HTML From Blog Template Moto-Hike: Run From The Sun: I ran and ran and ran to Iran...........

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


I ran and ran and ran to Iran...........

It finally happened!
After nearly 8 months of investigation, planning, emailing, visiting embassies and getting nightmare tales of refusal from other travellers, we've got the magic stamp!
Our passports now proudly display a 15 day Iran tourist visa and it only cost $370 USD for the privilege. Yeah, you read that right. All in, including the $35 USD fee per visa charged by the travel agency in Shiraz ( ), it works out about $185 each. Ouch.
Anyway, its done now and should be the last big paperwork/visa/shipping hassle we have to deal with on our way home.
Our escape from Islamabad was not without drama. In fact we created quite a drama at one point, but i'll come to that later...
We spent one night on the outskirts of Peshawar, trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible after the American bombing mission nearby on the 13th. It turned out we needn't have worried too much, as the subject never came up and, as usual, the hospitality of our Pakistani hosts was of the highest level.
We set off the next morning planning on a long-days ride as we wanted to clear the 'tribal areas', famed for not being too welcoming to foreigners.
About 40km's down the Indus highway from Peshawar we passed through Kohat, a major centre in the tribal areas and a place best avoided according to our guidebook. It seemed we were in luck though as we approached a tunnel that indicated a new route bypassing the town.
A few hundred metres from the tunnel mouth we were signalled to stop by three guys. We normally don't stop, but this was a rather frantic and serious stopping request, so i obliged.
The guy went on to explain in iffy English that motorcycles were banned from using the tunnel and we'd have to use the old road through the mountains and the town. Rory had other ideas......
"Just go!"
I expressed my concern about this plan of action, but before we'd really discussed anything we were heading towards the tunnel at great speed....
Past 1 guard who jumped out in the road in front of us
Past another
Into the tunnel
Out of the tunnel
To be greeted by a very large number of guards, some with guns.
I kept the throttle wide open. Stopping wasn't really going to help now, so running was the best policy.
A couple of km's down the road i noticed flashing lights in my mirrors and then Rory disappeared. A few seconds later i slowed down and turned around to go find him.
I found him and about 20 guards in half a dozen cars and pickups with flashing lights and sirens blaring.
The Project Manager of the tunnel turned up in rather a bad mood. It wasn't as bad as mine though and i let rip at Rory, "You *$&^@*@# Idiot!!"
The Project Manager looked rather sternly at me thinking i was shouting at him.
"Not you, HIM!!!" I explained.
The dressing down from mister manager included some classics including, "I couldn't care less if you were George $%^&-ing Bush!"
"I'm going to make sure the police throw the book at you, deport you!"
"Forget about your bikes, i'll bloody burn them!"
Harsh words indeed and pretty scary at the time as we didn't know who these guys were or what authority they had.
In the mean time we called the British High Commission in Islamabad and luckily for us they had good relations with the chief of police in the area.
Mister Manager disappeared off promising to return with a firing squad and two body bags. Thankfully that was the last we saw of him.
After more waiting around the tunnel company's attorney turned up and took our particulars. He was accompanied by a reporter friend who started snapping and took down the story from the guards and us.
After more messing around and a visit from the plod we were eventually sent on our way.
Apparently the story would be circulating in four national papers the next day!
We set of early again the next day hoping to make up some lost ground and to get to Zobh by nightfall. The road to Zobh had restricted access and required a permit, which we didn't have, but we'd spoken to an English chap in Islamabad who gave us hope. Charles had passed that way a couple of weeks before and said the road was fine and he'd had no hassle, easy.
60km's down the road, just as we started to head into the mountains we were met by some guys in a sooty van with a snazzy blue light.
"Where permit?"
"Err, we left it at home, the dog ate it!"
etc. etc. as those well used homework excuses came flooding back.
"You not go here, very dangerous road, terrorist area!"
We knew that was it as far as using this road went. We knew the area was considered dodgy and is rather close to the Afghan border, but from our point of view it halved the journey time and meant we could be in a 'safe area'(ie. one under full goverment control) by nightfall, which was surely better.
