Howdy all. Yes, today I am taking you along with me on the dustiest ride I have ever known, from Lahore in the east of Pakistan to Quetta, in the west (ish). Now I’ve done some research, keeping in mind it was a decade ago I did this journey, and the train times (24 hours) and classes don’t tally with what I did. In a decade a lot of things may change though, and the train listed on the brilliant Seat 61 website is much different to the one I took.
My train left in the morning from Lahore station, and unlike this listing did not (as far as I remember) come from Peshawar, rather it was strictly Lahore to Quetta. And it was a fair bit slower! I remember it leaving at around7-8am and arriving in Quetta the next day at around lunchtime. Around 30 hours.
Before I press on, I have to sadly say that although I DID take a number of photos on this journey, I no long have any of them thanks to an incident in Iran (where I went after Quetta) and an accidental wiping of the memory card. C’est La Vie….
I had ended up in the very good Daewoo buses almost everywhere I went in Pakistan. I had tried to get the train from Multan to Rawalpindi, to find it fully booked. I wanted to get the concession price (I was a student at the time) and that had required seeing the head of the railways in Multan! It was approved but then – no tickets to be had in any classes. However, the head of the railways there, Mohammed, invited me to his house the night I left Multan for Rawalpindi for dinner. He was and is a very generous man, kind too. So despite only taking one train in Pakistan, the Pakistan railways have a certain ‘fondness’ in my heart.
Lahore Station is not quite as chaotic as Mumbai or Delhi in India, but it is bustling nevertheless. The train was waiting, and I had a sleeper. It was a strange sort of compartment, with four beds in a room, plastic and sticky like the ones in India, but only single berth, so none above. I can’t be sure which class it was, but there were no sheets and no service so I presume second.
The train left an hour or so later than it was meant to, and went clickety clack onward towards Quetta. A long long train hauled by a couple of diesel engines. I had taken the bus to Multan when I visited there – it took 5-6 hours. The train got into Multan at around dusk, 6-7pm, it had taken a few hours longer to get there. From there, it was really into the desert.
Night fell, there were less and less lights outside the carriage, and so we slept. It had been really REALLY hot in the day time, but by midnight, it was pretty cold and I had my sleeping bag out. There was a gradual incline I guess because Quetta is much cooler and higher than Multan or Lahore.
Morning came, and it was still cool. Not only that, it seemed the desert had taken its toll. The windows were open and in had come the dust and sand overnight. We were all now the colour of the desert with a reasonable layer of dust/sand covering us, our bags and sleeping bags! That is the key memory I have of this trip, the one thing that marked the trip for me.
We clickety-clacked our way through more desert. It got a little warmer. It was around lunch time and the train pulled into Quetta, a pleasant town in the mountains where the daily maximum (in April) was about 15 degrees. After finding my hotel, I had a long shower and had a lot of sand and dust to clean off my backpack and sleeping bag. A long journey had ended. A long, memorable journey indeed. Simply, unforgettable!