Maxing out the stress levels

We had decided we were going to truck the tuk tuk from Lahore to the border town of Taftan so that we wouldn’t be screaming out to the kidnappers in Balochistan with our new bells, whistles, and spinning propellers.

We still didn’t know whether to take the bus ourselves, or rent a car from Quetta, because sometimes busses are stopped and those unliked would either be killed or kidnapped, and the rent a car is much more expensive. Our funds are quickly running out because of everything, and we don’t even have the money to pay for the ‘translator’ in Iran anymore.

The night before however, our contact down in Karachi had insisted it would be worth going there with the tuk tuk because of the media coverage, so we decided to leave Lahore at 5 am to head down south. We were going to truck our tuk tuk from there and head to Quetta with the bus, and at some point make a decision about how to go on from there.

Karachi is 1235Km from Lahore, so we were told to stay the night at Sukkur, which was a 777 km drive. Apparently it would be best that way since no safe place would be in between. This was one hell of ride in the heat, and all three of us were already showing signs of a breakdown.

At one point we stopped to buy some drinks in front of a shop that was of course closed, and upon turning the ignition to continue, our tuk tuk said absolutely nothing. The elecrtics were busted.

Pyry opened up the dashboard to follow the leads, and after the short detective work he noticed one of the battery cables had detached from the engine. It’s an easy fix if you know what to do and where to put it, but neither of course had the slightest idea.

Within minutes we had helpful Pakistanis looking over our shoulder, and one called us a mechanic. Within 20 minutes it was fixed, we were wiser, and an 8 man band came with their even smaller three wheeler called Qingqi, to say hello and take some pictures.

8 man band

Then our speedometer broke, but Pyry managed to fix it with some more detective work. The local over-the-shoulder helpers and one don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-but-I-want-to-poke-things helper gave Pyry looks of acceptance as he jacked up the tuk tuk and got his hands dirty.

The engine had also started making a weird noise, so we checked everything we could, but nothing helped. We were in desperate need of a mechanic, but we also needed to make it to Sukkur.

All we could do was drive, and hope that we’d make it to Karachi the next day as we we’re told it would be best to get all the way there before stopping for the mechanic.

This only raised the stress levels. We didn’t want to breakdown in the worlds most dangerous area, we are running out of money, and we didn’t really have time to fix everything either. This was the time we thought to ourselves that we really are in deep cotton flowers. We were truly hoping that the strange works of Allah would produce us some kind of miracle.

Driving along we had to slow down because everything started shaking when going over 70km/h. We googled what we could and came to the conclusion that it was either a faulty spark plug or then transmission fluid. With 225 km to go, 1 hour of daylight left, and no hope in sight, we decided to check the spark plugs since it was quick and easy.

After starting up again, Pyry accelerated to 70 to see if it had helped, and the shaking began again. Now we were almost certain it was the transmission.

Within ten seconds of this thought we heard a loud BANG and felt the tuk tuk shake like crazy, and as we pulled over and looked back we could see our crankshaft tumbling on the road with many smaller pieces of metal spreading out. Oh cotton flowers we thought to ourselves, realising we just had a major breakdown somewhere in the middle of Pakistan. There was no chance of us going anywhere.

With this, all our plans, all our hurry, and all our stress

vanished.

crankshaft

The beauty of a force majure is that there is absolutely nothing to do but to make the best of it, so with a smile on our faces we pulled out the camera to record this predicament we had gotten ourselves into.

In the time of need friendship is weighed, and Pakistan in spite of all we were told, turned a friendly hand. People helped to gather the broken pieces, one helped to call the help line where no one answered, and within minutes a police car came to tow us to the nearest mechanic.

That mechanic could not help since we needed spare parts, so as the beautiful sun was setting we were taken to a gas station where we were fed, bathed, and offered a place to sleep.

On the back yard of the gas station, next to fields of sweet cotton and soft sugarcane, we had a fan, two beds, and our personal sniper on the roof to keep all three of us safe.

While looking up at the stars with a huge smile on our faces, our eyes closed into the first relaxed sleep we have had in a long long time.

Ins’Allah.

Up ‘n’ Down in Pakistan

Our timetable had been set by the media company that had been issuing our Iranian visas time after time. We were to get our visas from Islamabad on Monday the 14th of July.

Three weeks had gone by with numerous attempts to obtain the visas at the Iranian Embassy in Delhi, but because of the incompetence of the media company they were unable to give us the reference numbers and every attempt had been in vain. That’s why we had asked for them to be sent to the Embassy in Islamabad.

We drove from Lahore to Islamabad with a little detour to see the Himalayas on the Pakistani side. Less than 100Km North from Islamabad there is a place called Murree, which turned out to be a tourist haven for the locals. Murree is an ideallic town on the mountaintop with hotels starting from 30 bucks a day upwards, actually they all started around 100 bucks, but most came down to 30-45 USD in hopes that we would stay.

