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‹ Previous (09/08/2009) MONTH Next (2009-10-08)› ‹ Previous (2009-08-29 - Nepal) COUNTRY Next (2009-09-19 - Pakistan)›
Delhi (see on map)
We have passed a week in Delhi, basically buying different bags of products that we think to resell in Europe (http://www.globetour.org/products), but also visiting the embassy of Iran in order to obtain the visa. Anyway, they informed us about being able to give us a visa of 7 days after obtaining a letter of recommendation from our respective embassies. Although, they also informed us about being able to obtain the same days from Pakistan without needing the mentioned letters. So, we have left the visa we needed, betting all the cards with Pakistan, towards where we were going after the week of shopping.
Yesterday in the night, last night before crossing the border, we slept in a gas station. While i was working with the computer, a drunk man knocked twice the door asking me to join them, a group of Indians that drank beer in front of the autocaravan. Not to have problems and at the same time to maintain being nice I said that i would go out in five minutes and like this I did. I was very surprised that as soon as we had beenpresented, they opened me a beer, something quite unusual in India, where the hospitality is not a too known concept. The man that invited me was a farmer that had 8 tractors and with him there was the owner of the gas station, that parallelly had a fleet of lorries. I asked them what transported in the lorries, and when they understood the question, answered me that basically beer and whiskey from a close distillery. It was not strange then, that while the beer was being finished they offered me to send their driver to look for more beer, something that I rejected. Anyway, in exchange for the beer and the good company, I saw myself obliged to repeat different times that India is one of the best countries in the world, that was much better than Pakistan, that all the Muslims are bad and that the province of Punjab is the best of India. Finally they explained to me that the Punjab is a province formed mostly by Siks, where many of them have the head covered with a turban. In any case, few turbans i had been observing through the path, because all the day it had been been raining and all the siks had the turban covered up with a plastic bag or with a special bag, while they had the rest of the body and clothes getting wet under the rain.
Finally we have today arrived to the border between India and Pakistan, where there were many lorries unloading boxes from one side towards the other one. None of the two governments let pass vehicles to the other side of the border, anyway, if they allowed it, many lorries of the adjacent country would probably be burned. In any case, for us, that we remain moved away from the conflict of both countries, was not so simple either of crossing over, especially for the zeal shown by the Indian policemen in front of all the bags in the autocaravan. At the beginning one of them expressed: "you will have to take all the bags out". Alexandra started to sweat while I answered: "we will be doing this a whole day...". Anyway, in the end they were convinced to inspect the car only inside and left us to cross towards Pakistan, where the formalities were much faster.
Lahore (see on map)
In Lahore we have parked in the same parking place of the last year, near the centre (Regal Chowk), where the owner, a small old man with white beard that i had not known the another time, entertained me offering me conversation. The man explained to me that he was original from Morocco and that he had been living some years in Madrid, but that a day he made a great error and had to run away, finally settling in Pakistan, where he lives since twenty-five years ago. He told me that Spain was a very pretty country, because formerly it had been an Islamic country; however, he commented that Pakistan was a country with very bad people, who are capable of killing you for a few coins. In any case, we do not find anybody like this, quite the opposite, we met again with Amina (the girl of Couchsurfing that we had met little more than one year ago) and with some of her friends.
The luck, or bad luck, did us to arrive to Pakistan another time during Ramadan, the Muslim month during which all the people fast as long as the sun illuminates (apart from not eating, the faithful ones can not drink, smoke, or make love...). It was for this reason that we met Amina at night, to dine in a restaurant with her friends. During the dinner I met Shahid, an Ismaelit of the valley of Hunza (in the north of the Karakorum) that invited me the following day to drink alcohol with a friend of his. It was this following night, while we emptied a bottle of vodka, when Shahid and his friend demythologised me the religiousness of Pakistanis. For example, they commented me that many people in Pakistan do not fast during Ramadan, or that in the country there are 3 distilleries so that the Christians and other minorities can acquire alcohol, although 95% of the production goes stationed illegally to the Muslims. Anyway, they also told me that in the Coran it does not say anything against drinking alcohol, provided it does not distract you from the prayers. In any case, they ended up admitting to me that they did not pray, because they did not considered it a written duty of the Coran. Even, the friend declared that the current Coran, can be a modification of the original word of God, because the Coran was transmitted orally during a time and it was not written until after the death of Mohamed. Anyway, they also admitted me that Pakistan is very radicalised religiously, especially from the eighties, when United States imposed an Islamic general that held the war against Russia in Afghanistan. In any case, they considered themselves Muslim, religious in God, and proud of their religion, in spite of the social consequences. For example, the friend of Shahid considered that my three years of relation with Alexandra was very few time, because due to the Islam, in Pakistan it is complicated to have girlfriend and when one had one she is preserved at any cost. They explained to me that the relations in the Islamic world have to be worked much more, and that they could not make love to their girl even after 3 years of being together, because they promised that they would get married, even if in the end they did not do it and they separate.
