The diaries - 5   

11 September

Quetta - Pakistan


The adventures have been coming thick and fast in the last few weeks and with no internet access it will have to be a quick recoup from the diary to try and explain what has been happening.

The most important thing is - now the BMW has broken down TWICE !!!!!!!!! ssssshhhh don't laugh - it could so easily have been the Yamaha but I will let Mick tell you about that.
Iran was a revelation. The people are just the most fantastic and so friendly. The women, despite giving the impression of being heavily veiled and under the thumb are the tops. Highly educated, they are most definitely NOT subservient to the males and although they would love to dispense with the burkhas they will no doubt change things from within in their own good time.

Hamadam is interesting, the Alisdar Cave is meant to be the biggest water cave in the world and is spectacular. The scenery as we travel south is getting very monotonous, a flat plain with stony mountains on each side, the altitude is usually about 6,000ft but it still hot and dusty. The TTR is fine chugging along at 50mph but she struggles a little if we start to climb, the speed dropping to 35mph, but hey! what's the rush? We have months to go yet.

Esfahan is a show city with beautiful gardens and mosques. Our main object here is to extend the Iranian visas and so off we go to the main police complex. Although I have a long sleeved shirt, long trousers and a head scarf on I am reprimanded by the army because I am showing some hair in the front of my scarf. They tell Mick I must cover all my face - he agrees with them - just wait until I get even!

An early start for us on Sepember 2nd sees us later on in the day in Persepolis. It is really quite mind blowing seeing all these carvings and structures and we spent the best part of the day there taking in the atmosphere.  
The highlight came later on though when we rode the bikes 6km down the road to Naghsh-e-Rostam three enormous tombs are here, Darius the Great, whom we had been told was buried at Persepolis is really buried here, high up on the rock face. But the rock carvings are amazing, the best you could imagine.

From Persepolis to Shiraz, Sarvestan and Estahban, we work steadily towards the Pakistan border. It is a lot hotter now and the blue lakes showing on the map are again dried up. The children here are rather more unruly as we travel further east, one boy of about 10 gestures quite indecently from the back of his friends bike, what he would like to do to me, - which was hilarious really, but earned him a clip round the head from a passing local motorcyclist. I have to smile also at the reaction of the men when they see me take my helmet off. They really are awestruck that an old lady (their words not mine!) can ride a bike so far. The women can't wait to come and talk to me - but I have to admit they really want to flirt with Mick, they use me as an excuse!

On to Kerman and we meet with Andreas from Austria but living in New Zealand and Paul from Belgium. We team up with them for the trip to Bam and onwards to the dreaded Pakistan border near Afghanistan.

Bam was a shock. Although the massive earthquake that killed over 40,000 people had happened in 2002 hardly anything has been cleared and rebuilt. We walked to the Citadel of the old town and looked in horror at the damage to such an enormous co
mplex. Our host at the Akbhar guest house had been trapped for hours in the rubble, along with some Europeans, including one Englishman who had died. His Royal Enfield motorcycle was found in the rubble long afterwards. Everybody lost relatives and friends. Where whole families had been wiped out the land has just been left, unclaimed. It was emotional even though we can hardly imagine how they would feel.

On September 8 we left Bam really early with the obligatory armed guard. One of many we would have over the next 2 days. One set of guards would take us so far and then we would pull in and wait for the next set to take over. We couldn't make progress because they took our passports off us every time. We could have made it to the border easily but the last 'soldier' th
ey gave us had to ride on the back of Andreas's bike - he was not amused. The boy soldier sat on top of his luggage directing us where to go, he had neither gun nor stick so in the event of a confrontation he would have been neither use nor ornament. He had us going off-road down a track, insisting that we had to go that way to the border. Needless to say we missed the border, it closed without us crossing through.The next morning we had yet another boy soldier sitting on Andreas's luggage. He left us at the border and it took only a few hours to complete formalities and enter Pakistan.

Clearing the customs house there was another soldier - AK47 at his side - and yes, he was waiting to leap onto the back of the motorcycle. Andreas refused to let him get on and while he was going to explain at the office - we beat a hasty retreat - after all we had our passports!

Sand storms and road diversions through the desert, 200 miles at 35 degrees, hot sand blowing everywhere. the road was apalling. One mile away from Dalbandin where we had anticipated to stay the night, Andreas's bike broke down. Within a few moments two heavily armed landrovers with machine guns on the back pulled up. They soldiers leapt out and with their sub machine guns protecting us from 'bandits or Taliban' they escorted us as Andreas was pushed with Paul's well placed right leg on his pannier. These soldiers meant business. They were trained soldiers with purpose in every muscle of their body. They made the Iranian boy soldiers look -to be honest - stupid.

We were told we could not leave the hotel that night and in the morning an armed guard would escort us to the police station. He duly arrived, on his little 125cc look-alike Honda, took us for some black market petrol and then to the headquarters where we all received a polite bollocking for riding through dangerous country on our own.
We travelled now near the Afghan border, the police armed guards in their landrover in front, so far in front that when Andreas's bike broke down for the second time in two days (it's a BMW)  they were a good half hour before they realised we were not following them!

They came back to see where we were just as Mick and Andreas had sorted the faulty cut out switch on the side stand. Twelve miles from Quetta we picked up our last guards and travelled along the only toll road in existence that people were being charg
ed for use and it was under full construction. The dust was unbelievable, white choking dust that filled every crevice.