We ended up going back to the first hotel that had come all the way down to 25 dollars, but this time the manager was there and he refused to take us in. Apparently this side of the mountain was off limits to foreigners. Taking it as a clear sign we put our hill-trike in neutral and slalomed down a total of 35Km with the engine off.

Murre Mountains

We stopped along the way to buy a few Kashmir and Pashmina scarfs, since this is as close as we would get to Jammu and Kashmir. The price of each scarf was a nice 5 USD, so we bough 6 to bring home to the women of the family. Then we found ourselves a nice place to sleep in the historical town of Rawalpindi.

The next morning we headed off to the rickshaw-denying capital of Islamabad with a taxi, and went to get our Iranian visas from the Embassy. This diplomatic enclave was from a different world, as cars and pedestrians were not allowed, and a shuttle service was used to bring people to their corresponding Embassies.

Once at the Embassy, excited to finally receive our visas, we knocked on the small iron window that was head height in the huge stone wall. Above us NATO-wire was leaning over us and riflemen were fixing themselves a fan. It seemed a little overdoing the security in this diplomatic enclave, but illusions have to be kept up somehow, and who know’s, maybe we just don’t see all the danger lurking around every corner here. We only seem to see good hearted, exceptionally welcoming people inside all of these so called terrorists.

As the iron window cracked open, a man who spoke no English asked us once again for the reference numbers. We tried to explain that we were told we don’t need them so please ask a superior about our visas. He asked us to wait and he shut himself inside the fortress.

Every once in a while we knocked on the window to ask about progress and to pressure him into calling the media company like we were asked, but all he wanted was the reference numbers and refused to help in any other way. We tried 4 hours to get the visas in the scorching sun, but were denied once again.

This was the fourth time we were told to go to the Iranian Embassy to receive the visas, and the fourth time it was in vain. We were told by the media company that the visas they had nicely issued us were for only 4 days starting from the 19th, so not receiving them that Monday meant we were really in a hurry.

Pulling our hair in frustration and sending emails to the media company in Iran as well as the counsellor in Helsinki, we decided to use this setback once again to our advantage. Not leaving Islamabad that Monday gave us a chance to visit the World This Morning, PTV:s morning show on Tuesday. It was a great way to start a new day and the hosts Maha and Shazhad were amazingly nice. Here’s the link to the video if you are interested to see it.

It was the most relaxed 45 minutes I’ve ever had in front of cameras and after the show we had a little chat with the crew. One nice lady taught us more about Ramadan and the Islamic religion.

Muslims are apparently compelled to help other human beings, which is something that we have noticed here time after time. Human rights is apparently a big issue in Islam, since everyone should be respected. The idea of Ramadan rooting from natural ways was not too far off, but it was deepened by the fact that the fasting is also done so that everyone knows what it feels like to be poor and without food.

Ramadan is to remind all to share food, and during Ramadan there are special street food restaurants that offer food for free to all those who want it. Mostly the poor go there to eat, but we too had a chance to check one out later that day. Also during Ramadan, all good deeds are seen as twice their worth in the eyes of Allah which is logical, since when hungry, it is twice as difficult to be a good person.

During this conversation we got a call from the Iranian counsellor from the Embassy in Islamabad that the visas would be ready to be picked up as soon as we bring back the receipt of visa payment for 11,500 rupees each. We left straight away and Shazhad was kind enough to take us there with his government licence plate car so we could enter the diplomatic enclave without the shuttle service. This meant that we had an Urdu speaking man with us so we were almost certain we were going to get the visas this time.

We knocked on the iron window once again, and listened as Urdu was being spoken in front of us. We were denied the visas because the receipt should say 11,600 rupees instead of 11,500. We had been advised incorrectly over the telephone.

We hopped back in Shazads car and headed to the nearest bank to deposit the rest of the money. Seemed once again pathetic to still be running around for these visas, but bureaucracy is bureaucracy and money doesn’t move by itself.

Once we returned with the 2 USD receipt, we were asked to return the following day at 2pm. There was nothing to stop them from issuing the visas then and there, but instead they’d rather practice pure idioreaucracy.

Thankfully Shazhad was nice and took us to his home to eat his mothers tasty dishes and offered us a hot shower. He also took us to hang out with his friends at the comfiest bachelor pad I’ve been in for a long time. It didn’t take long for us to power up the X-box with the new Fifa and immerse ourselves into hard core gaming.

Pro Evolution Soccer, or PES as we call it, has been ‘The Game’ for us for decades. They had no PES, so we took the challenge and plunged ourselves in to it’s rival FIFA. To tell you the truth, due to this instance, I may have been turned into a Fifa player after wholeheartedly dissing it for years. I must admit the new FIFA is better than the new PES, and it might be because FIFA bought the programmers of PES a few years back and they seem to be the genius behind the game.

