me the tea. He explains what they use them for (making hashish) and laughs at me. Pictures possible? Why not! Crazy Pakistan!

Minutes later I am on the road and as soon as I leave Quetta I am there alone – no escort! Now I take my own speed an start enjoying the drive again. I dance and sing in the car and take a stop whenever I like to take pictures and chai. So I stop at the first nice tea stall I find next to a river. The chai is not here yet when an officer of the levies arrives by walk to protect me when drinking. He is very nice though it is a little annoying to have police next to me at every step I do. The landscape is not to be described by words – one of the most amazing ones I have ever seen, but I look forward arriving in India where I am free to do what I want without bodyguard. I go on and some hours later I recognize a road leaving the highway leading to a close by village. I haven´t seen any escort for some time so I stop to study the map and think about visiting the village for lunch. I haven´t finished that thought as a levies officer appears out of the nowhere. Village nehi milega (no possible) chalo, chalo (go, go). – I have to leave immediately. From the village there is smoke rising – not unusual in late autumn but when I go on I think this might not have been a straw fire…

A few kilometers later I am stopped by police again. I grab my passport to make the usual entry in their book so they know who and where I am – but there is no book. They just want to invite me for chai so I enjoy their amazing place on the roadside and after three cups of tea I am allowed to go on.
At one of the following check points a levie officer jumps in suryananda again to join me for the next kilometers. I am not really sure if he is escort or just has to go the same way, but he is a nice guy and enjoys a lot when I enjoy the beautiful landscape which is getting better and better. He doesn´t mind I stop many times to take pictures, gives me smiles with no end and tells me the best places to stop to take pictures. When we approach a nice river I ask if it´s possible to wash there. He knows a nice place in a few kilometers! We go down directly to the river by car, I wash and we make many pictures. I ask him if he wants chai and start preparing a little picnic. I have to close the door because of the wind for cooking and when I open it again to come out with the chai I discover Mohamed has not been lazy too. My bodyguard and police officer has rolled a joint while I cooked chai. What the….? I can´t believe it and ask him charraz, police nehi samassea hai? (Hashish and police, this is no problem?) Nehi samassea – Pakistan! (No problem – Pakistan) he replies. Being like a wine farmer in Austria I have no chance but to taste a least. He likes me and even though I don´t like this there is no polite solution but tasting at least. After we go on I drive on the wrong side of the road twice so I believe he regrets what he has done soon.

When leaving the mountain area, Mohamed leaves me too and from now on I am in the Hindus flats. Quetta was at nearly 1900 above sea level now I am at 60 (sixty). I am below 29°N and it is really warm for the first time since leaving Croatia. Before sunset police escort starts again (in their own car now) changing every 10 kilometers without any stop. One car stops the next own comes, I have to stop for seconds only every time. Soon I get hungry and tired. I is 100km to Sukkur so I tell the police I want to eat and sleep. Half an hour later we stop at a big road side restaurant, police tells me this is hotel and secure because they have a gunman. I enjoy the first great roadside food I loved so much in India. But sleeping no possible here for foreigners – unsafe area, I have to go to Sukkur. I ask why it is unsafe and they explain there is an uncomfortable landlord in this area – no Taliban.

The land here doesn’t belong to Pakistan in a way – at least they have no authority here without goodwill of the tribesmen. The road to Sukkur is painful slowly as Sukkur is directly at the Hindus and most of the road has been flooded in recent years. I see several tank trucks that have obviously been attacked next to the road so I am happy to go to Sukkur for tonight. I am escorted directly to the police station and get a friendly welcome. Police officer comes shopping with me (nearly midnight but no problem) and when I go to bed this is the first night I don´t need to use the heating. I love too much!

The goodbye with the crew was strange though – I am really happy I am on my own again trying to have no expectations and enjoy. I find out I felt like responsible for the expectation the others had… I think a lot about this – am I responsible for the expectations of others? I believe I can only give my best whatever they might expect.