Indialemma - where do I go now?
Most of my route home was pretty simple up until North West India. I knew I would run a race in the Himalaya on 6 October and after that I had some options. Some were dangerous and shorter, other were longer and more difficult. Anyway, I had to make a decision.
Option 1 At first I planned on heading North, through Pakistan, China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, all the way to Russia. From Moscow I would take transport to Europe easily. The only problem with this option was that I needed a lot of visas and the visas for China and Russia were notoriously hard to get when on the road. This had been my plan since the beginning, but the closer I got to India, the more I started to explore other alternatives.
Option 2 When I started spending a lot of time browsing seat61.com, to research trains, I noticed the road they suggested from India to Europe. The road would go through Pakistan, Iran and Turkey and then into Europe. It seemed way easier and quicker than the first option. Going from Iran to Pakistan meant that I had to cross Baluchistan, a region where one needs to be escorted by police to the border. Baluchistan was not always under full governmental control and some incidents had happened in the past with both locals and tourists. I wanted to check the current safety and I checked with several embassies and forums. Everywhere people were discouraging me from going. Some opinions were more extreme about dangerous Muslim stereotypes, but most people said I should consider another route. I could only find a few success stories from people who had done the crossing before and I was not convinced.
Back to option 1
I started to look back at the first option and did more research about the Chinese and Russian visa. With a letter of invitation and a vpn, I could get some things done. A friend of mine could get his grandfather to sign a letter of invitation for me. I was hopeful again. When my friend's mother heard I was going to the Xinjiang region, which is mostly Muslim and highly restricted by the Chinese government, she did not want to follow through. I understood her worries, but I was not discouraged to try to get a Chinese visa.
Option 3 As I looked at the probability of getting my Chinese visa, I also found a third route, which did not go through Baluchistan. It would take me across the Caspian sea. After Pakistan, China and Tajikistan I could go through Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to reach the Caspian sea. From there on I had several options to reach Europe. This option did mean I needed a lot of visas and could not spend a lot of time in most countries. It was an option, it was doable and definitely less dangerous than crossing Baluchistan. It was not my favorite option, but I kept it in the back of my mind.
Option 4 Since I was looking at all options before having to take a plane, I also considered a route which meant I had to go back East. I would go back to the East of India, through Myanmar, to Laos and into China in a non-disputed area. From there on I could either go to Kazakhstan and Russia or take the TransSiberian train to Mongolia and Russia. Going back all this way would take up a lot of time and I would have to cover a lot of distance. It was another unpopular choice, but it was still an option before taking a plane home.
Taking a plane home was my last resort and I preferred to thoroughly try all other options. It was definitely a back up plan if noting else would work out.
My final decision
For most of the routes I needed a Chinese visa and I started to get ready for the application. I had all the documents ready and only needed to make an appointment at the embassy in Delhi. When all my documents got ruined in the floods in Varanasi, I had to start everything again and it made me reconsider my options once more. I asked more questions about Baluchistan everywhere I went and I found several people who had actually done the crossing. It seemed safe and doable at the moment even though I would still need to be escorted by the police for the crossing. The idea looked possible and it excited me. As I was about to enter Pakistan, I found someone who was crossing around the same time as me and it seemed perfect. Eventually our timing turned out to be different and we went separately anyway. The week before I was about to go I read an article about a bombing in Quetta, the city where I was supposed to wait for two days. I got scared and I was no longer confident about this itinerary. During this week I met very nice people who had done the crossing in the other direction only a couple of days ago and they managed to inform me and prepare me. I regained my confidence and went towards the quickest, yet riskiest route. Now that I had gathered more knowledge, it felt like a safer bet. Still I would be happy to make it to Iran, leaving the unstable region behind me.