So it happened that for the first time during this voyage I forgot I was travelling. I forgot I was in Pakistan, I forgot I had a tuk tuk, and I forgot I wasn’t with my own homies back in Finland. I was deeply touched to find exactly same setting in Pakistan that I’ve found in Finland, Brazil, Thailand and all countries I have ever visited with such natural and comfortable rapport. This is a universal language, and Pakistan is no different.

That evening we went to eat at the street kitchen that makes food for the poor, and once again it was a wonderful experience.

Ramadan streetfood

We did make a huge mistake though, an emämunaus as they say in Finland, by eating the food once it was given to us. We were told to eat so we broke our fast and thought everyone was just amazed that two foreigners were eating with the poor. Then we quickly realised that it’s not after 7 that the fast is broken, but after the muezzins prayer.

It’s hilarious to go through the footage as it is so clear that only one man is eating, which is Pyry, and being so hungry that he is oblivious to noticing the other 100 people staring at him in dismay. The good thing is that learning the hard way makes the info stick.

On Wednesday we returned to that ever shrinking gap in the fortress wall in the hopes of finally receiving our Iranian visas. Finally after nearly a month of wasting money in vain we got the visas. We had been informed falsely once again as they were not issued for only 4 days, but instead for seven days within a ten day period from that day.

This gave us the benefit of the doubt for losing the few days, but we still only had ten days to drive 5000Km, through the scorching desert from Islamabad to Turkey and it was already afternoon. There was no point in leaving into the darkness, so we did an interview with a nice journalist called Shiraz, who took us out to see the old town of Rawalpindi. Here’s a link to the article.

On Thursday we woke up early to get a head start to the day. All three of us were really tired, stressed from the situation, and maxing out our performance. It was still open on which measures we would cross the dangers of Balochistan, and the media company from Iran decided to boost up prices for the compulsory ‘translator’ from a 450USD a day to nearly 700 USD a day plus flights plus this plus that.

Not knowing what else to do we drove to Lahore. On the way we decided to make ourselves feel better by stopping at one of the local pimp my truck shops and giving our third wheel a makeover. Now our Vehicle of Peace is tuned up Pakistani style, though it’s still no match for the local trucks.

Aman ke sawaree - Vehicle of Peace

Aman ke sawaree – Vehicle of Peace

By evening time we had arrived back to our friends at the plant nursery, and after breaking fast headed straight into another TV-interview. We were finally asleep by midnight.

Chapter 5: Playing Sharades in Hunger

The winding pot whole roads of the Himalayas teamed with beautiful scenery really made our maiden do the work. She carries our luggage on the roof adding an extra wiggle to the move, and she really needed a fix.

We drove to the Wagha border with our squeaking ride and getting out of India was a breeze. Within 2 hours we were stamped out, thoroughly searched and even a lovely dog came to greet us.

The dog sniffed our places and even said hello to our tuk tuk by jumping on the back seat to feel what it’s like to sit in the one and only, busted up rack we call our tuk tuk. Unfortunately there were no treats to go home with this time.

Then we drove through the stadium where people come to watch the famous Wagha border closing ceremony, with its drink stands and fast food stalls waiting for the crowd. Everything was closed because this is a bad time for food business during daylight hours since this is the time of Ramadan.

Ramadan means fasting, even without drinking for 30 days during the time that Allah can see. This means during the time the sun shines brightly.

At first I thought it’s idiotic to do this during the hottest time of year when its at least 45 degrees in the dry desert with dust everywhere because it seems like suicide. But there’s always a reason behind everything, and after spending 2 days trying it out myself I started thinking.

This is probably the time of year when in the days before, food has been scarce and water has been nowhere to be found. Everything has needed to be rationed to survive through this roughest month.

The good thing about the human body is that when it gets used hunger, it takes in nutrients from food much more effectively, and so eating only at night means less food is needed. This is also why anorectics stay alive.

The not drinking water is different though, but it too is most likely a resonant of a time long gone. Multinational companies have not been around for too long so bottled water was not a given, and naturally there is barely any drinkable water here during this time of year. There is a tribe in the deserts of Africa, at least there used to be, that never drink water as to not get used to it, and I think Ramadan has the same idea.

The hunger and thirst means that people are easily agitated, and simple everyday things seem much more difficult physically and mentally. Spirits need to be kept up somehow and that’s where the praying comes in. People pray everyday, most likely to keep up the will to survive, so they don’t start dying of thirst and hunger. As long as there is a will to survive, the way will be found.

This is all my logical reasoning about Ramadan and I may be way off, so don’t take it as fact, but to me this is good enough to accept Ramadan as not being idiotic.

The best part about this festival came right at the beginning, when we drove to the Pakistan side of the border. Everyone was hungry which meant that everyone was more difficult than usually, but staying persistent, we slipped through like butter since they had no energy to stay difficult. Everything happened as fast as possible with the slow motion of hunger, because they wanted us to leave as quickly as possible so they could go back to doing nothing.

