The border crossing Mirjaveh (Iran) - Taftan (Pakistan) was undoubtedly the most shocking experience I ever had, culturally speaking.
Mirjaveh is a small but relatively clean border town on the Iranian side and it has only one huge guesthouse with empty corridors, probably the most empty guesthouse I have ever seen in my whole travelling experience. It is safer than Zahedan, though and it was my last overnight stop in Iran before crossing the Pakistani border.
The Iranian-Pakistani border is supposedly open from 7am. The hotel receptionist had warned me to wait until 9am before leaving the guesthouse but I wanted to take the first bus departing to Quetta, Pakistan. I ignored his advice and looked for a taxi to drive me to the border. I was indicated the town exit where I could find a car to drive me to the border.
Cars outside Mirjaveh are scarce and those going to the border even rarer. I had to wait for more than 40 minutes before someone agreed to drive me to the border for 40.000 IR (4 euros). I knew it was a huge amount of money for an Iranian, but since I had no other choice, I jumped on the occasion.
When I arrived at the border gate, I noticed it was still closed. A Pakistani guy was already waiting and told me it would open soon. I realised that “soon” in his language meant at least one hour when the gates opened a little bit after 9am. Once I had crossed the gates, I still had to walk 400 more metres until the Iranian customs, still closed.
Several Iranian and Pakistani families were already standing in front of the customs office; they had apparently spent the whole night waiting for the border to open.
Around 9 :30am, the customs desks finally opened and everyone rushed to get his passport stamped; no discipline at all. I quietly gave my passport to the customs officer and he grabbed it before the others, and stamped it. I guess I got a tourist favour. Everyone around me started to complain about the fact that I was the last to arrive at the border but the first to go through customs! I got out of the customs office by a back door and an Iranian soldier gave me a big smile and wished me bon voyage without checking my luggage.
An iron gate separates Iran from Pakistan. It was with big emotions that I left the Iran I loved so much. I left Iran to enter the Indian subcontinent.
As soon as I crossed the iron gate, I noticed that everything had changed: organisation is much more chaotic, a crowd of people are waiting on the Pakistani side to get their passport stamped; a guard was trying to rule the crowd without much success. Being a “foreigner”, I was authorized to wait for my turn on a seat away from the sun. I had to wait for about half an hour before getting my passport stamped. Three men are responsible for writing down the entries and exits and there is no computer to register my entry into Pakistan.
A man asked me “What are you going to visit in Pakistan?” I started to recite the list of the places I had intended to visit, omitting Kashmir and Peshawar. My passport was then stamped without the validity of my visa being verified. I learnt later that tourists are allowed to enter Pakistan by foot without visa. Once my passport got stamped, several people started trying to sell me bus tickets and extort me some dollars. I bought a ticket for a bus that only left 6 hours later.
After exiting the Pakistani customs area, I entered Pakistan. The chaotic atmosphere then disappeared and I noticed a small dusty village, Taftan, about 500m away.
Taftan houses and streets are awfully dusty, there is dry mud everywhere and roads are in such a poor state that I wondered how people could drive here.
I knew then that I had left the more or less orderly Middle-East for the indescribable chaos of South Asia.