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Hotelnet: Mon 19:45

Monday, 11 October, 2010 19:45

Currently at lat/long: n29 5.351 e58 19.574

Hotel Azadi, Bam, IR

Last night, the guy at Akbar's (Akbar himself?) reported that a couple of Dootchmen had been there a few nights before, gone out for a meal and one of them came back sick. He was sick for a couple of days then found his eyesight had been diminished rather dramatically. They sent him to an eye specialist who packed him off home! Can't see, can't ride. His bike on a truck, the other guy riding home. I didn't recognise the names but it seems it was the Frieslanders. That's a real shame as they were nice guys -- and rather selfishly I'd been looking for news of the road ahead. I hope they get another chance to live their dream.

I paid cash and did a runner, as someone once said, getting a police escort from the Guest House (where you don't like your guests) to the Arg, the mud-brick citadel destroyed in the 2003 earthquake. Getting the police escort involved loitering around for an hour entertaining a small kid who seemed rather more impressed with the plastic on the knuckles of my gloves than anything else. Up at the Arg I was directed to park inside then, unbeknownst to me, the police buggered off.

The Arg looks as though it was once quite magnificent, a mud-brick version of a crusader castle (based on the curvy proportions of the one crusader castles I've seen). And huge, too. Now, though, it is something of a mixed bag. I can only presume that the bits that look as though they've survived are completely new -- which does include the main fort (I think) which swirls up the central hill. I say I think as there was a plan of the citadel on the outside but no clues on the inside.

The rest is much like a stone castle ruin, bits of wall here and there, the outline of buildings, the odd roof. Some bits are being held up by wooden posts to preserve the remains of a roof or wall, others by wooden posts to demonstrate how they lay afterwards (there is surprisingly little rubble). A lot of the remains seem to have been damaged by water. I guess, only the outer surfaces had water protection so if that went in the earthquake then the internal walls became quickly susceptible.

One small consolation for the observer now is that with the loss of most of the structure you can see across areas and get a feel for how much complexity there was.

That's nothing compared to the loss of 31,000 lives, of course, but that sort of devastation is pretty incomprehensible to most of us.

I went looking for my police escort (who'd gone) and was stopped by the police guys at the gate. I assume they were police as they police wear a mix of police uniforms or military garb depending on, I don't know what. Another 30 minute wait. A (plain clothes) guy turned up and asked if I was headed for Kerman (back into Iran) or Zahedan (towards Pakistan). Neither, I'd like to go to the only other accommodation in town, the Hotel Azadi. No problem (I think he was grateful not to have to do the escort bit out of town). The Azadi turns out to be a 4* hotel, quite a change.

I had some lunch -- other than breakfast and some nuts I didn't eat yesterday, and a vital snooze. I left the bike in the sun while registering then left the room key on the seat while unpacking. The room key was took hot to hold and the bike later claimed (when the display returned to normal in the evening) that in the sun it was 52C. Nice. The evening temperature at ~6pm was 27C which had a slight chill feel to it!

I'm sat here in the lobby on Hotelnet having had coffee and coffee creme biscuits with the guy on duty. I was asked to put my bike in the lobby for security so it's sat 10 yds away as a backdrop to the comfy chairs. I don't recall any other 4* hotel offering me that privilege.

Tomorrow I head to Zahedan which I imagine will be devoid of phone signal or Internet access. I might be lucky though. It'll be police escorts all the way. Hopefully, each segment lasting slightly longer than the ones yesterday but there's no reason to suspect so.

After that, I cross the border on the 13th and onto Quetta in Pakistan. There won't be much of any communications on that road -- there is only one fuel stop in the ~700km and it is from drums -- and I don't know how long it'll take: one very long day (I don't think we're talking about EU-quality roads, here) or a couple of days with a stop at the fuel point.

With the Frieslanders not able to give a report and I've not heard from anyone else recently, I don't know what's going to happen next. Those of you who keep awake during the foreign section of the news will note there's been NATO fuel trucks set alight in Quetta itself (great) and down the road towards Sukkur and there was a mosque bombed in Karachi last week. I imagine, then, the police will be a bit jumpy and insist on an escort all the way to Lahore (which is hardly out of the news itself in this regard) which will be a bit of a bore but there's no use fighting it.

I can understand the police's point of view -- they don't want anything to happen to a tourist on their manor -- but the mechanism by which they've managed it to date is laughable. If I were an insurgent, I'd target where they make tourists wait half an hour or more at the roadside whilst the next escort is arranged. It's not done in advance or even whilst the current escort is moving. Unless it is done in advance and yet they are still that slow at responding...

Ho hum. Anyway, I guess there'll be no updates for a few days. You can all have a couple of days off!

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