Is Lahore a good place to retreat

eMMen rider

Happy Man in Quetta, Pakistan 2009 (c)

Pakistan, part two

May 3. Back in Pakistan, back in Lahore. We know the city and luckily we drive in on a Sunday. Because today there is at least half less traffic on the roads. So we get through to the center without any problems, where we take a lunch break at a familiar spot before we continue on the highway to Multan. We immediately notice the difference to India again: Most of the women have disappeared from the public eye and the men are consistently in their airy two-piece suits with pajamas in white, gray, light blue or brown. From now on I have my headscarf within easy reach in the tank bag.
The people in Pakistan have a clearly different way of approaching us. They proudly greet travelers who come to their country. As we already saw on our first visit, the Pakistanis are aggressive, hospitable and very helpful towards both Micha and me. And everywhere we have landed so far. The fact that we appear as a (married) couple certainly also plays a role.

From Lahore to Quetta

Transit from Lahore on the eastern border to Quetta in the west is possible on two routes. And we have heard from other travelers who came to Pakistan from Iran that the police escort every foreigner from Quetta to Lahore for security reasons and guard them around the clock with Kalashnikovs. In order to determine the best way to get to the Pakistani-Iranian border in the next few days, we talk to our friend Saeed in Rawalpindi about the two possible ways to Quetta. The first and shorter route via DG Khan and Loralei is in very poor condition due to the earthquake last year. Foreigners are less welcome here - there are hardly any places to sleep, eat or refuel. We take Saeed's recommendation seriously and with it the other and almost twice as long route in the southern arc via the cities of Sukkur and Sibi.
In Lahore we turn south on Highway 5. The brand new lane is just like an airstrip and we jet at eighty-five kilometers per hour over the little-traveled double lane. According to the map, the highway will take us to Sukkur and will hopefully remain suitable for transit. The first overnight stop is the city of Sahiwal, only about a three-hour drive from Lahore. In the Indus Hotel we move into a room with a so-called air cooler - the ancient variant of an air conditioning system and a device from hell that turbines dusty, but reasonably cooled air into the room over a water basin. Anyway, the main thing is a few degrees less and hopefully a little sleep the coming night. When we want to go to the nearest street restaurant for dinner, a strong storm begins. The dust that is thrown up darkens the entire city, and rubbish remains fly around. The friendly receptionist said it was about to rain. When we set off the next morning at six o'clock, the rising sun actually hangs behind a thick cloud cover and the temperatures are finally bearable. Luckily, apart from a few small rain showers, not much happens that day. Except for a near-crash with grazing contact, because a Pakistani motorcyclist does not turn around to look at me before he cuts the entire road unchecked.

Police and media hype in Rahimyar Khan

447 kilometers and eight hours Emmenfahrt - this stage is a record. No wonder everyone flocks around us when we stop in front of the hotel in Rahimyar Khan in the afternoon. Mopeds, donkeys and rickshaws are jammed in the street because everyone wants to see what's going on: Two Germans on a motorcycle are in town! Sweaty, we rummage through with sacks and bags to the hotel door, where we are warmly welcomed. We get into a conversation with Abu Bakar, the nice manager of the hotel, and talk about our route to Quetta. Our question as to whether Quetta is currently harmless causes a safety avalanche to roll unnoticed. As we go to the room to attend to the well-practiced arrival procedure (dusting our helmets / bags, rinsing our shirts / socks, showering), two police officers knock on our door. Five minutes later Micha is sitting in a sandwich between two armed policemen on a cute 125cc and I at Abu Bakar's back on the moped. The manager meant well and applied to the local police for our safety. Now we are brought to the station briefly and an escort team is put together in no time. From now on we always have two uniformed men around and it seems to be a welcome change for the men.
Back at the hotel, two men from the newspaper are waiting for us at reception. An interview, please! When we finally want to retire that evening, the newspaper and camera team from Express News Pakistan knocks on the door. An interview is quickly recorded on the ugly sofa. The police stand by and enjoy the theater before they stay on guard all night in the hotel corridor. Presumably the officers themselves informed the journalists. By tomorrow at the latest, everyone will know that two Germans are on their way to the Afghan or Iranian border on a motorcycle. That shows that the police presence because of foreigners is currently more of a status act than a serious security measure. Ten past six we drive away from Rahimyar Khan after a short night - in front of us is the police Toyota pickup with the cameraman from yesterday evening in the loading area, who needs a few more driving shots. The escort will change about three or four times on the way to Sukkur.

