After leaving Yazd, I stopped in Kerman for the night on the way to Zahedan. The ride from Kerman was mildly amusing in that the desert scenery is varied and at some point you rise about 2,000 meters into some nice twisties. It was a good long road to reflect on the trip so far. I also passed through Bam, the place that got hit with an earthquake in 2003. People are still living out of shipping containers and the roads were a mess.
Finding a hotel in Zahedan proved to be very hard. I found out later from 4 French people that this is because most hotels didn't provide rooms to foreigners. Technically, you were supposed to have a police escort to walk around town as a foreigner, but most people ignored this. The hotel was still responsible for calling an escort, so I can understand the hassle. I can't say I had the idea the place was teeming with gun-toting kidnappers when I wandered around.
For the ride to the Pakistani border, I got a police escort. The hotel insisted this was needed so I agreed. Promptly at 6:30 AM, a plain-clothes officer showed up in a beige Peugeot clutching a two-way radio. We set off to find gas, but at this time of the day you're relegated to buying gas from illegal street vendors, which we do. In the southern part of Iran, gas is smuggled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, creating a constant shortage.
After about 10 kilometers, we came to a police checkpoint where my guardian angel abandoned me. I was told to wait for another escort. Two guys showed up after 45 minutes, both in full military fatigues, one clutching a machine gun. They were on a motorcycle and off we went. After another half hour, I got handed off again, but now we were waiting on the side of the road, in the blasting sun with no shade. The saga continued a few more times and at some point I got my "real" escort. A military truck with 3 people in the front, all armed and four guys with Kalashnikovs in the back, a mounted machine gun on a pivot on the roof. These guys took me right to the last police checkpoint before the border, where I got handed off yet again.
While waiting at the last police checkpoint, which is the first one Pakistanis entering Iran encounter, I was witness to organized theft by the Iranian police on an incredible scale. The row of pickup trucks entering Iran must have been a few miles long. They were all packed with various goods, such as rice and other items bundled up in bulk. At the stop, one or two bags of whatever they can grab gets pulled off the back by the officers and hurriedly carried to a small warehouse to the side. Some drivers resist this and get out and manage to reclaim one or two items, but at minimum one bag or bundle is irretrievably lost to the Iranians. Transparency International, take note.
I managed to cross the border into Pakistan by about 12:30 in the afternoon, 6 hour after I started out, even through the ride to the border was only 80 kilometers from the hotel. Then 306 kilometers of desert awaited me.