My favourite town yet – Taftan. I heard the tickets were 350 to Quetta, but checking revealed they are actually 600Rs. The trains only run on the 3rd and 17th of the month, and are apparently very slow and uncomfortable (I.e. ‘an adventure to remember’!). I was keen to get going ASAP, as the ten hour bus ride would land me in Quetta at an awkward time if we left at say…3pm. But, rather than leave at the first suggestion of 11, I threw my bags on the roof closer to 5 ensuring a truly awkward arrival time.
En-route, there were numerous stops for Namaz (prayer), some road-side stops where the whole bus wolfed down food on the carpeted floor of an open-air restaurant. The rest of the scenery was the now-familiar combination of dry, stone-covered plains and mountains rising from the horizon.
There was a moment of tension when fist-fight broke out, apparently for cultural reasons. Though even the Hazara I had befriended couldn’t really explain what was going on. The Hazara, by their own description ‘look Chinese’ and hail from Afghanistan / Pakistan and those in Australia may have heard of them due them frequently being ‘stateless’ refugees landing on our shores – a story which one of my new friends was able to tell first-hand.
Many people smoked, including the old guy next to me and the guy behind me was not keen on me putting my seat back. So I slept on the floor, which I thought was quite smart, regardless of the ash, pistachio shells and chewing tobacco that now covered half of it. It wasn’t my blanket I used to cover over all that crap ; )
At 3am we pulled into a dark, quiet alleyway in Quetta, and drove 500m past car and dog bodies down a lane before stopping. I was nervous. I got my bag off the roof, watched the bus reverse into its compound, and the crowds started to disperse into the darkness Before I knew it, I was alone with the Hazara who were already piling into a friend’s auto-rickshaw. Just as I was jumping in with them to go….somewhere…one of the bus-crew called me in to the compound to sleep on the bus. I was relieved, as this was a pretty bad situation to be in. I was so relieved and grateful that I did not want to disturb them to open the bus door to let me urinate. So I held my bladder, got a few hours sleep, then wandered out in to the morning air and to the nearest road to confirm that it really was the middle of nowhere. But, a friendly-enough middle of nowhere, where a young guy bought me breakfast!