[We crossed into Pakistan and its largest province Balochistan (then called Baluchistan) – a vast region of deserts and mountain ranges. Ever since the British left India, promising but failing to guarantee autonomy from Pakistan to the Baloch, there has been a strong independence movement and rumbling civil war. In more recent times the province has had to deal with a large influx of Afghan refugees. Reading my diary, I obviously found these Baloch Highlanders striking, and Balochistan is central to my novel THE VANISHING OF RUTH. Look at my Links to find out more about this region]
WEDNESDAY 17TH NOVEMBER, 1976
“Fascinating custom’s yard – all official business done in fenced in area in the open air – just tables and chairs. As ate breakfast, some public transport buses drew up accompanied by wailing music, and blanketed and turbaned figures piled out, looking very mysterious in the morning mist.
Buses were amazing – Bedford trucks completely painted over with flower designs, pictures, hearts, writing etc – even laders at the back painted. Luggage piled dangerously high, some with people on top of that too. Fronts decorated with tinsel, mirrors and other shiny decorations – one had a small Xmas tree hanging inside cab. We all went and stared at their buses while Baluchis came and gazed at ours!
Incredible costumes – turbans, fantastic woollen scarves wrapped around their head-dresses; smallembroidered caps, baggy trousers gathered at ankle, carpets slung over shoulders like a plaid – greetings among newly arrived bus loads, cigarette sellers; several blind beggars being led around by little boys, holding one end of stick. All around was the noise of throat racking spits! (Fred expert too).
Changed money with 3 English guys off one bus – they’d travelled with chickens (one which had laid an egg in bus!) and even a goat!
Across desert again – more sandy and bigger scrub. Road washed away in places. Villages neater looking than in Iran – people sitting out on rush mats watching us pass. Little bicyclists in middle of desert! Slept a lot again. Later, large stark rocky black hills studded the desert – Chris said I must feel at home because they looked like slag heaps! Lots of camels – some seemed to be roaming wild without packs or attendants.
Camped in grounds of army resthouse – gas lamps in cosy rooms. Roads chained off at night because trouble from Baluchi. (Near Nushki).”