I am invited to join a peace pilgrimage from Teheran, Iran, to Damascus, Syria. People from Australia, Canada, Ireland, Lebanon, UK meet for a peace conference in Teheran and then fly out to Damascus to bring medical aid to the Syrian people. I didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation. I am fully aware that such a trip has to be protected by the Syrian government, but frankly speaking if it helps the Syrian civilians, I don’t care.
Once it was clear that I would start my travels from India, I’ve had the idea to travel overland: Delhi, Amritsar, Waqah Border (India-Pakistan border) Lahore, Quetta, Taftan (Pakistan-Iran border), Zahedan, Kerman, Esfahan, Teheran – 3500 km by train, car and bus. The route is part of a road known as the Hippie Trail. This was a legendary route since the sixties and was followed by thousands of travelers until the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the beginning of the civil war in Afghanistan, both in 1979. Today it is a bigger challenge than it was before these political events and depending on the local political situation it may be possible or not. Borders between countries are closed from time to time. Some places are no longer accessible for ordinary travelers without great risks for their safety.
The route is also part of the Silk Road used throughout ancient times from Europe to Asia.
I am really excited to do this part of the trip – however I am not sure yet how to manage the challenging part between Quetta and Zahedan. Already people advise me NOT to go Quetta. But I already got my train ticket (1120 km, 22-24 hours, 15 Euros) and I will start tomorrow. Let’s see.
I left Delhi a few days ago – unfortunately WITHOUT my Indian friend who simply couldn’t get a visa. If Indians don’t have any blood relatives, it’s almost impossible for them to go to Pakistan. Same thing the other way round. And both sides – at least from what I hear from my friends – they all would love to go and meet. Once again it’s much more a political issue than an issue between people. When will governments ever understand?
Before I left Delhi two friends of mine, both involved in the Teach for India program which is a nationwide movement of outstanding college graduates and professionals working towards eliminating educational inequity in India, gave me PEACE cards made by their students for the students in Pakistan and Syria!
This morning I handed some of them over to the students of the Sharif Education Complex in Lahore, with whom I worked last year for more than a week. In return they gave me their peace cards which I now carry on to Teheran and Damascus. Some of them will also make their way back to India – just to close the circle;-)