In spite of the good last moments with these friends, the main motif of our stay in Lahore was to expect a card to arrive home of Amine with the document of the insurance of the car that me allowed to circulate through Iran. Anyway, the insurance company had sent it for normal mail instead of messaging and we in the end leave of Lahore with the insurance printed through Internet. In any case, another motif that retained us in Lahore was the negotiation of the visa of Iran. The first working day after our arrival, on Monday, we went to the consulate of Iran in Lahore, where we knew some Frenchmen who also made queue to carry out its visa. They told us that they had done a pre-negotiation through Internet, and gave them a visa of tourism (30 days) to the instant once to inside. However, to us they told us that we should wait a week, also although they recommended doing the process for Internet us (minimum 3 weeks). On Friday we returned to the embassy, but was closed, and to Saturday returned with a card where we expressed our love did Iran and the Islamic religion. The card had to touch them, because the man of the reception commented that, on the contrary to Monday, it would try to do something so that we could have the visa the following week (in exchange for paying it some 30euros) us, that we could collect in Quetta, that the consulted one opened passed two holidays by the celebration of the end of Ramadan.
Quetta (see on map)
We left on Sunday without knowing whether Ramadan had finished or not, because as they had explained it is finished when someone sees the moon; Ramadan would have finished and it would have lasted 29 days, otherwise it continues another day. On the other hand, they had also explained to us that some Islamic sects had started a day before the fasting and also finished it a day later, anyway, when circulating through the road to Quetta we found all the restaurants closed during the day and all the people fasting at first sight. However, the following day, while we circulated we observe many shops offering every type of food, including meat, which agglutinated numerous groups of people. Also the day after, when we have just threaded the desert road towards Quetta we could observe some signs of the recent ending of the Ramadan, as some small groups of men danced happy to the rhythm of a tambourine. On the other hand, apart from these observations, circulating for the roads of Pakistan we gave account of how badly the Indians drive, for the Pakistani drivers in general respect the norms of circulation and the education in the road. In any case, it is also true that when arriving to Pakistan for the first time (coming from Iran and Europe) we did not have the same opinion, although now we considered them excellent drivers.
We reached Quetta on Tuesday at noon, and in the face of the impossibility of parking in the street (it is a very insecure city with policewomen in every corner and cars armed circulating at all times) and the difficulty to park in some hotel (either they did not let us or they asked for too much money), we decided to ask to a Christian mission to park in its enclosed space, where after assuring that we were Christian they left us to park very nicely. There we remained locked up almost all the day, and equally on Wednesday, because when going to the embassy they told us that they could not carry out any visa until Thursday for us, because the banks were closed. And finally today on Thursday they have carried out a visa of I entry of only 7 days, which we expect to be able to extend once in Iran.
Apart from going to the consulate, we have also today stayed almost all the day in the autocaravan, and in the face of so much waiting, I have started to read a new novel, I have done some games of chess against the computer and I have started to rewrite the journal of Europe, for whether sometime I have the occasion of publishing it. Rewriting the first days of this long journey, I realise the time that it has gone by (more than three years) and the changes in my person. If at the beginning of the journey i was excited by the novelty, i was a little obsessed to meet with girls and i did not have too many ideas about the experiences that the journey would provide me with; now, since quite a lot time ago, I am much more relaxed, with a journey and experiences that are giving reason to my life and accompanied by Alexandra, who satisfies me with an emotional stability that before i did not have it covered.
Esfahan (see on map)
Before going out of Quetta, Alex had been reading through Internet all the news about the kidnappings of the last months in Balochistan, in general for economic reasons in the case of foreigners, who are released alive normally, also although there are many kidnappings and murders of Pakistani policemen. In the face of this news, it was much easier for Alexandra agreeing to be escorted, from half way by different cars that were exchanged quickly among themselves, without us having to wait for each other in any moment. More ahead, when the area turned still more depopulated and desert-related, we also accepted, a soldier with kalashnikov in the car that we also changed efficiently about three times in different check points along the path. This efficiency in the bodyguards helped us to advance very quickly, besides, the road has improved. When we came for the first time, there was about 100 or 150 km of road without asphalt, although there was some small group of workers that was asphalting the road in an almost craft way. The surprise we had after 14 months, was that we enjoy almost the whole road in asphalt, although the surface was not too smooth. That allowed us to arrive about two hours before the setting of the sun in Nokundi, a village where we had spent the night the previous time, but they cheered us up to finish arriving up to the border and spend the night in the customs, and like this we made it.
