Apr 16

When all else fails…

by in Iran, Pakistan

Reaching Quetta and enjoying a good rest was my objective after all the rough roads from Lahore, but I was under no illusion there’d be plenty more to come, not to mention the heat, desert sand and an element of danger. Real or perceived, I didn’t know. Despite the hotel being pretty basic, I managed to get my laundry done and clean Effie & I up a little. Any enthusiasm I had for sightseeing soon evaporated with sight of open sewers all over town.

Before heading to Quetta, my friend Omar had suggested avoiding the hills but I needed a change of scenery and took the road up through the Bolan Pass with great views of the desert mudbrick houses at 1,850 metres. It was a struggle in places but well worth the ride with winds & extreme heat then cold. despite 5 broken spokes and much needed maintenance after travelling for two days without brakes.  At the hotel I met up with Hayashi, a young guy riding a 110 Honda to Europe. Yashi was hoping to put his bike on a bus heading to Iran but after some discussion with transport officials it was decided he’d go the next day with me. Having a riding companion for a few days would make a nice change. I was really looking forward to a good meal but was told that because the cook was Christian and it was Easter, no meals were being prepared.  Not what I was expecting given this was a mainly Muslim country, but there you go. As tempting as the thought of barbecued lamb at a local restaurant seemed, it wasn’t enough to entice me outdoors and I made do with what I could scrounge.

I had an inkling it was going to be more difficult from Quetta onwards and geared myself up for the mandatory police escorts from there to the border. Things though went from the sublime to the ridiculous when the police escort changed 6 times within 18 kms! I hoped this wasn’t a sign of things to come! While waiting for one change at a toll plaza I made an adjustment to the magneto after experiencing a loss of power. I suggested Yashi ride on ahead so I wouldn’t slow him down but the police turned him back. Despite strong winds on the way to Nushki we’d managed 150 kms for the day. Absolutely buggered yet again, Yoshi & I snuck into a truck stop thinking we’d give the police the slip. But they discovered where we were and made us leave, insisting it wasn’t safe to spend the night in a dhaba.

We slogged on for another 30 kms and finally asked where the police post was, only to be told we’d passed it 20 kms back! That’s what happens when the escort leads from behind! By the time we got back to the police post and settled for the night we’d covered 200kms – far too much for Effie and for me. One consolation was that I had only one broken spoke to replace this time when I did my usual service. Early the next morning we headed off towards Dalbandin.

We knew the road for the first 20kms wasn’t bad given we’d already been over it twice, but as luck would have it, it soon deteriorated. With the tyres at 45 psi and no suspension it didn’t make for a good ride and there seemed to be no getting used to the horrendous conditions. The 174 kms to Nok Kundi proved to be the worst ride yet. Hayashi took a spill in the deep sand covering the road. I’m not sure how I managed to keep the FN upright, just luck most likely, but it was a constant struggle. We were told the road to Kuh-i-Taftan was going to be good, but I had to wonder. Compared to what? Only one highlight of the day and that was to have a wash at the end of the day. Water is brought into the police posts by train once a month so it’s pretty scarce everywhere. As if the day’s ride wasn’t bad enough we were hit by a sandstorm during the night. It blew inside the building and literally covered the bike.

We left Keeyi-Dailil police post with only 60 kms to go to Taftan and reached the border at 10am. It felt good to be here at last. With no semblance of order and a good deal of jostling for position on the Pakistani side, the paperwork somehow finally got cleared. It was nice to enjoy a more orderly procedure in the air-conditioned office on the Iranian side and see a real loo! A European rider was heading in the opposite direction – the first I’d seen since leaving Nepal a few months before. Customs were organized and everything went smoothly and by 1pm we were given the thumbs up.

The officials insisted they escort us all the way to Bam and wanted to ride on Yashi’s bike, but after an emphatic refusal they commandeered a local vehicle, much to the owner’s dismay.  Just two kms later the police stopped us – Yashi’s paperwork wasn’t in order. He’d changed his number plate in Pakistan for a regional one to try to blend in with the locals, without realizing that this would cause a problem that it now didn’t match his carnet. He finally got that sorted then 4 kms on we had another longer wait at an army post. There was the usual language barrier, but I got the feeling they were waiting for a donation, so we acted completely unaware. Finally we set off again, did another 4 kms and the whole process was repeated. We were beginning to become exasperated. It was also disconcerting to have soldiers put our passports in their pockets and head off. This was something I never got used to and it always caused me to feel vulnerable.

Enough was enough and we insisted we weren’t going to continue riding this way. So the police commandeered a pickup and loaded the two bikes on the back. The driver covered the next 30 kms at breakneck speed, in excess of 100kms an hour with Yashi and I on the back trying to keep the bikes from toppling over.  I could understand the annoyance of the locals who had better things to do than play taxi driver to foreigners at the whim of officials. I got the sense though that they had little choice but to comply. It was pretty frustrating for us not being able to ride the bikes ourselves but with nowhere to stay in the area we had to keep moving.

