Monday, January 17, 2011

The Desert Handcar

Zahedan is a town in south eastern Iran close to the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is also the railhead for travel to Quetta in Pakistan.
I arrived there by bus from Bam, an amazing walled city built entirely of mud bricks, which made Zahedan look very ordinary. Although the railway line went as far as Zahedan, with its station building built by the British, the train did not cross into Iran and so passengers had to wait until it was due, and then travel a further 100 km to Koh-i-Taftan just over the Pakistani border.
The train ran once a fortnight and, as luck would have it, I had to wait almost a week before it arrived.
Gradually a few other travellers drifted in from the surrounding desert, one of whom was an austere and slightly agitated American in his twenties wearing a blue twill raincoat. Obviously troubled by the vagaries of the railway schedule he set off into Baluchistan desert on a handcar, taking his turn with the maintenance crew to propel it along the line. Three days later the handcar returned, still with the blue raincoat man on board.


  1. Hi Sophie,
    This is Anna from Third Street Books in McMinnville, Oregon.
    I just wanted to say I really enjoyed meeting you
    at Winter Institute and I truly hope we can connect
    sometime soon. Thanks again for being such an inspiration!
    I feel like a dunce right now as I cannot remember if I've
    given you my card so we can exchange emails.

    I look forward to hearing from you,
    Kindest regards,
    Anna Okrasinski

  2. What a wonderful new project! You're illustrations are wonderful! I'm a big fan...and sent your new blog's link to my sister right away!

    By the way I'm from Iran and live in Toronto, it was exciting to read a story about Bam and Zahedan! :)

  3. Love this blog project. What a great story teller your father must be. I enjoyed the last line of this story very much - "Three days later the handcar returned, still with the blue raincoat man on board" - how funny and mysterious!