12th November 2010 – 288 miles
Today, we experienced the worst kind of terrain imaginable. The Lonely Planet states “the road from Quetta to DG Khan in Punjab is little used and is a direct and adventurous route. You’re likely to attract the attention of the police should you show up here – we were advised against taking this route …” – and boy were they so right!
After Loralai (“bustling with bushy beards and huge turbans …, although there are plenty of guns on display and several travellers have reported feeling less than welcome here” – LP), there were no real roads to speak of. Thankfully, our Landrover Defender took this terrain in its stride.
As if this was not bad enough, we arrived at the border between Balochistan and Punjab at sunset to be told that we would not be let through unless we could produce a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Interior Ministry in Islamabad. You see, unbeknown to us (despite supplying a full itinerary of our journey to the High Commission for Pakistan who I am informed duely forwarded this on to the Interior Ministry), our onward journey to Dera Ghazi Khan was (unofficially) inaccessible to foreigners. Why? The area is “a highly sensitive military zone“.
Having arrived there on a Friday night, we were not going to get an NOC issued (if at all) until Monday and turning back was not an option – this would add at least three days to our journey to by-pass DG Khan.
Short of causing a diplomatic incident (by the way, the British High Commission were less than helpful in this regard), Islamic Relief tirelessly pulled a lot of strings on our behalf.
With support from the local police chief, high ranking politicians and district ministers, we were informed to come back again the following morning.
In the meantime, accommodation was arranged (by one of the ministers) at a local landowner’s residence, Tariq Khan, as his guest. At this point, we were all emotionally, physically and mentally drained and retired to bed in the clothes that we were wearing that day, in the hope that we would be granted entry to the Punjab the following day…