At Zahedan we came to a standstill outside the police post. We waited 15 mins then they took us 200 metres to another police post which was opposite a hotel. We went through a laborious paper shuffle then were finally free to go to our room. It was such a relief to have a hot meal of chicken and rice, a real shower at last and some privacy. Food and drink had been hard to come by since Quetta. Petrol too was hard to find as most of the trucks run on diesel. Gas is sold on a quota system so it meant finding someone we could negotiate with. Police & pump attendants sometimes clashed about giving us fuel. Fortunately I was carrying a spare 10 litres of fuel on one long stretch and it got me through. Oil was even more difficult to locate. Called something like ‘Roran’ it was sold in shops amongst other goods but there were no signs indicating where. At one stage I was forced to use the miniscule amount of oil in the two tiny oil cans on my tank bags. Just these few drops got me through.

Iranian hospitality began with being given a can of refreshing peach juice with chunks of peach inside. And later that evening in Zahedan we were invited to the home of Jalil, one of the customs officers we’d met. His generosity and good command of English made for a very pleasant evening. Jalil told us that one of the soldiers misunderstood the instruction to escort two ‘tourists’. He was terrified and sweating all the way because he thought Yoshi & I were two ‘terrorists’! Funny how one’s perspective of others can be coloured by the language we use to describe them!

With little to be seen in Zahedan we headed off next morning and it wasn’t until 50 kms before Bam that we found fuel. Here at last our passports were returned to us and our escorts deemed it safe enough to travel unescorted. Horray! The last week had been harder than I’d imagined. We’d ridden through a severe sandstorm with sand biting our faces and threatening to blow us off the road several times. During the night the sand blew into the building, entering every crevass in the bike, including the carburettor and this needed a good clean out in the morning. My belt has been shortened another notch due to lack of food. All we had one day was what I managed to hijack from the hotel breakfast table. But it wasn’t all bad. Sleeping on the floor of the last police post we were woken at 9pm with a dish of chicken and rice – a meal we accepted with grateful thanks.

From here-on in I expect the days will be easier. The hardest part is over and I’m looking forward to enjoying all Iran has to offer. I now have the freedom to stop every 50 kms and give the bike a rest. Even on good roads this journey is a big ask for a bike of this vintage. I’m amazed at how resilient Effie has proved to be. Alot has happened to me too, more than I can put on these pages. One incident that comes to mind is when Yashi & I caused a bit of a kerfuffle by picking up our passports off a hotel desk and leaving under our own steam. Next thing we knew police were chasing us, sirens going and officers pulled us to the side of the road a tad upset.  Ah well, when all else fails, just smile and say sorry – it works every time .

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19 Responses to “When all else fails…”

  1. From Franky Debaene:

    Hello Ron,
    I am folowing your trip with true admiration. I would not dare to do the same trip even with a modern bike…
    This shows again the Belgian craftmanship of the early years in the previous century. Unbelievable how much FN’s ,Sarolea, Gillet are still on the roads these days.
    Hopefully you can fulfill your dreams and journeys and maybe we’ll get a chance to meet in Belgium.
    cheers and g’day mate!

    Posted on May 4, 2012 at 5:04 pm #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Franky – Gidday mate!

      Nice to hear from you. Sorry for the delay in responding. Have been busy trying to replace my gear that was knocked off. Most things sorted now and not letting it spoil my adventure. Too many great people and experiences to let it get this old turkey down.
      Didn’t know the bikes you mentioned were Belgium made. I seem to remember the Sarolea has quite a pretty little engine?
      Certainly could meet up with you in Belgium. I would like to arrange a get together for all the blog followers and supporters in Belgium, especially those who may not get to the rally in Germany. Will keep you posted as I get closer.


      The Old Bloke

      Posted on May 13, 2012 at 11:42 am #
  2. From Tony Herd:

    Sincere congratulations on making it to Iran Ronnie & Effie. I think of all the challenges you have both faced and overcome with such grace under pressure and mechanical fortitude and I am simply awe struck.

    Not only must the human element have been most difficult, with no choice but to tinker every night with Effie’s “lady bits” just so you had half a chance of getting up and just doing it all over again the following day, but also I think back to that teensy weensy little FN crankshaft you showed me the day you left with big end and main bearing journals no thicker than my little finger and I am gob smacked as to how big a heart Effie has and the tenacity with which she faces each and every day under your wise and delicate care.
    Enjoy the time together in Iran you three.
    Love…Tony & Susie

    Posted on April 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Tony
      Always great to read your comments. Yes, Effie has surprised me with her big heart. I’ve had to do a few repairs with the help of locals in recent days, but nothing we couldn’t manage even with the most basic of equipment. Life’s good!

      Love to you and Susie
      The old bloke

      Posted on April 29, 2012 at 10:46 am #
  3. From Toine Berden:


    your adventure goes on and on, and good to hear that you and Effie are doing well.
    Good to have your privacy back as well soemtimes.
    We’re (my brother and I) are preparing for a trip from Kazachstan-Kyrgistan-Tajikistan (Pamir Highway)-Usbekistan-Kazachstan (again)-Russia- Holland. So at the “other side” of the mountain-range.
    Starting 14 juli and then 6 weeks to drive back home.

