03-Pakistan

We had to cross Pakistan quite fast. Firstly we only had a 10 days visa, and secondly the constant police escorts were a bit annoying (the only place were we didn’t get an escort was Baluchistan). So we decided to skip the Karakoram Highway and head to Ladakh for the Manali-Leh road.
The road through Loralai was closed for foreigners (you need a permit), so we took the southern route through Sukkur. There were exactly 2000km from Taftan to Waggah.

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The people

Despite the constant police monitoring and the climate of fear, everybody was friendly and helpful. The people are very curious so expect to draw a huge crowd if when you stop.
We had a funny moment in a small village, we stopped near a small shop and I went to buy some mineral water. When I returned, maybe 1 minute later, there were some 60 or 70 people around the bike standing in concentric circles with the first one some 10cm from the bike. Ioana was a bit stressed but not nearly as stressed as the escort policeman who was standing near her with his AK47 in his hand trying to disperse the crowd.
Of course, when I say people I mean men,because you hardly see any women in Pakistan. This also mean the foreign women attract a lot of attention. Expect a lot of stares if you are a girl and it might be better not to travel alone to avoid harassment.
I think that Pakistan is quite safe, but if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time you might get unlucky…

The roads

Compared to Turkey and Iran the roads are bad. Usually very narrow, full of potholes, dung, gravel and other hazards.
Coming from the west, this is the first country where they drive on the wrong (left) side of the road so you have to be extra-careful until you get used to it.
Coming out from the customs house at Taftan, leaving for Quetta, I saw a huge truck coming right at us. The driver avoided us, and with his head out of the side-window shouted “This is Pakistan” 🙂 Of course I was on the wrong side of the road.

The traffic

Coming form Iran, the traffic was a bit of a shock. There are so many vehicles bikes, horse buggies, three wheelers, buses, trucks etc that try to squeeze on the same narrow road so it’s a bit difficult to figure out what is happening.
Don’t expect much road-sharing, probably because there is not enough road for everybody. So there is a strict hierarchy of the vehicles on the road. Top dogs are the buses and the police vehicles they take as much of the road as they want, can stop anywhere and generally do anything that they please. Next come the trucks which have the same right as the buses but are a bit slower. Next are the cars and the horse drawn carriages. At the bottom of the food-chain are the motorcycles and the bicycles. These can only use whatever road is left, if there is none left you must get off the road and let the bigger vehicles pass.
That huge truck coming form the other direction and flashing its headlights it’s not trying to say “Hi”, it’s just warning you that it will begin to overtake and you better get out of its way.

What is interesting is that all this jostling for a bit of the road is done in a good-spirit, “that’s life” kind of way. The bus-driver that nearly runs you over will often smile or wave at you, as if saying “Sorry, nothing personal buddy”.
The traffic moves very slow (compared to european traffic) so you have some time to see where everybody is heading, but you must be very careful and you will get your share of really scary moments for sure.

The costs

The fuel is expensive compared to the other costs. We spent some 32Euros/day (for both, all costs included), we stayed in double rooms and ate only in restaurants.
Fuel was a third of the total, with food and hotels taking up half of the costs.