a few comments that might help :
- there has always been a lot of fuss about the Wagah/Atari border. First, this border has been open just very briefly (I believe end of 1999/beginning of 2000) for Pakistani and Indian nationals, and I guess this is part of the confusion. Apart from that, it has --as far as we know-- always been open for foreigners. Lots of mis-information circling about this border. EVEN (!) by Indian and Pakistani Embassies in other countries. A Swiss guy we met in Ladakh (Northern India) shipped his bike from Iran to Dubai and on to Mumbai because of the Indian Embassy in Teheran saying this border was closed. This was May or June 2002, at the height of the last tension between Pakistan and India. We crossed on 23 June and and recrossed on 12 August 2002. After June 23rd we were in Northern Pakistan for 6 weeks and met people every week who had just come accross from India with no problem whatsoever.
When we recrossed in August, we asked extensively at the Indian side if they EVER closed, and the answer was "no". Not on public holidays (not even on Independence Day), nor on any other day when the tension was running high. Not in 1999 (high tension in June/July), nor in 2002 (high tension in May/June, when we were in the area).
(besides: we even applied for our Indian visas in Islamabad when the Ambassador had been recalled to India and only a handful of staff were left in the immense building)
My advise : try to get LOCAL FIRSTHAND information e.g. as a message on the Thorn Tree on http:///www.lonelyplanet.com
, or from others in the immediate area. Crossing by foot or by vehicle makes no difference : open = open.
- Taftan to Quetta is a good tarmac road except for a wandering dune at some 70 kms from the Taftan border. Sometimes the dune is small, sometimes it's huge and all traffic gets stuck.
1. do slow down for the speedbumps at the rialway crossings !!! They are massive and always two in a row on either side !
2. watch out for the metal wire hanging loose across the road WITHOUT any flags (!) at a checkpoint somewhere between Nushki and Kardagap.
Lodging is available at Taftan (PTDC, expensive for what it is), at Yakmach (small hotel on the road side), 20 kms beyond Dalbandin (on the road side, big new motel/restaurant type of building), and I think at Nushki.
Smuggled fuel from Iran is available all along, from big drums. Prices slowly rise towards Quetta. Last station is 12 kms before major cross road Karachi/Quetta. Quality is the same as in Iran : lowish octane, a bit dirty, but with not-too-high compression ratio and fuel filters installed in our fuel lines, we managed fine.
- Quetta to Loralai can be done via two roads :
1. via Ziarat : we rode this one in 1999 and it had some 150 kms of "river bed" type of road. Harsh ! Not sure if it's still in this state - they were working on it at the time.
2. via Muslim(a)bagh : that's the one we took now. Turn left at the checkpoint where you have to register in Kanai (straight/right is to Ziarat). 1 km after the truckstop of Qila Saifullah, you have to turn right to Loralai (straight on is to Zhob on the road which is not allowed for foreigners). All tarmac, most in good condition though sometimes narrow, and very beautiful.
From Quetta towards both of these roads :
- direction airport and Kandahar (direction Afghanistan)
- at km 25, turn right IN the main bazar (no signage)
- at km 52 = checkpoint Kanai : turn either left or straight/right (see above)
- at km 180 on "Muslim(a)bagh-road" there's the turn off to the right for Loralai.
But there's another 3 parts of the journey in eastern direction which you won't forget easily :
- the crossing of the Suleiman Range : very narrow, LOTS of trucks in either direction, some fast pick-ups driving you off the road. After having crossed this range three times now, we found these 30-40 kms the toughest and the most nerve recking in Pakistan;
- riding through the centre of Dera Ghazi Khan;
- and riding through Lahore (plus doing it in 45°C).
After surviving these, you're ready for India...
Good luck to all travelling in this beautiful and extremely friendly country !
Iris and Trui
2 belgian women, often travelling on motorbikes (now on DR650SE's)
2nd overland from home to Northern India and back, April-October 2002
[This message has been edited by iris_trui (edited 30 April 2003).]