Whilst Johno was battling border guards, the last blog from Paul ended as he was being deported from Dubai…
I was sat alone in my holding cell, with nothing but 400 bribery cigarettes for company, which is of little comfort to a non smoker. I had to wait five hours until my deportation flight back to Dubai, my phone had no credit on it and if Johno couldn’t take the taxi through the border, the whole expedition was in jeopardy. I started doing the maths of us driving back, London to… London, via Iran. Would it be enough mileage to break the world record? Possibly, but how could I look anyone in the eye afterwards, we would be failures forever more. Those idiots who went for a road trip around Europe in a black cab with a winch on the front. Maybe we could drive to Cape Town? I didn’t fancy our chances in Somalia.
Things looked bleak. In fact, things were bleak.
The view over Dubai from the 43rd floor
My flight came into Dubai’s ‘terrorist’ terminal two, known so because it’s the jumping off point for such salubrious places as Kabul and Mogadishu and I managed to get a message to Leigh about picking me up.
‘Sorry mate, we’re in the cinema watching Transformers 3. It’s kick ass, meet us here at the Emirates Mall, it won’t finish for another two hours’
I was furious, hopping mad. One of the worst days of my life, Leigh couldn’t even be bothered to pick me up and it was about then that I realised that I had left the bribe cigarettes in my cell as well. And I wanted to see that film! It’s not that I minded losing the cigarettes, they were for bribing Iranian and Pakistani guards with so pretty pointless now, but it meant that the same people who deported me are now enjoying real Marlboro lights (impossible to get in Iran). I hope they gave them a really nagging cough that takes them a couple of weeks to shake!
I spoke to the Emirate behind the help desk to enquire about buses.
“Bus? Why don’t you take a taxi?”
“Well I just spent $200 to be deported from Iran and now have ten bucks and 4 Dirhams to my name”
“um… we don’t have buses around here. ”
They did. In fact there was a bus stop right outside the terminal, in full view of his desk. It did, however, only take you to the parts of town where the Pakistani workers shipped in as cheap labour lived and not the glitzy mall where Leigh was enjoying watching Shia Lebouf fight big machines with an exceptionally beautiful girl thrown in for good measure. In 3D.
Eventually I found a taxi that would take me to the metro for $10 leaving me the 4 Dirhams for the ticket. I found the stop marked ‘mall’, found the cinema and waited. And waited, and waited. I got a text asking where I was, was it the Mall of the Emirates?
No. Apparently I was in the Dubai Mall on the wrong side of town and that, yes there are lots of large malls in Dubai with Cinemas. Who’d have thought?
This day couldn’t get any worse.
Eventually Leigh and I found our way to the place where we would be staying. Chris is an old friend of my mum’s, a geologist working out in Dubai and all round hero. He had a huge apartment on the 43rd floor of the Radisson hotel, overlooking Dubai in all its gaudy finest. It had a pool on the roof, a gym and even a sauna (a pointless extravagance in the Dubai summer, but that didn’t stop me from using it…). An expert and passionate chef, Chris housed and fed and watered us in a manner that one could easily become accustomed too; especially after camel stew in the desert and my terrible camp cooking.
Johno was going to try and take the car across the border. The problem lay in the fact that it is registered in my name. The last few blogs have outlined his adventures in detail, none of which we knew about. We sat by the computer for days waiting for some scrap of news, unable to leave in case something vital happened. Surfing Google for any info about Pakistan, online newspapers and blogs, as well as checking constantly for texts or emails.
Then we saw it on a news feed
“two western tourists kidnapped from their car in Baluchistan”
No more details were known. There probably was no more than a small handful of tourists in that part of the world at once (it’s not one of the regular routes served by Thomsons). It had to be them.
This was it. The trip was finished and I’d have to start writing a eulogy for Johno
“Johno Ellison. An all-round good bloke, A traveller, a writer, the master of fancy dress with an unhealthy love for Bonnie Tyler and wearing Daisy Duke, girls denim shorts…”
And then there would be the paperwork? All we knew about Craig was that he came from a made up sounding place called ‘Waga Waga”.
We kept pressing refresh for an hour and then a new story came up
“Two Swiss tourists kidnapped in Baluchistan”
It wasn’t Johno and Craig, thank god. But it’s quite hard to be too overjoyed when you know of the misfortunes of that unfortunate couple. They are still in captivity, but last we heard their release is being negotiated and we wish them the best of luck.
We finally got word from Johno, they had made it to Quetta safely and we would meet them in a hotel in Sukkur, a few hundred miles north of Karachi. Very soon, Leigh and I found ourselves on an Emirates flight, flirting with stewardesses to get free beer. They just seemed relieved to have somebody on the flight who could speak English, and no, there is no alcohol served on flights to Pakistan. The only other westerner was an overweight, balding American, whose bumbag clenched his ‘Bagram Airfield’ T-shirt to his ample midriff. We wondered what his story was, he could be a lethal killer, specialising in ‘the fat white man in Taliban country’, off to spy with the 3000 other CIA based around Quetta… or he could just work in the Burger King or Subway on the base. Either way, his obnoxious behaviour endeared us to the stewardesses further. But they still didn’t serve us beer.
80 people were killed the day we arrive in Karachi in riots and violence. We weren’t hanging around and got in a taxi and went straight to the bus station. The whole city was tense, but fortunately we didn’t see anything actually happen. Driving along the main highway out of the city, a man who was squatting in the central reservation taking care of business in full view of everyone; ‘Welcome to Pakistan’, we quipped. We went through two metal detectors and a full body search for weapons and bombs before getting on the coach. This was not very reassuring.
After 20 hours of travelling, we found the hotel with a London taxi parked outside. We bundled into the cramped room where two very sweaty men were waiting, spreading themselves wide so to catch the feint breeze emitted by the far. They both looked like they had acquired a few gray hairs and lines in their skin and a healthy tan (of dirt), but it was good to be back together.
Craig still hadn’t changed his T-shirt.