Rumble ride through Sindh

We have just left the relatively green Punjab region and reached the rather barren Sindh. In the city of Sukkur, the car of the last escort change suddenly says goodbye and disappears from our rear-view mirrors. Fortunately, because his driver was still sleeping and we were cruising around at forty km / h. From now on we are heading north-west on National Highway 65. The road is busy and the asphalt is badly eroded. A real rumble slope. The flat ground in the area resembles a lunar landscape - a white, dusty and stony area. Since breakfast is not available when you get up early, our stomachs report no later than noon. When we take a break at an intersection in Shikarpur and at the same time ask for the right way, we immediately have new friendly and curious police officers on the spot who maneuver us to the door of the Greenland Hotel in the dusty Jacobabad.
This stage was exhausting. We lack sleep. The air in the almost windowless hotel room is thick to cut and only warm water runs out of the tap. We lie down on the mattress with wet rags on our heads and stop moving for today. Like the three pale geckos lurking on the wall for insects. The new, local police escort team sits in the hotel corridor and stands as a trellis as soon as we move. Of course, everyone would like to introduce themselves to us personally: “How are you, Mister? How is your wife? Most welcome to Pakistan! " This time we only leave the room when we want to continue the next morning.

Baluchistan: Through the lunar landscape to Quetta

Shortly after Jacobabad we pass the border to Baluchistan and the highway is back in tip-top condition. With the escort in advance, we speed away through the stone desert of Baluchistan. A couple of times the police change forces us to take a break - mostly somewhere in the void. Now sometimes two policemen on a 100cc Yamaha are our nicely meant safety guarantee. We cannot perceive any threat on the whole route. Not only the police, but also everyone else on the street or in the villages creates a relaxed atmosphere. After three hours we pass Sibi and turn onto an undulating road through the hilly landscape with no vegetation that brings us to Quetta. Almost unnoticed, we rattle over the 87 kilometers of the legendary Bolan Pass over the next three hours. For many centuries, nomads, traders and soldiers have traveled between Central Asia and India here. In places our Emmen roll over gravel sections and collect the white, Baluchistani desert dust.
Quetta is full of police and military. When entering the bustling city, the Toyota Hilux sirent the escort's way. A second car with three other armed men drives behind us in the loading area. Well, at least the whole line-up suddenly has something good when Micha's front wheel slips to the side when braking lightly on the smoothly sanded asphalt and brings Emme and rider to a standstill. The escort immediately regulates the traffic and prevents the obligatory crowd around the event. With slightly bent aluminum case straps and crooked handlebars, Micha drives on to the hotel, quite pale in the face. The left thumb has come off and is swelling. The same was true of the right foot, which was wedged between the aluminum case and the asphalt. We'd better go straight to the hospital for an X-ray.

Thumbs up!

Foreigners don't come often to visit Quetta's Sandeman Civil Hospital. The guy who smokes at the reception of the emergency room types "Patient: Maikal" into the computer. We pay 20 rupees (about 15 cents) fee. Then some men happily lead us into the X-ray room. Micha in his white Pakistani shirt is the only one in the hospital who looks like a doctor. None of the five guys leave the room when Micha's hand is irradiated. Curiosity goes beyond a radiation dose. The ring stays on the finger for the time being. As long as we're waiting in the hallway for the X-rays, someone would like to give Micha an injection. He already has the ampoule and needle in his hand. However, he cannot explain to us what it is supposed to be good for. Micha declines in a friendly and thankful way. The subsequent diagnosis is clear: a smooth break on the thumb. Fortunately only sprained ankle. The next team comes into action immediately. Three men at the same time push Micha's thumbbones back into position. I have to watch as Micha's contorted face in pain gets whiter and whiter and wants to weaken his circulation. Hopefully they know what they're doing! With a fresh cast and thumbs up, we leave the hospital after half an hour, relieved and hope that domes will still be possible.

The hotel we stayed at is a good place to lick wounds. It has a green, wonderfully quiet inner courtyard. The Swiss Jan and Karin are the only guests here besides us. We spend two nice first days with the two of them before they leave for Lahore in their Toyota Landcruser.
Despite begging for a sign, we did not find out from the visa agent in Berlin whether the Iran visas were on their way to Quetta as promised. When we followed up on the phone, it only said that Mr. Haase is in Nepal at the moment. Great! After all, he has a competent colleague who finally sends us the documents by DHL Express to Quetta on May 8th and for the first time correctly informs us when and for how long the visas are valid. As soon as we cross the border into Iran, we have a full thirty days for the country. Good news. The tailor around the corner sews Micha a long zipper into the sleeve of the motorcycle jacket so that it fits over the arm cast. The DHL shipment should be at the hotel on May 11th and the next morning we want to start the last two stages to the Iranian border in Taftan. We take the happy Pakistani in front of the hotel with his bright yellow glasses as a good omen for the onward journey home.

Curiosity about Persia

We are curious about Iran. Probably the icing on the cake on our journey along the old silk roads - even if we have to cover a few long, lonely stretches of road on the desert highways of the Persian plateau. Iran certainly does not live up to its bad reputation in the western world. We want to form our own picture: of the polite, warm manner of the Persians, of the ancient oriental flair in Isfahan and Yazd, of the even crazier driving style of the Iranians and perhaps take a look behind the scenes of the metropolis of Tehran. How will we experience the land of the Aryans?

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