Although overland travelling is one of the unique experiences on earth, it has one of the biggest problems on this world.
Crossing the borders.
Not the geographical ones but the political ones. I have been through many land borders so far with my motorcycle. Most of them were quite fine experiences while on the other hand some were the most overwhelming ones.
A land border is something where you have two country border police stations, two customs building and a no one’s land in between. First you are expected to complete the exit requirements in one country and then the entry requirement on the new one. Normally if you have the correct documents with you this is a smooth but time consuming transition. So far what I observed is that when the two countries in subject are peacefully leaving together with similar ideologies then it is easy to cross.
But when it comes to countries from different visions and worlds, the crossing becomes an issue… and it can be a big one to the extreme point to be left in the no-man land between without entry permission to both countries. To avoid finding yourself in this undesired position you have to think before acting. Sounds like a good riding skill, right? Keep going (if you have the visa)
Getting Pakistani visa in India is something worse than a deep and long mud crossing with a Yamaha R1. You have to change/adapt your mind set for the upcoming situation and act accordingly. Going to the embassy with slippers may not work, you may have to wear formal suit under 45 degrees Celsius of temperature. Imagine that you got your passport stamped with the visa, but you are still being questioned about your ideology, and somebody is holding your passport in his hand. He won’t give you back your passport until you answer the questions in a way that he wants.
Getting angry and messing with the officials is the first but uncontrolled reaction. Instead you can take a breath and think, find a solution which makes both parties happy. After saying bye, and thanks, there you go. The “big question” disappears from the horizon and with it the powerful official satisfying his need of power over you. Gone… part of the past.. irrelevant now.
This control of mind and action comes handy in life and life on bike. The behavor of road users, the lack of skills on the car or bike in front, an appointment to be reached in time, fury after an encounter with a taxi driver… Good riding skills are not only cornering, accelerating and braking properly, but more important controlling your emotions, forcing your mind to think, and consider the consequences. Restraint…
And borders can be everywhere: a peaceful weekend, a pictoreque village, and idillic ride … and, out of that crossing comes, with suspension lowered, exhaust busted, stripes applied and windows blackened, a bad looking Peugeot 106. The power cocktail overtakes aggressively, horns impatiently and it cahllenge you to the final gunfight. The day and the ride aspect suddenly change: what was smooth and peaceful becomes now matter of life and death, a pure feral and primitive state.
This is the border and you have two options. Fighting with the border police which is your instincts at that moment or playing by the rules. The rules here are hard but simple: ignore, let him go, slow for a while to let him give up. You can chose the first one, but who knows who will end up in hospital or graveyard. The machine you are controlling is dangerous and sometimes doesn’t give you a warning…
Borders are borders. You have to respect. It has it’s rules. Just think, make an action plan to get rid of the mess. Like smoothly flowing through Istanbul or Lima traffic. Consider this every second for everything. Because anything you do without thinking may end up in a new problem. it involves everything starting from riding to talking to people. Do not forget thinking.