When arriving to the customs of Taftan, we found parked two autocaravans with two families of Frenchmen with a couple of children that had just entered in Pakistan. Happy to find some new travellers we explained eachother the last anecdotes, before being invited to dine by the chief of the customs. Really, the customs between Pakistan and Iran are one of the best of the world, for one year ago we also were invited to eat at midday when we arrived. After a delicious dinner, Yunas, the one responsible for the bureaus of customs, invited me and Alexandra to take tea in his room and the following day in the morning to have breakfast. During this time he explained us that he had wife and three children that lived in Quetta, which he saw once every month or every two, when he had a week of holidays, a work and familiar situation very similar to that of many Indians and Pakistanis. As many Pakistanis, Yunas also entertained us with some conspiratorial theories, explaining for example to us that India, Iran and the United States were provoking instability in Afghanistan so that Pakistan could not prosper.
Today in the morning, we have passed the formalities of Pakistan troublefree and after waiting about thirty minutes in front of the door of the closed border (due to the change of timetable) we have entered Iran. There we have had to wait for another hour without justification and after we have passed the formalities with quite a lot of rapidity, without in the end looking for the insurance of the autocaravan (which I had printed through Internet), or inspecting the autocaravan (which we have full of products to sell), not even offering us or requiring a diesel card that costs about 300 € (as the Frenchmen explained). So, we have been able to breathe calmly in the face of these three first worries, but not to the fourth: the guards, who have provoked us a very tense day.
To go out from the border they have assigned a soldier that has come in the car with us. Alexandra was already used with the Pakistani guards and has not protested a lot. Anyway, the reason of protecting us seemed an excuse, because the soldier did not have weapon nor walkie talkie; the main reason seemed that we did not commit any illegality, if it is that we can commit one. We thought that everything would go well, but half way to Zahedan (at 80 km), the soldier has made us stop in a check point and after retaining our passports for about 15 minutes, a new soldier has been assigned to us. This same process has been repeated another time before reaching Zahedan, and finally, after having indicated to the third guard that we needed to put diesel, this has driven us to a police station in Zahedan, where our passports have been retained without giving us any explanation (nobody talked English). After an hour and a half, when we were already very annoyed with so much waiting, a car that in theory had to escort us out of Zahedan has arrived. Anyway, they did not want to return the passports, another tense discussion that i took it up to one of the big heads, assuring that the car would escort us to a gas station, that there they would return us the passports and that finally would escort us (without exchanging any word in a common language) out of Zahedan. But instead of that, they have driven us towards another police station, where our passports have been deposited while the first guard left us. In the face of this deceit, I have become annoyed as a monkey and to calm the nerves I have gone out to walk through the neighbourhood with a policeman behind that kept screaming to me all the time that i turned back. Finally, when returning, the second car that had to escort us up to the gas station has arrived, although this time we have not left until they have returned us the passports. Anyway, the second guard has been very short, up to a corner where we have had to wait the third car, that, instead of driving us towards the gas station has escorted us to a third police station, where they had to assign a fourth car to us. We both were well annoyed, and still more when they have suggested us to stay and to sleep in Zahedan ( it was midday). Before crossing the border we had the intention of reaching Kerman in the afternoon or night to meet a friend, but we started to guess that it would be impossible.
Finally, after waiting twenty minutes in the police station, during which we have been about to leave (to avoid that, the previous guards had retained our passports), the fourth car has appeared to escort us towards out of the city, but not towards some gas station. I have made him lights, I have stopped and I have next explained to them that i needed diesel to continue. The policemen have become exasperated telling me that I had to have mentioned it before to them... In any case, they have driven to the next gas station, where they did not want me to put fuel because i did not have the diesel card that in theory i had to have bought on the border. Anyway, after discussing a while, they have put us 30 litres and we have to start off again escorted out of the city.
Not too many kilometres out of Zahedan, the bodyguard has stopped next to the road to wait for the following car that has arrived in opposite direction. The fifth car has escorted us to a new check point where after a while, has started to escort us the sixth car, which, passed quite a lot of kilometres has stopped in the desert asking us to wait for the seventh car. But we, tired to wait for about 3 hours in Zahedan, have commented that we would already find the guard car through the path and we have left without waiting for the reaction of the policemen. For luck we have left, because we have not found ourselves the seventh car until after half an hour of driving, this one has escorted us to a new check point where they have asked us the passports and have assigned the eighth car to us. The eighth escort wanter to start off without returning us the passports (to prevent circulating without escort again), but we have refused clearly to continuing without the passports. For luck they have returned them to us, because to half way, the eighth car has stopped to inspect some suspicious vehicle and have lost it of sight.