When we got to Lahore on the first day we tried to find a local sim for ourselves so we could call our contact. This turned out to be more difficult than we thought because here they need a local national identification card number, and the Mothers maiden name, as well as birth dates etc. etc. to make sure no unworthy person is given a registered Sim card. We had none of this info so we didn’t get too far.

We did however manage to call up our contact from a mobile shop and he of course happened to be out of town. He did however call a friend, who called a friend, and we ended up following a weaving motorbike through Pakistani traffic to a place called Gulberg II.

We slept on the comfortable floor in a hut in the middle of a plant shop with greenery all around. The guys who work there sleep on the outside because it’s cooler, and they are super nice. They showed us some local places to eat once 7 pm had come and immediately we started bonding.

The next morning they called us a mechanic who fixed our dancing partner back into a sturdy speedster, and we got some time to spend with the boys. Everyone wanted to communicate, but they spoke no English and we spoke no Urdu. This meant a lot of plaing sherades, trying to communicate through gestures, facial expressions and pointing. It was visibly clear that people were actively thinking about how to show, rather than how to say, even if it was someone else that wanted to say something. We had a blast together and they took us into the family with locking fingers before we headed north to Islamabad.

We were to get our Iran visas there, but for some reason our travel agency failed to do their job once again. All they have needed to give us for the last month is one simple reference number, but for some reason they refuse to give it even though the visas are already waiting.

On the plus side we had time to visit Murree in the mountains, and tomorrow morning we will have an interview at Pakistan World This Morning. Apparently it will be broadcasted to almost all Pakistani households, which means maybe 200,000,000 viewers. Pakistan has 250,000,000 people so it’s a rough guess.

We are once again in the middle of a visa battle, and once again it’s turned out to be a good thing. Pakistanis are mostly greatly hospitable people, sometimes almost to the point where a humble Finnish person gets a little uneasy, but at least it has been good to our budget and we’ve received lot’s of great food and good conversations, and many brothers. Sisters seem to be a little more difficult to meet in this country.

Tomorrow is a new day, and let’s see what it brings.

Road Tripping in the Himalayas

Before heading to Pakistan we took a small detour to the Himalayas. After all, we wanted to test if our three wheeled tiger could find her inner mountain goat.

On Sunday we set Manali as our destination and headed north. We did nicely and the road was straight, wide and in good shape. The only problem was that our horn broke.

When we started from Delhi it was working, then after a few beeps it silenced. Suddenly I realised that what had at first been an annoying and uncomfortable noise, had become a life dangering, missing safety device because horning is the lingua franca of indian roads. People are horning all the time. I’m here, I’m coming through, get out of my way, I’m overtaking on a mountain curve so move out, is someone there, I like your tuk tuk etc, etc. Thanks to the high tech machinery inside Pyry’s brain, he managed to connect the two wires that had come off during the bumps.

On the first day we drove half way, about 350 km, and the next day we started at 10 am. After driving 50 km we saw the foothills and that’s when the road started to get scruffy. It was full of potholes and in many parts under construction. It took us 6 hours to get to the beginning of the real mountain road, which luckily was in excellent shape.

It wove up the Himalayas revealing one breathtaking view after another. Pyry was deep in the zone for a whopping 5 hours steering us higher and higher into the Himalayas, but we had lost too much time, and darkness fell upon us.

Then came the sheep.

024

It took us nearly an hour to get through the sheep, but we made it.

Vashist gave us rest in magnificent scenery and a high flying experience. We met a couple of guys after hiking to swim at the waterfalls, and they happened to be paragliders, so they took us for a flight.

025

On the morning of departure we visited the shiva temple for a hot bath, to warm ourselves before packing everything again. Pyry tried to fix the gasoline meter and engine temperature gauge, but they seem to need a rocket scientist, not a circus artist.

Before heading off we got a chance to exhibit our Thai Tuk Tuk to Thai Baba.

He is the guardian of the fire, making sure the tea keeps coming and the chillum keeps burning. Thai Baba is an old Thai man who lives on the corner of the Shiva Temple and shares everything he is given. Materialistically the man has nothing, but people do not come to this shaman for riches and gold, they come for the spirit. The man radiates positive, loving energy and his spirit rubs off everyone that comes around. Maybe that’s why they call him spiritual.

Thai Baba Then we headed off to Amritsar.

A tuk tuk loaded with stuff on the roof is not the best mountain snake so we decided to take it easy and enjoy the ride. This has been a perfect day and a perfect route for a road trip. Rolling easily on well paved Himalayan roads is what road tripping is all about.

1 2 3 4 5 kaiteellajuho6 7 8 9 10 11

Now we have taken shelter in the village where the Dalai Lama sleeps. Tomorrow we go to Lahore.

END OF CHAPTER 4

To Mumbai and Back in 6 days

Mumbai

Mumbai

That is Mumbai, but we’re in Delhi again. This quick journey South turned out to be semi-epic.

After having dinner and learning about the Sikh religion, we returned to the hotel turbanised and gifted. We received holy turbans, wristlets, prayer chains and a holy Sikh blade as well as tons of information about a different spiritual culture.

