It’s nine in the evening and I sit slumped in a KFC in Lahore, Pakistan while the rain comes down as if it was judgement day. The establishment seems to be the only place in town which has a backup generator, as the rest of the city is descended in darkness and chaos by the frequent power cuts; to make it all the more surreal it is staffed totally by dumb and deaf people, at last, an ethical reason to eat the Colenal’s finest. Even better is the man trying to order with two broken arms, as he cannot tap the menu, this goes on for many minutes before he leaves in disgust. With my face black from the miserable diesel fumes, you can probably tell its been a long hard few days.
On the morning of December the 26th 2003, a powerful earthquake hit Bam city, destroying its magical old city, wiping the new city flat and killing thousands. With the international communitie’s aid package slow, the Bami’s still in May 2008 seem to be rebuilding their lives. The bazaar is still located in a large quantity of shipping containers, the reinforced steel buildings are still being built by an army of migrant workers, the mosque is only finally being rebuilt, some people still seem to live in shacks beside their former houses. On the 10th of December 2007 a Japanese tourist was kidnapped in Bam. It also seems to be taking a similar amount of time for the Police in Bam to recover from this isolated event, as they now insist on accompanying tourists everwhere. You can’t so much as play hopscotch on the pavement without a large armed guard towering over you, looking bored or looking at his watch. Its terribly frustrating, especially as Iranians simply don’t understand the western tourist species.
I speak to the famous Akbar English at the tourist guest house, who seems over the years to to have figured out the backpacking, soap shirking, money pinching traveller, and he sympathises with my problem. The problem is the police don’t understand. ‘Where do you want to go?’ they ask, ‘I don’t know yet’ i reply. ‘Well why don’t you stay here, there is air-conditioning’. It’s a losing battle. They don’t understand drifting. I resign myself to a quick visit to the remains of the old city, a few snaps of the local container shops and around 12 litres of Coca Cola, tommorow comes Balouchistan.
The day from hell.
The road from Bam east, crossing Iranian Balouchistan is only around 400km. It is well paved, smooth and rarely are there any problems. The police on the other hand have some very different ideas about the stretch of road. They see it as a dangerous wild place which tourists need to be escorted through at a rate of knots. No problem thinks I, 5 hours, 400km, a police escort, onto the Pak border by 10 o’clock at the latest, leaving Bam at five in the morning to run the heat, tea, medals and a samosa or two at the border town by lunch.