    Have a safe trip.



    Posted on April 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Toine
      Sounds like an exciting journey you’re planning with your brother through the Stans. We’re just buzzing along and enjoying the slower pace. Have had a few problems but nothing I couldn’t fix. I look forward to hearing all about your trip and hope you have great weather and a fun ride.


      Posted on April 29, 2012 at 10:38 am #
  4. From Di:

    Just catching up with your photos and after reading about your trip to Quetta and seeing the country you had to go through to get there, Its a wonder poor Effie is still going, just as well you know her so well.

    Posted on April 22, 2012 at 6:24 am #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Di
      Quetta seems like a lifetime ago. Funny how quickly it all passes. Effie & I are still going strong.

      Cheers, Ron

      Posted on April 22, 2012 at 10:30 am #
  5. From Fi Fi:

    Travelling slowly up the Pacific Hwy the other afternoon, a Goldwing glided past me. Have you thought that p’raps could’ve done your trips around the other way?!

    Posted on April 20, 2012 at 4:09 am #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Fiona

      Enjoyed the GoldWing when we had it and that trip was certainly amazing. Funny, some of the roads I’ve been over in the past few weeks remind me alot of Bolivia! Not sure Lynne would’ve been happy swapping a ride on the Honda Hilton for the back of the FN! Effie though keeps me on my toes and I like that. Stops me from getting complacent.
      The Old and happy bloke. x

      Posted on April 22, 2012 at 10:24 am #
  6. From Keith Canning:

    Following you posts when we get the chance. Great reports would love to put something in the HMCCQ magazine.
    When you get a chance a quick report and a couple of photos would be grand.
    Keith Canning

    Posted on April 20, 2012 at 1:42 am #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Keith

      Good to hear from you and know you’re following the posts. Happy for you to pass on the blog link to anyone who is interested. Lynne will forward you something for the magazine, including a couple of photos. Hope you’re all enjoying some good riding weather on the Sunshine Coast.


      Posted on April 22, 2012 at 10:03 am #
  7. From Andre de Koning:

    So good to hear, Ron, that you actually made it to Iran and Bam before you know you’ll be admiring the wonderful mosques in Tabriz or Shiraz.
    We’re suffering the rough travelling at the Cote d’Azur at the moment, but we’ll get through it.

    bon voyage through the shahr-ibani of Iran!



    Posted on April 19, 2012 at 3:20 pm #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Sounds like you’re doing it tough too Andre! There’s days when I wouldn’t have minded being where you are. One week stinking hot and the next freezing cold. There sure are some wonderful historic places to see here, including beautiful mosques. Bam was incredible even though on a very small part of it has been restored. Tragic to know that so many people died there. it’s hard to get your head around. Hope you & Barbara will still be around by the time I get to Europe. Life’s hard I know, but someone’s got to do it. Ha,ha.



      Posted on April 22, 2012 at 9:51 am #
  8. From GARY ,DI:

    dear ron and lynn you and that bike have certainly been through much more than we can even imagine. you both are proving to be very resilient do not tighten that belt anymore or else there will be nothing left of you.we hope the roads in iran are an improvement over pakistan.hope your spoke consumtion reduces how are you getting replacement tyres and tubes sizes etc stay safe all three of you love gary and di

    Posted on April 19, 2012 at 9:47 am #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Gary & Di
      Not sure whether the journey’s been harder than I imagined, but I have been surprised at just how gutsy the bike is. I have to service her daily and she just keeps on going. Spent 4 hours trying to find R clips. Had no luck and ended up fashioning something myself. It’s the one thing that seems to wear out quickly. The roads are great. Motorcyclists crazy like elsewhere, so have to keep my wits about me. I have replacement tyres arranged – coming from a supporter in Germany as soon as they’re needed. Managed to get tubes in Pakistan and spare spokes, thanks to more good friends. I don’t think I’ll have any worries about tightening my belt any more – plenty of places now to stop and eat. Life’s good.
      Take care guys,
      The Old Bloke

      Posted on April 22, 2012 at 9:41 am #
  9. From Paul Louis Venne:

    Wow. Really. You tough! Thanks, Paul

    Posted on April 19, 2012 at 6:42 am #
  10. From Paula:

    So glad you and Effie have survived the very hard yards – and with your usual good humour!
    Enjoy your time with Lynne – although pleased you’ve had some companionship along the way.
    Take good care.

    Posted on April 18, 2012 at 8:21 am #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Paula
      Yes, the hardest part seems to be behind me now. I’m enjoying a more relaxed ride and doing some sight seeing along the way. Effie’s done an amazing job despite the conditions. Looking forward to Lynne joining me soon – we’ve lots of adventures ahead of us in the coming months. Hope Brandon’s doing well in Sydney.

      Love you Sis,
      Ron xx

      Posted on April 22, 2012 at 9:29 am #

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