‘A beard is a gift you give your face. And a passport to awesome’

The Sikh are warrior spirits, and in the time before, they used to take off their protective turbans only for battle. They realised that the hair makes the head look larger, and therefore in the eyes of the enemy they seem more fierce. That means the power lies in the facial hair, and that a man without a beard is like a lion without it’s mane.

With power comes corruption, and therefore the metal wristlet on my right wrist (sword hand) is there to remind me not to use the hand for evil. An evil hand used for personal gain will not accomplish content in life, instead a protective hand will always protect the content in life.

The turban around my head protects my hair, my ears, and if necessary, my face. It is surprisingly good while riding the tuk tuk on the dusty roads.

The prayer chain is used to pray in the mornings, and each bead is given the intent, ‘Wah, hey, guru’, ecstasy beyond words, to remind the mind to think positively.

And the sword is carried at all times as a symbol of willpower and purification.

Just before learning all this, while waiting for our new brothers to come pick us up, we got a phone call from our Pakistan counsellor friend. Our visas had been approved, and we were to be back in Delhi asap. I received an email later that started with the words, Dear brother Pyry. I think this is the most peaceful way of starting a letter, and it should be used more ofter.

The next morning, after the lovely dinner, we contemplated whether to cancel the shipping and drive through Pakistan, or continue with it and go by foot. The shipping company had already started the shipping procedure and there were still so many question marks concerning Pakistan.

We tried to contact everyone we knew to get all possible information, but we couldn’t reach anyone. Juho was set on shipping, but Pyry was set on driving. We decided to see what the shipping company had to say.

Turned out that the shipping company had already ordered the container so there would be charges, but luckily the customs had not been started yet. This didn’t lean to either side, so we still didn’t know what to do. Then something unexpected happened.

Mustafa, the shipping agent, a man from India, told us to drive through Pakistan. This was an act of humanity, because it was against personal gain. Mustafa said that shipping is always and option, but driving through Pakistan is what our project is about. He encouraged us to fight on, no matter what happens. We will make it through driving, and fulfil this once in a lifetime dream the way it should be done. We should at least try, because if all else fails, shipping is always an option.

This was a clear decision, and something opened up in us. Teary eyed from the kind gesture, we offered to pay the charges that had come from our haste. Mustafa answered that we need not pay. He told us that this is part of business, and that sometimes these things happen. He knew that we need the little money we have more than him, so instead of taking our money, he gave us spirit to get home.

This was something so unexpected that all of the stress from India was released. It seems like one small humane gesture can make a huge change for the better in someone else’s life.

As a thank you, we would like to mention to all who are in need to ship vehicles to/from India, that there is a good hearted man in Mumbai called Mustafa, who works for the shipping company Sadikally Esoofally & Co. (Estd.1938). He does things effectively, knows how to deal with the infamous carnets, and it was a breeze dealing with him and his team. It was very welcomed after the horror of Kolkata.

Then, on that Tuesday, we left Mumbai to be in Delhi by 10 am Friday. It was already 2 pm so there was no time to waste.

On the first day we managed our destination which was a motel on the south side of Vadodara. We chose that because on the way we were there and it had absolutely fabulous food.

The second day we were supposed to drive an epic 800Km to Pushkar, but close to Modasa we had our first break down.

We had stopped for lunch and once finished we drove off.

Pyryhigwaystreetfood

After one kilometer the engine stalled and refused to start up again. It seemed like petrol wasn’t getting to where it was supposed to, but we didn’t know how to fix it. Almost 10,000 Km driven, it was about time to learn.

Hinaus

We managed to hitch a ride with a local auto-rickshaw who towed us to a mechanic in Modasa. You can probably imagine we gathered ourself quite a crowd.

mechanic pällistelyä

The problem turned out to be a blocked petrol tube and it was fixed with compressed air and while we were at it we decided to fix everything else as well.

The wire for the back charger was changed, a chipped metal bracket that holds the electrics was reattached, and the belt was tightened. We spent 3 hours learning about our engine as well as the locals.

mechanic

In the end we let the mechanic do a test drive with the tuk tuk around town and he drove around stopping every once in a while to show this strange phenomenon to his friends. He bought us some pidi cigarettes as a gift and drove back.

Once asking for the cost, the mechanic refused to take any money. Everyone was smiling so we accepted it as a gift. With humanity completely restored, we headed off for Pushkar.

Every once in a while the blockage came back, but this time wiser than before, we could unblock it by opening the petrol tube and blowing hard. We’ve also found out that if we clean the air filter often, our engine keeps it’s power. With a lack of air the petrol doesn’t burn properly and power is lost. Keeping air and petrol coming keeps the engine working effectively.

We had lost 3 hours of driving, so we only made it 100 Km South of Pushkar, to another roadside hotel. This was close to a beautiful small desert mountain village and they happened to have the best food we’ve had so far. I found a new favourite dish, though unfortunately I cannot remember the name. It starts with a K I think and there might have been an L.