He directed us back to the Indus Highway and explained we should go and stay in Dera Ghazi Khan and then leave early in the morning to hit Quetta by nightfall. So we did.
Only problem being that when we reached D. G. Khan we were promptly ejected from all the hotels! Apparently the government had decreed that no foreigners are allowed to stay in the city or within a 30km radius as Al Quaeda were operating in the area. Doh!!!
The result of this being a 56km night ride east across the Indus to Mussaffabargh where we were allowed to stay. Thankyou mister sooty van copper!
We decided we'd had enough of all this rubbish and we'd nail it to Quetta the next day, a run of 550km's through the mountains.
Rising early we departed not long after sunrise. Blasting along the flat and straight roads of the 'no-go' area we started to climb into the mountains of the Suleiman range by about 9am. After the stopping fiascos of the last couple of days we planned to only stop where we had plenty of time to see oncoming vehicles, or hide. Getting turned around from this road would mean a huge detour almost via Karachi!
The road into the mountains was one of the gnarliest we'd ridden, with very tight hairpins around blind bends and 'variable' road surface. To be honest we like the dodgy surface, the bikes are made for these conditions and its a lot of fun.
After a great ride up to about 1300m altitude we reached the high plains where we were stopped at a military checkpoint.
During our ride through Kashmir and up the Karakoram Highway we'd stopped and registered at checkpoints frequently so we weren't too worried. Unfortunately this was for a different reason....
Eric Saue, who we met in Amritsar, had spoken of being given a Police escort along large parts of his route through Pakistan. We really didn't need this, we can travel much faster along the rough roads than jeeps etc, so we definately wouldn't make it to Quetta by nightfall.
After a lot of waiting around and many requests to leave we were eventually told we could go alone! Seems they couldn't muster a guard. This cost us just over an hour and we could have really done with it.......
We flew along the next section of flat, smooth, empty roads across the high plains, cruising at about 110kmh for ages. This abruptly came to an end as the road suddenly ran out. The surface become broken tarmac and gravel, with a choice of alternative tracks through the desert that now surrounded us. Slower going, but a lot of fun!
About 70km's of this followed and we relished the opportunity to give the bikes a good work-out.
The road returned to flat, smooth and straight across the barren lunar-esque landscape. We went as fast as we could hoping to get to Quetta by dark, with the temperature dropping quickly and the wind getting up.
We made a decision to find a hotel about 80km's from Quetta, as it was getting serously cold and there was real frostbite potential.
Unfortunately the only town we came to was basically full of smugglers selling dodgy Iranian petrol and the only hotel wasn't actually a hotel! We settled for a cup of tea and a roasting wood stove to heat us up for the dark ride ahead.
We were truly granted a miracle as the road ahead featured cats-eyes, first we'd seen since Islamabad! This may not seem like a big-deal, but our lights are a bit rubbish and Pakistani drivers dont understand the dipped beam concept. The cats-eyes allowed us to cruise at about 80/90kmh and we arrived in Quetta in just over an hour.
The hotel we'd planned on staying in turned out to be more pricey than we expected, but it seemed very secure and we were exhausted, so we went for it.
The Iran Consulate was our goal in Quetta, or liberating our visas from it. We turned up expecting an easy procedure, only to find out from a Spanish couple that due to new rules(bird-flu in Turkey) we had to have a medical! We spent the afternoon collecting new passport photos and anxiously awaiting our test results. I always have passport photo issues(i normally look like a serial killer) and the bloodtest had left me looking a little pasty. This time i'd look like a hungry vampire!
Im very pleased to say that we both came up clean for a whole host of nasty diseases.
Yesterday involved abstract, freestyle queueing at the embassy for hours. I really had no clue what was going on, but eventually we got to the counter and confirmed they'd received our approval number from Tehran. This was a massive relief as the Spanish couple had been stuck there for five days waiting for this to come through.
So there it is. We leave for Iran in the morning, a 600 km blast across the desert to the land of CHEAP petrol. A couple of years ago it was 7p a litre, but ive heard its gone up. Even if its tripled its still going to save us a fortune every day, woo hoo!
Don't forget to enter the competition to win a new Yamaha XT660x plus runners-up prizes of Karrimor bags and goodies.
Just Text " KARRIMOR " to 60999

Ta-ra a bit!


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