Passed about fifty kilometres, and crossing a big desert, a policeman in a solitary check point has made signals of stopping. When making it, he has asked us for our passports, recommending us to take a soldier in the car because the area was dangerous. This time, Alexandra said no, but observing that they would not return us the passports if we did not accept the guard, I have had to accept in spite of the attack of hysteria of Alexandra, which was decided to Americanise with strident music the unarmed soldier. The soldier has made us stop in a new check point, where in theory they had to assign a new soldier to us, but even with the open door, I have tightened the accelerator and I have lost the control of sight behind the immensity of the desert.
From here, the stretch has been less troubled, although we have crossed with different cars of police that without stopping us have been escorting some tens of kilometres. And finally, Bam (where in theory the troubled area finished) arriving in the night, we have stopped in a small gas station where they have let us camp. Unfortunately, at midnight they have woken us up and some policemen very nicely have asked us to park in a next police control where we would be safe. We have been discussing a while, but I have finally said them: "Ok, we come, but when we arrive you will not ask us for the passports and will let us sleep immediately". They have agreed and after ten minutes we parked next to a big police control that checked with dogs all the buses, lorries and cars to control the drug dealing.
As they have explained us afterwards, it is seen that in these controls, and in other operations, they have caught many drugs traders, and the Iranian authorities are very worried that these Mafias kidnap some foreigner to ask in exchange for his life for the release of different drug dealers. Perhaps it was reasonable that the Iranian police tried to protect us and to escort us, but for sure it was not reasonable the little efficiency with which they have made it, making us waste about 4 very valuable hours that we would have used to reach Kerman and to meet our friend.
Teheran (see on map)
We reached Kerman mid-morning, but our friend (I will maintain the names in anonymity just in case) had a lot of work at his company and his nice girlfriend, immediately took us to apply for the visa extension in the office of foreign affairs because we have only 7 days visa. But unfortunately, they announced that our visa was of transit and that we could not extend it, although we could try in Esfahan. Pressed to leave because we had few days in Iran, we met with our friend in his company. And it was worth, because an Iranian friend is the most valuable thing that there is in this world. During the meeting, our friend commented us that as in the rest of the world, the Iranian economics is also in crisis. On the other hand, he also explained us that during the subsequent demonstrations after the Iranian ellections, Kerman remained quite calm, on the contrary to Esfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz or Tehran the was no death.
After being invited to eat with our friend, we put ourselves in the excellent Iranian roads (generally with 2 or 3 lanes) and I tightened the accelerator in depth in order to reach as soon as possible Esfahan and later Tehran. I was little worried with the price of the diesel, because this continued costing 0,01€/litre, and besides, on three occasions (along all Iran) they did not let us pay, obtaining the free fuel. However, yes that we were worried with the numerous speed controls in the roads, although the autocaravan did not run as to surpass the limits in most of the cases. On the other hand, we also had time apart from the speed to enjoy the landscape, because on this occasion the sky of Iran was much clearer, leaving in sight some images much more interesting, with wild mountains behind the desert plains.
We reached Esfahan on the following day at noon, addressing directly the office of foreign affairs where definitely they denied us the possibility to extend our visa. So, with haste we directed ourselves to the big bazaar of Esfahan (quite empty of tourists) where we were comparing prices and finally we buyed different exquisite wooden boxes that we think to resell in Europe (http://www.globetour.org/products/). We also call one more friend that we have in Esfahan, but in the end could not present himself because the appointment that he had with a girl stretched out of the account. Naturally I excused him because in no place of the world, but less in Iran, an appointment with a girl can be wasted.
After another day and a half of driving, we arrive to Tehran, the fourth day in the afternoon, where we had to meet with another good friend. Our friend had told us by telephone that she had to comment to us on something (severe) related with her husband. We were worried that something has happened during the unsuccessful post-electoral revolution, but it was in the end to be a little much more international: her husband had left her recently for another girl. Anyway, our friend is of a strong and very positive character, and the advantages of living without him, as the possibility to travel much more around the world, already started to be suggested. When asking her about the great demonstrations in Tehran, she commented us that she did not go to any, but yes her husband, who returned hit in the leg. As she explained, the government had brought many people original from rural areas, armed them with big bars of iron that were dedicated to hit anybody, but especially the women. On the other hand, our friend was worried because the heads of her company had done campaign for Mussavi and the government was now pressing them so that they sold their part of the company to the army. If that happened, it would provoke a hardening of the working norms, but the leak of international business would be much worse (the company would enter in the black list of blocked companies), she would lose the opportunity to do businesses trips to Europe.