On Thursday we drove all the way up to Delhi so we made it for our 10 o’clock appointment at the Pakistan High Commission. Once again the meeting at the Pakistan Embassy was superb. I’ve noticed that all of the Pakistani people I have met so far have all been honest and humble. Every place has it’s good sides and bad sides, but most countries cannot openly say that they have problems. Most prefer a path of illusion, but the counsellor we talked to told me that in Pakistan, they believe that in the end honesty will prevail. The country is not perfect, but they are still good people, hopefully.

We have now strengthened our tuk tuk, cleaned the suspension as well as everything else, and we are ready for the next unknown. By next week we will be in Pakistan continuing our adventure.

mechanic posse

Better to be somewhere than nowhere

Last week we felt like nothing was going anywhere. Everything seemed to be floating and we felt we needed to something. And when nothing goes anywhere, one option is to go somewhere yourself.

So with nothing better to do we decided to ditch the idea of going to the mountains to enjoy life and instead legged it down to Mumbai-Bombay in 3 days to see about the shipping. It’s only 1500 Km so why not.

Pyry adamantly said we should stay in Delhi because of a hunch about the Pakistan visas, but Juho wanted to take the sure way and come to ship the damn thing out of India asap. Pyry wanted to go through Pakistan no matter what, but Juho has a kid and he wants to get home. The decision was quite simple.

MumbaiHighwayPromo2-2

We ended up in Pushkar for the night and it felt like a peaceful haven. We wanted to stay there for one day and two nights, but we got a message from the shipping company that we needed to be in Mumbai on Monday morning if we wanted to ship the tuk tuk this week so we woke up at 4 a.m. and drove 16 hours all the way to Vadodara.

The traffic was not as bad as we feared, but even so, it’s still a thousand times more chaotic because of the indecency towards fellow drivers. It’s amazing how a 3 laned highway can be blocked by just three trucks, all trying to pass one another at 30km/h at the same time. Once two trucks had stopped side by side diagonally to have a chat, blocking all the lanes on the highway ramp. Our Tuk Tuk does her share also.

People awe at our vehicle, drive like crazy next to us, and start chatting and taking photos. It’s nice to get the attention but it totally cramps the lanes for others, especially when it happens in the middle of a roundabout. But after various landscapes, a desertful of sand and billions of trucks later, we ended up in Mumbai ready for the shipping company.

It turned out that taking the initiative was the right thing, and the wrong thing to do.

The good thing is that everything went nicely with the shipping company this time and it will be quick and easy, if we decide to do it. The tuk tuk would make for Fridays shipping and it would be in Iran 2 weeks later.

We also met 3 journalists who work for 3 different newspapers and they got interested about us. They took some photos and we ended up in the Hindustan Times already for todays paper. Less than 24 hours we have been here and already we’re in the second largest newspaper in India.

We also had good luck in Finland since we’re in the third largest newspaper, that is also the most visited website of Finland. All together today we have about 7 million potential readers, and if the other 2 articles come out, another 2 million on top of that. Not too shabby for a days work.

Then, naturally, we heard some news from Pakistan.

We have apparently been granted the visas, and crossing Balochistan seems to be an option again. We might just have to drive back the 1500Km to get the visas by Friday and head off to Pakistan. We still want to make sure crossing Pakistan is possible before making this decision, but time is running out. If we want to cancel the shipment we have to do it tomorrow morning, and if we drive to Delhi we need to start by noon.

Decisions with limited information, again.

Last time a difficult decision was made Pyry drove to Mumbai because Juho wanted to get home sooner than later. Pyry still wants to go through Pakistan no matter what, so now Juho should be ready to drive back for Pakistan. In any case, we should be out of India by the weekend.

But before we go, we will learn a little about the Sikh people, because today we met some nice Bearded Sikh men who’m Pyry bonded with right away. They invited us for dinner at their home, and because earlier today we were talking about not having had the chance to spend time getting to know the locals, we took the chance and said yes.

Apparently his mother is an excellent cook.

Weighing Options

Pakistan is geographically in a spot that is extremely difficult to go around, with the Arabian Sea in the south, and the Himalayas in the north. Going over the Himalayas is not an option because our Tuk Tuk is not a trained mountain climber, and it would mean crossing Indo-Pakistan-Chinese borders that give way to Kashmir, which is closed off from foreigners. Going round south would mean going by boat, and to detour the Himalayas completely would mean driving all the way to the Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos.

We’ve figured we have 5 options. All of these are preliminary and we need to see how things play out a little before making any final decisions. This Bon Voyage feeling we have again, is waiting for that Carpe Diem moment, so we can strike when the time is right.

Here’s the choices.