The entry into Quetta through the rough suburbs with the millions of donkeys, lorries motorcycles, all the hubbub of an Asian city, was mind-blowing. It was incredibly hot and filthy. Andreas's bike stopped again and refused to start and then the big one happened - Mick's bike overheated, there was water everywhere as the 800gs ground to a halt.

Surrounded by a very swarthy local population, looking very interested to say the least, the police tried to stop them from getting near us. A fight broke out and the police laid into the citizens with well aimed rifle butts. We have now decided that Mick will never make a news reporter, because as this was all happening in front of his bike, he forgot to switch on the onboard camera!

It was four very hot and dirty people who arrived at a not-too-clean hotel. Now we have to sort out the problems of these technical bikes. Ahh - bet they wish they had a little 250cc mechanical wizz!

Because of loss of internet access, Mick's piece (below) was received a few days later.


The last few miles to the exit border of Iran were long and dusty and we had to have an armed escort for most of the way. We had teamed up with a couple of other bikers, Andreas (F650GS Dakar) from Austria who now lives in New Zealand, who in turn had hooked up with Paul (R1200GS-A) from Belgium. We decided to stay together through the border.

The only problem was that there was no vehicle for the last leg to the border for the 'armed guard' so the young lad, he didn't even have a catapult, sat on the rear of the least loaded bike.... Andreas' F650GS The lad managed to get us lost looking for the exit border and we had to spend another night in Iran.

The border didn't pose too many problems, usual documentation etc. but the friendly staff helped us through. We were told that the Carnet Office was closed until the afternoon, so we broke the stove out and brewed up coffee for us all... and the office duly opened. Our antics caused much amusement though. Entry in to the Pakistan side was pure bedlam but we were ushered through the crowd and dealt with most proficiently.

We were told that we would have to have an armed escort from the border all the way to Quetta. We would be staying over night at the small town of Dalbandin, for it's a ten hour ride to Quetta from the border.

The guy detailed to look after us had his AK47 slung over his shoulder, but didn't have transport and so he too picked Andreas F650 to ride on the back of. He would have to sit on the top of the roll bag just as the young lad on the Iranian side had. Andrea was not keen on the idea, so when we had started the engines and the soldier went inside to bid farewell, or visit the toilet, we scarpered and rode out of town without an escort....   Naughty naughty! 

They caught up with us eventually and took us in to Dalbandin, except that just outside the town the F650GS ground to a halt with sudden loss of power. We had no sooner ground to a halt when two army pick ups stopped, soldiers jumped out, priming their weapons, and taking up 'the position' to the front and rear. We were told by the guy in charge that this was dangerous territory indeed and not safe for us out here. We are just 20 miles from the Afghan border and a couple of months ago a French guy had been kidnapped.

We pushed the F650 the remaining mile to the hotel by shoving with the foot on the pannier. The soldiers followed all the way until the hotel gates were closed behind us. We we're told not to go outside on our own without an armed escort.

Next morning we were picked up by a soldier on a motorcycle, taken for some 'black market' petrol, and then to the army/police camp where we had a bollocking from the guy in charge for running off the day before without an escort. He was nice about it though, but in no uncertain terms would we be going any further without armed escort.

Over 230 miles later we neared Quetta, being handed over from escort to escort, we made our final run in on terrible unmade roads in the process of total refurbishment, so much dust and rocks that at times you couldn't see.

Just outside Quetta we were handed over to an escort riding a motorcycle, the passenger cocked and primed his AK47 and took the safety off before climbing on the back.. Through Quetta's very busy streets, 'tuck tucks' trying to get between us, trying to race us, the armed escort holding them back, warning them off. Into Quetta and chaos. We stopped along side a couple of armed jeeps, the F650 called it a day, stalled and wouldn't start, the F800GS dumped steaming hot water all over the instruments, windscreen, with the oil light flickering, the temperature gauge flashing up and down, lights on the dashboard everywhere. Andreas is busy with his F650, I'm trying to sort the F800 out, water everywhere, steaming. All of a sudden such a commotion and the police start beating someone up. He's on the floor, gets up and starts fighting. A quick blow with a rifle butt and he's back down again. I'm too bothered about my bike and forget to put the on board camera on... it would have made some great footage. I'll never make a Claudio!  I don't think that there was any actual danger, just maybe that the guy wanted to get closer to us, have a good look, maybe ask questions, but the police weren't having any of that.

We get the F650 started by wiggling the wires for the prop stand kill switch, and we limp in to the hotel rear parking and the gates close behind us, my bike is still steaming!

We have a bier, but only one.... it's five euros a bottle. It's late, my bike's still steaming hot so I leave it to the next day.
The radiator fan won't move, then I dislodge some grit and stone and the fan moves OK but makes a graunching noise. I pull the cowling away as much as I can with the one screw removed at the bottom and some grit falls out. Eventually I get the fan to move easily and without noise. I'm hoping the fan wouldn't/couldn't work because of the stones/grit and so the engine overheated. Is the fan OK? I hope it's not burnt out the motor trying to run when it couldn't. I top the radiator up, it takes maybe half a pint of water, put the radiator cap on and top up the expansion tank to mid level. I fire the engine up, starts, no strange noises, I leave it running, fingers crossed. No oil light flickering (there's plenty of oil in) eventually the fan cuts in without a problem and runs sweetly. Fingers crossed now that there's no permanent damage to the engine.