After a night on the floor of the Levies Lock-Up guard room, we woke around 6.00am and got changed into our riding gear…as we had no idea what time the escort would be leaving….we had just been told it would be early. As it turned out we got no notice….just a guard popping his head in the door around 7.00am and saying “we go!”. They stopped for fuel….we didn’t need any….and then we were on our way. Another stop to pick up an extra armed officer (making 4 in total) and we were out in the desert…..desolate and foreboding. Taftan is very rural and it seems a harsh existence there….but the goats were happy in the main street!
At the first check point the boys all got together and I sneaked off to take photos of the first wild camel I have seen! One of the guards followed me and tried to coax the camel closer for my picture…but no luck…we had to go….and the escort waits for no one….rush, rush, rush!
Further along the sealed road was closed off…..we think due to a sandstorm that cut it off and sand needing to be removed….but we were not sure. In any case it involved going off road into the desert……yes folks, that’s right….we can now claim the adventure of riding off road across the Sandy Desert of Baluchistan!!!! Go Adventure Girl and Adventure Boy! I was a little alarmed when our armed escort stopped unexpectedly in the middle of the desert….but it was only for a toilet break for one of the guards!
Back on the bitumen, we saw a rock that Vince thinks is Pakistan’s answer to Ayres Rock in Australia. I was fascinated by the highly decorated (and often overloaded) trucks on the road….awesome! When we arrived at Nokkund we had to go to the police compound and wait for our next escort to be organised. There was one particular young officer who was quite cheeky but left us in no doubt he would shoot anything that looked sideways at us! This particular escort was much faster and we hoped that we had them for a while, but soon enough we were handed over at a subsequent meeting point that involved removing the remains of a truck accident where a man had died. This time it was a motorbike escort with the pillion having an AK47, we seemed to alternate between Toyota utes and motorbikes. I am a bit unclear exactly who is who but there seems to be at least three different groups….the Levies, Police and the FC Militia. In any case they are all involved in protecting us.
We arrived at the Al-Dawood around 4.30pm and the next escort chief met us and got us organised into a room in the hotel (1000 PKR 10 Euros per night). The room was dilapidated, stinking hot, with only a fan, two single beds (mine had blood on the sheet) and the power goes off regularly. We had to ask for towels, which were threadbare and there was only a squat toilet. We were told to go to our room, freshen up and come down for lunch in 10 minutes…..are we in protection or are we prisoners…..Vince says a bird in a gilded cage is still a bird in a cage! A little later there was a change over from the Levies to the Police….2 AK47 armed officers who followed us everywhere….checked our room and made us lock all our windows (which we had opened to try to cool down). They were very nice….and stayed all night with us….watching over us constantly….even taking Vince to the shop next door to by some water and drinks…….the other one stayed with me in the hotel. Many of the people in the hotel were very friendly and sat and chatted to us….I asked a question about schooling and I inadvertently opened a pandoras box…..the next thing I knew I was being handed a phone to speak with the local Principal of the Bright Future Community School….and one of his teachers……they wanted me to come and see their centre….which I couldn’t. The next thing I knew they arrived at the hotel along with 10 of their English students ….we all sat in the garden (under armed guard of course)….Vince joined us and it was a very pleasant time. We gave them all a sticker and encouraged them to stay in touch. I will check out their website and when I get back to Australia will see what resources etc I can assist them with. (I was also subsequently contacted by three members of the BEF Balochistan Education Foundation as a joint government and banking sponsorship program for remote community schools in the province….they invited me to tour their schools…..but I had to decline due to having to leave for Quetta).
After saying goodbye to our new friends we invited our body guards to have dinner with us. It was very interesting talking with them and finding out about their family and professional lives. They also told us that the power goes off at midnight and doesn’t come on until morning and the room will be too hot….so they suggested we sleep on the roof. We took their advice as even with a fan the room was like a sauna….and the four of us were happily sleeping on the roof under the stars!