1) Balochistan

The only roads to Iran go through Balochistan. It is the northwest province of Pakistan, bordering Afganistan in the north, and Iran in the west. The northern road from Quetta to the Iranian border town of Zahedan is the shortest and most commonly used, but it’s close to the Afganistan border and not wholly under the central governments control.

This area is known for it’s kidnappings, and foreigners are requested to have an armed convoy while travelling through.

This used to be our primary option, but now they have temporarily closed the road leading to Quetta because of the military operation against the Taliban they started last week.

2) South Balochistan

The southern road would probably be the safer route, but as far as we know, the road and the border crossing is closed for foreigners. The only way to find out if it’s passable is to go and try.

3) Karachi

Eastern Pakistan is relatively safe and we could cross from Amritsar to Lahore, drive south to Karachi, hire a dhow, and sail to Iran. This would allow us to learn a little about Pakistani food, and the sea voyage would be short as possible.

The problem with this option is that yesterday Mr. Tahir-Ul-Qadri arrived to Pakistan and added some flavour to the situation.

Tahir-Ul-Qadri is a cleric turned politician, and the leader of a moderate Islamic Party. He vows for a peaceful revolution, but his arrival to Pakistan seemed to have brought more tension than peace. His flight was diverted from Islamabad to Lahore because of clashes between his supporters and police in Islamabad.

This means that our visas are pending until the situation in Lahore is clear. We have 2 more options just incase.

4) Ferry

We’ve heard rumours that there is a ferry link between India and UAE. We’ve heard of one ferry going Chennai-Karachi-Dubai, and one Mumbai-Karachi-Dubai. Mumbai is far south, and Chennai even further, and it will take us days to drive there. This option would be risking it, because it is based on a rumour.

This leaves us with the final choice.

5) Shipping from India

We will do all we can to not do this again, but life’s not always fair is it.

Our closest port for shipping is in Ahmedabad, but Mumbai seems to have more options. Both are south and in the monsoon area, so time is not on our side.

This is the list so far and the best we’ve come up with. None of these options seem like a good one for the moment, so if anyone knows a thing or two that we don’t, now would be the opportune time to speak up.

Kokookko koko kokko. Koko kokkoko? Koko kokko.

Would you please build the whole bonfire.

The whole bonfire?

The whole bonfire.

That’s what the title means. It’s time for JUHANNUS!

Back at home people are fleeing the city as everybody heads to the countryside. It is truly a magical celebration of good company, good food, and good drink. During the weekend Finns will dance around bonfires, spank each other in the sauna with branches, do magic spells in the nightless night, drink vodka like water and drown in numbers.

Fatalities are known to happen, because Juhannus is a celebration for Ukko. He is The Man, symbolising fertility and strength, so games and competitions are typical, and when drunk, it sometimes goes a little overboard.

Here on this side of the world we have run into a similar situation that has completely gotten out of hand. Pakistan decided to see who’s toughest by going to war, and they’ve decided to have their full on military operation right on top of the road that we were supposed to be driving on.

This is a little more serious than how we like to take things, so we will gladly spend Juhannus here, on Finnish soil, in the safety of the Embassy.

Hopefully all of this manliness will be over by the beginning of next week, with as few casualties as possible, so we could be on our way again.

Just in case it’s not over, we are searching for detours.

 

A new hope

After an agonising few days of disproving every lie and every excuse, we finally came out with our Tuk Tuk. To this day, we haven’t had to pay a single cent to corruption, and we didn’t even have to pay for the detention charges. Victory!

It was however, one of the most frustrating things I have ever done in my life. The good thing is that I found a new side of myself. A side I have kept hidden all my life, because I have feared it.

I had to harness every ounce of willpower I had for three days straight so that we got the tuk tuk out. They delayed everything with lies, deceit, and accusations, and we had to counter every one with honour and respect. It was without a doubt the dirtiest game I have ever played, but we were the only ones that came out with a clear conscience.

lorry

Now we finally have our Tuk Tuk back, but only 3 days to get to Amritsar. We thought we’d leg it to Varanasi on the first day, Delhi the second, and the rest on the third and hopefully have 2,5 days to clear customs and get to Lahore. We had to promise not to film anymore in India to get our visas, so it’s a good thing to go quickly.

We left Kolkata at 5.30 with our 3 wheeled Panther, and weaved through the giant snakes of trucks. Our tuk tuk is just the right size to squeeze and manoeuvre while the beast weaves itself along.

Every so often a toll collection point came, but our tuk tuk seems to bring out sympathies from people so we only had to pay at one.

It was nice to know that we were heading home again, because the sun set where the road led to.

rekka ojassa

 

We rode in the dark for the last 3 hours, and I felt like Luke Skywalker. I had no choice but use the force most of the time, because we needed to make time by going an average of 60km/h, and visibility was next to nothing.

Everybody, and I mean everybody has the long lights on all the time, which glares the eyes and makes it almost impossible to see. Luckily the dust in the air reveals the magnificent beams of light heading to the heavens, leaving only silhouettes of the trucks, tractors, mopeds, bicycles and people, which can be used to navigate through. Someone having tail lights was a one-in-fifty chance.

