Escort from Quetta to Peshawar

It’s time to say goodbye to Quetta. It was short, it was tiresome, it was enough. Enough with the escort, the protection, the VIP treatment. Moving on. But first, SHELL! 

Out of Quetta

Even though I despise Shell (if any company invented greenwashing, it must be Shell) we are happy for Alexine as the gasoline here will be better than when buying it at the side of the road in a jerrycan. Unfortunately for us we cannot pay by card here and one tank costs about €40,- which is around 9.500 Rupees. And of course the maximum amount of withdrawal at an ATM is 20k rupees. You do the math. 

First switch done after 10 minutes. In the city we do many switches of police protection because of their jurisdictions. “You follow this car now and we provide protection all to the Beluchistan border” one of the officers tells us. They are all very kind and relaxed. For us it’s just very interesting and a bit annoying. Annoying because we have to follow in their speed, their driving style. And it costs a lot of time. Today again we have some 400km’s to go with escort. That’s a long way and a lot of changes. In Quetta it’s not as bad as it was yesterday night btw. We change only two times and are out of the city. All very kind and driving quite alright. 

Ignoring me, Milene

It often happens that men don’t talk to me, they barely look at me. Ok, not all men of course but some just ignore me. They talk to Yuri: “your wife is Christian?” “Your wife this?” “Your wife that?”

I’m the wife, of course and I am sitting right here. To make them look at me I just open my mouth when they refer to me as ‘the wife’. “Is your wife also from the Netherlands” “Yes, I am” and suddenly they notice me. They smile and continue talking to Yuri.

Although, sometimes I get their attention 😉

And into the countryside

After multiple changes we enter the countryside. Instead of unfinished buildings there are tents within compounds and muddy buildings. The mountains are bare and the landscape is empty. The road is full though. Full with traffic and we are behind the slowest one on it. 40 or 50km’s/h which is of course not enough if we ever want to get out of Beluchistan. Telling him to drive faster does not help. He grins and tells us to stay behind him. I’ve got a feeling that this is going to be a very long day… again. 

“Can we go faster?” “No we can’t!” “Why not?” “Because you’ll be waiting, because we have no people”. So we keep driving 50km/h for the rest of the day and will end up in Zorb around Christmas. 

Arrival in Zorb

It took us 7 hours to drive 320km’s to Zorb. But we have arrived! It’s 8 o’clock and it’s already dark. We are close behind a police vehicle and zigzag our way through the tiny and busy streets of the cities. Vendors are out, motorcycle everywhere and lots of dust. We move in colonne and while my eyes are quite tired I do enjoy driving through the hectic of the city. Barbers everywhere, stalls with delicious fruits and people sitting on plastic chairs chatting the night away. It looks like a nice city. “But it’s not safe for you” the police officer reminds me. Staying in a hotel here isn’t even safe so they bring us to the police station. But that police station is nowhere to be found and before we know it we have exited the city.

It’s getting darker and darker, in the distance thunder is raging and my eyes are numb from being tired. But we keep going. Switch cars again and move on. Further and further away from the city. 

Then we stop again. Police officers come to us and ask for our passports. It’s 9:30 already and I’m tired of this. He takes a photo of the passport and as always a photo of us. Often accompanied with a selfie. We’ve taken hundreds of photos like this already. I wonder what happens with them. Do they have a WhatsApp group where they share the photos and laugh about our smiles slowly disappearing and our eyes closing? Well not me! I keep a big smile. It’s an adventure and not the destination but the journey matters.

The police station turned into a refugee centre

But that journey takes very long. We are once again stopped by police to check our passports, takes selfies and so on. “Now you’re free. In 20km’s you see a police station, you can stay there”. I’m flabbergasted. It’s 22:15 and suddenly they think we’re good to go. It might be safe regarding a terrorist grouping that wants to attack us, but my eyes and my body is telling me it’s not safe to drive as tired as we are. And it’s pitch black! We don’t know the road and don’t know where to go. After holding us down the whole day, making us go so slow that we reached here so late and now they wave us off? We are too tired to argue and just go. The Italian motor bike, Claudio, is behind us. The road is wet and soon the rain starts. I’m sure it’s a beautiful area we drive through but we can’t see anything because of the darkness. It takes long and it’s a bit scary. Oncoming traffic has lights that blinds us completely, the road is wet and unknown and we actually never drive at night so it’s isn’t ideal but we do it anyway. After half an hour (20km’s? Right…) and 17 changes of police officers, I pullover at something that looks like a castle but is a police station. 

“We have a problem. We are full. There are 250 people here already” the police officer tells me. I don’t care, I’m not moving any further. “We can stay in the car.” That’s fine, thus we move Alexine to the back of the building where we are welcomed by many people. They all want a selfie with us, not the right time so I tell them kindly I’m going to sleep. The building is full with refugees from Afghanistan. “They have no passport so we are waiting to deport them back to Afghanistan” the officer tells me. I try to make him understand that Afghanistan is not a safe place for them and they should be given refuge. “They have no passport” he keeps telling me. It’s like talking to a Dutch government official. These are the rules and everyone, no matter the horrific situation back home, has to obey. Tiresome!

I look into the eyes of the hundreds of refugees staying here and see recognition. While I’m tired of two days driving, they are tired of their journey as well. And while I’m choosing this out of free will, they are forced into it. No one tells me to go home but they will be pushed back home even though it is not a safe place. Men, women, children… they’re all stuck here waiting to be deported. And I feel silly. Silly for complaining the journey takes so long, for being too tired to have a selfie made, for making a fuzz at the gate when they didn’t let us enter. It’s my job, I always work with refugees, I hear their stories and they take a piece of my heart with them. But I never get used to it, it always hurts, seeing them deprived from everything they have and still treated as lesser human beings. And it doesn’t matter where they are from, their religion, their looks. It happened to Jewish people in WWII, when nobody wanted them and it happens now with Afghans, Syrians, Yemenis. And it doesn’t matter where people flee to; Greece, Pakistan, Colombia. And with these sad thoughts I fall into a deep sleep. To be waken up by 5:30 when a little baby starts crying… 

Love, Milene & Yuri

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