After resting a day at the house of our friend in Tehran, on the sixth day we got back on the road to finish covering the last 900 kilometres of Iran. We have arrived today, (the seventh day) to the border, but a hundred meters before this, in a hut, a corrupt policeman has asked me if my car was diesel or gasoline, showing me a paper that supposedly the diesel cars needed for circular for Iran. Remembering that they had commented us on the diesel card that cost 300€ I have commented that the car was gasoline. But the policeman has not believed me and asked me to inspect the entry of the diesel while I pretend not to understand. Finally, the policeman has located the entry of the water in the autocaravan (fortunately, the entry of the fuel is half dissimulated with the adhesives) and asked me to open it. Showing reluctance, I have opened the opening of the water and the policeman has put the nose to sniff, but as it did not smell at all, has started to laugh confused and has been convinced that the autocaravan was not diesel. The following formalities have been very fast once on the border, although I have continued with the tremor of the legs provoked by the previous policeman. Next we have had to wait for a couple of hours for the queue of cars that entered to Turkey, coming back to this country, equally marvellous, although unlike Iran, the diesel costs 1,3€/litro.
Sanliurfa (see on map)
After spending over a year travelling through Asia, in Turkey we have felt more relaxed than ever, with a culture much closer to our countries. After shopping in Dogubayazit, which included cheese and olives, the first night we parked near the road, in sight of Mount Arat. It was long time since we did not sleep outside a town or gas station with the certainty of not being disturbed. And so it was for the first time since Tibet, that we enjoyed a fresh night and we took out the covers from the closets.
We were scheduled to arrive in Romania in mid-November to visit the family of Alexandra, and in Catalonia at the beginning of December, thus having one and a half months to enjoy the road, we started towards the south of Turkey, with the intention of visiting Anatolia or Kurdistan region and then Syria. I wanted to visit this country, because many travellers have explained its wonders, but also to pump my spine that I still dunk when the authorities forbade me the entry from Jordan. Anyway, though Alexandra said so openly, in my mind also frightened me the possibility of going to have problems to get in (well, Alexandra needed to obtain a visa in advance) or have problems once inside and have difficulty leaving the country with the motor home.
In any event, we were still far from Syria and we were captivated enough by the northern Turkey views to think about the possible difficulties ahead. We spent a couple of days around Lake Van, being invited to tea at any time by Turkish families. After two days of calm, blue lake views, some small islands and a mysterious snowy mountain in the background, we resumed our way, unhurriedly towards Mardin, a town wrapped around a hill overlooking the endless plains of Syria. Along the way we stopped at the monastery of Mor Yaqoub (without much interest) and just before entering in Mardin, in the monastery of Mor Hanany, founded shortly before AD 500. The latter monastery was for 800 years the seat of the Patriarch of the Syria Orthodox Christian religion, that the region has many other monasteries, some of them founded before the year 400 after the birth of Christ.
After a morning stroll through the narrow streets of Mardin, Syria went down to the plain (without going into Syria) and drove to Sanliurfa, a traditional city with a vast bazaar, old buildings and a large mosque next to the cave where Muslims believe that Abraham was born, the father of abrahamiques religions (Jewish, Christian and Islamic), the prophet whom God asked to sacrifice his son but an angel prevented at the last moment (perhaps betraying the will of God).
Just before arriving in Sanliurfa and take a nice walk around the old town, we spent the night in a closed gas station where they very kindly let us park. Unfortunately, at about 8 pm, a new security guard came and told us with very bad manners that we had to go, but I ignored it and in seconds I started to scream out the window to let us in peace (I had disturbed their evil ways, but on the other hand at that point we did not have Internet wifi and left). My cries should calm the guard, who left us alone all night, but early in the morning, the same guard accompanied the first guard who had given us permission to park, we were asked to leave, also in bad ways, and I also,with bad manners screamed them again to be patient and leave us an hour. But no, they took a baseball bat, and after many more screaming and threats just gone well moody.
It was this incident which caused my decision not to try to enter Syria (Alexandra had previously expressed her little desire). i was tired of problems, including small ones, and I wanted to get home to rest a while before resuming the journey and adventure into America. I counted the miles we had left to come to Catalonia, estimating about 5,000 km. I have had the feeling there were many, but looking at the mileage from Nepal (about 8000 km) I have realized that in reality we are much closer to home than I thought, especially Alexandra, who just is at 2000 km from Romania.
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