What made it even more difficult, is that sometimes there was row of headlight all coming towards, and they seem to be wanting to pass from both sides. Some drivers here find it more effective to get home, driving against the traffic on the wrong side of the highway. Mainly motorbikes, and tractors, but every so often a truck comes towards.

Luckily we found an ambulance on alert,  and used them to show us the way. They had good lights and a patient in the back, so no bumps, but as fast as possible.

We arrived to Varanasi at 10 pm.

Same thing the next day to Delhi, and the next to Amritsar. We could make it, but it would be suicide.

We will rest a day in the city
that is said to have the longest running continuous population in all of the world, and take 1.5 days to drive to Delhi.

We will get new Pakistan visas from there.

Varanasi

Incredible India – Playing the game

Incredible india

On thursday after all the hassle, we finally flew back to India. Immigration hadn’t forgotten us, and it wasn’t too pleasant a re-encounter. The same moustache bastard came with a, ‘I’ll come talk to you and act like we’re friends’- attitude, while trying to find a loophole not to let us in. This time there was none, and he had to let us in even though his moustache was itching with rage.

We found our way to the pre-paid taxi counter where naturally the cashier tried to con us by not giving the right change. He tried twice but this time we weren’t so easy. We caught him both times and he just smiled, waved good bye, and shook his head about.

This con at the airport opened my eyes. Incredible India isn’t to be taken personally, It’s just a game played without shame. There’s a Finnish saying that describes it nicely, ‘Ei se ole tyhmä joka pyytää, vaan se joka maksaa”, which translated would go, ‘It’s not the one who asks, but the one who pays that is stupid’.

It was an important lesson, for on Friday morning we went to the Shipping Company to play the, ‘how long does it take to get the tuk tuk out of the port’- game. We’ve practiced with the Immigration, High Commission, cashiers, taxis and many others, winning some and losing some, but our hand was good this time. All the shipping document’s were in Pyry’s name, he had his own documents to prove he is himself, and there were no loopholes.

We arrived at the shipping company and they were super nice and efficient. We handed the secretary our Bill of Landing, and she looked at it. Then she said something i would never have thought.

‘There is a problem. The consignee name of this document has been changed.’

‘Uuuhhhmmm. How is that possible? I have all of the papers here, they have my name, and I have not been informed abut this.’

‘The name has been changed.’

‘Whose name is on there?’

‘It is a Mr. Concealed Name.’

This was the name of the friend who we sent the DHL-packet to with our shipping documents when we were forced to go to Nepal.

‘No problem, I will call him and get him to give a document saying that it’s ok for you to pick up the goods.’

We then had a meeting with Mr. Manager and his Customs Clearance Agent. Apparently if the name would have been ok, everything would be easy, but because of the wrong name in the bill of landing, they said it’s impossible to get customs clearance.

A friendly start, but now we were deep in the game.

We started off small and asked if the name can be changed back, since it had already been changed once?

‘The name cannot be changed because the shipment has already arrived and customs have the wrong name.’

This was strange because we were to pick up the tuk tuk on the 28th, and the whole immigration mumbo jumbo was just as the tuk tuk arrived. So there is no reason for anyone to change the name before it arrived.

We asked if there is anything we can do and they replied that maybe something can be done.

‘Unfortunately it will take a long time, maybe a month, and will cost a lot.’

After inquiring a little we found out that everything apparently depended on the customs officer and how much he will charge fines and bribes etc.

To counter, we handed them a few Embassy Support letter’s that would help with customs. We also offered to go to the customs with them, but they countered with a blunt refusal.

Then we were talking to two walls for so long that we decided it’s better to leave and get a better hand. Customs is closed on weekends so Monday we’d find something out. We left and immediately got some wheels turning to apply pressure.

We contacted the Customs Commissioner of the Port with our shipping documents and numerous Embassy support letters that all have Pyry’s name on them, and sent a copy to the shipping agent as well as the customs clearance agent. We also mentioned to all of them that we will contact the Chief Commissioner if needed. India is a democracy and everyone has the right to go straight to the top.

Pyry called them on Saturday.

‘Pyry here calling for the tuk tuk, remember?’

‘Yes yes. We are amending the paper already and on Monday we bring to the customs’

Sounded like the pressure was working.

‘So Monday we get the tuk tuk?’

‘No.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because Monday we take the papers to customs and it will take 2-3 days’

Today is Sunday, and we’ve played a good game so far. We’ve managed to get the time form one month, to 2-3 days. Pyry’s answer to the shipping agent was a simple,

‘I’ll make some calls and make it go faster’.

We have tens of Eagles and Crows soaring above us on the rooftops, and while enjoying the view, one Eagle glided against the wind, head hight from us only 2 meters away. It looked straight at me, and I realised how this game should be played.

With the Dignity of an Eagle, and the Cunningness of the Crow.