Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Off to Chaman and Afghanistan Border - Part II

Chaman is situated at approximately 125 kilometers from Quetta city. We were being alerted that route to the city is extremely dangerous as roads haven't been developed. Initiating 50 kilometers from Quetta of highway road (N25) directing towards Chaman is worth the drive, rest of the patch is completely damaged and you will end up facing too many hiccups. We had to travel anyway and face the challenge, the weather in the region like always was cracking and awesome. We had to make sure that our drivers were experienced in order to tackle the mostly uneven track. It was so rough and bumpy that there was quite a high probability of your car getting punctured in the mid-way. It was thus recommended that you carry backup of wheels and be a good mechanic too in order to manage any setback.

After having a daily morning buffet at hotel in Quetta, we decided to leave for Chaman on a bright morning during one of the weekdays. I had a quick shower, took out my new shalwar kameez, had my sandles and tied a "patto" on top of my head. The beard I had specifically grown up for this tour resembled me as I am someone from Kandahar. Our little convoy of two cars was on our way for National Highway towards Chaman.Western Bypass in the city of Quetta would connect with the main highway. It's a proper route initially with mountains at it's both sides, at a certain distance there lies a stone crushing plant. Pishin is 50 kilometers ahead of Quetta, the road to the district intersects with the main highway Pishin Road. The Pishin Road further connects with the Chaman Road, a distance so far would cover few green-fields, some areas being cultivated, beautiful mountains with irregular shapes having different shades of brown color.

Heading towards Chaman - 111 Kms more (Unlucky Nelson !)


Pishin Road

The scary part commences after covering few kilometers of the Chaman Road,  then there is absolutely no sign of roads and path is utter patchy. We were being told to be careful as the robberies and embezzlement during the rest of the distance is at it's peak. FC (Frontier Corps) is active but aren't a great force in front of the tribes living in that area. FC men leave their duties by the time sun sets and this is when thieves of the area become operational. Couple of places I came across and are famous for being replete with bandits are "Mezaai Adda" and "Qilla Abdullah". It is widely known that the tribes of this area might not spare anything. We were lucky to travel during those days when NATO supply via Chaman border was denied by the government. Fortunate we were, because otherwise the people of these areas go crazy, the routes get congested, they fire gunshots and end up stealing number of trucks. I was being told that it doesn't matter to US government if 20 out of 300 trucks are being stolen by the raiders. So this was a norm while truck drivers were on duty for US government or army.

Road to Mezai Adda and Qila Abdullah
It was hell scary while we were passing from that area, luckily we crossed and finally ended up in the monumental mountains, the temperature was too low as we were being elevated after every step our car had made. Too many sharp turns were there and we were on such a height that it would scare if you dare sight-seeing from the window. Heavy loaded trucks for the purpose of trade would pass you with inches away or might end up feather touching with your car too. All of a sudden, our car got punctured as it further ascended the mountains. While the tire was being replaced, we had a bit of sight-seeing of the city and had we carried binoculars, we could have seen Afghanistan Border from the mountains alone. We were back on track and weren't far-off from the place we had to reach. I must hereby not forget the railway tracks we had seen then, those were laid by the British over large distance crossing the tunnels created beneath the mountains. Pity us, we don't have trains to run anything on them and what we have gets bombarded.

Tracks all over the mountains

Tunnel for Train can be seen
Few minutes more and we were on Quetta Road which linked us to Chaman Bypass. We were very lucky to know a friend here who has a political background. He took a great care of us, his hospitality to us was exemplary as we stayed few days in Chaman. Five to six meal course was served to us apart from drinks consisting of Lassi, regular cold drinks, natural green tea and lemon grass tea too.  I was amazed to see their diet, one size of the roti was such that in which whole of my family could have had their dinner. You would laugh to know that despite of being super hungry, couple of us couldn't finish that bread together. Natural green tea was terrific, I'd glass after glass. In Chaman, it's a tradition to have green tea right after taking lunch, they were proud of the cup they would offer, claiming it to be effective unlike fake tea brands we have in urban cities. What reminds me the most though is "parath, anda and chai" we had at some corner of the city. We had a good time discussing various topics after having food, ranging from politics to trading in the city, lifestyle of people and the never ending problems of the province.

Friend's guest house in Chaman
We were also able to take out time to roam through Chaman City as well. I must mention here that the city turned out to be a total opposite of what image I'd exactly regarding the place. It was quite peaceful to be there, no one would unnecessarily point you out and would mind their own business, people there were quite inviting and cooperative too. It's because Pushtun over there don't want their commerce and trade to be disturbed and get it over-taken by some other force. We traveled through the market and noticed that how people would run their business. As we wandered in the bazaar, the place gave me an appearance of some place in Afghanistan. It was just like those scenes which we see in the Hollywood movies shot in Kandahar or Baghdad.

Afghani Rickshaw

I could see many old men sitting at the corner having chat in group whereas the young were busy running, driving cars or riding carts. Interesting fact which I don't know is accurate or not, but the average old age which was communicated to me was 75. The figure is quite high but I could see many over-aged people there who looked physically fit. Local people there also informed me that due to cold temperature, they would eat meat so that they could keep their body warm for good period of time. Weather in the city was quite unpredictable, it was never hot though but it would start with a shining sun and then suddenly gets too boisterous as if some cyclone has touched the city whereas drizzling was consistent for most part of the day. What turned out to be really weird though were the expensive cars I saw normal people driving. They were mostly smuggled obviously known as "Kabli Gariaan", a place where you could see Land Cruisers, different models of Corolla and Vitz in abundance. Illegal vehicle trading or NATO Army kits must be just couple out of number of businesses running across the border.

These cars were in abundance over there !

Af-Pak Border (Spinboldak - Chaman)
Interestingly due to our friend, I was not only able to learn a bit of Pushto but was also able to visit the Afghanistan Border. We were lucky enough to not get investigated at check-posts and thus we were just meters away from the Af-Pak Border. Yes, been there, done that !

Pakistan welcoming us back to homeland from "Chaman" kaye uss paar !

"za quetta ta laram, Quetta dair shao. Ku Chaman ta Quetta sa ziata shao"

1 comment:

  1. This post is even better mate! :D Great continuation to the story!
    Really liked it! :) Loved the part where you talk about those roads and mountains! :D
    Well done.