Bolan Mail, Balochistan

Untamed Borders Winter Newsletter 2022

In this issue:

  • A Note from James
  • Upcoming Trips
  • Future Departures
  • Virtual Marathon of Afghanistan 
  • We are Hiring! 

A Note from James Willcox, Founder

Welcome to 2022! It’s the time to look back and reflect on a roller coaster of a year! The ever changing COVID situation, political unrest in Ethiopia, and the change of regime in Afghanistan meant that our small team was stretched in trying to ensure our guests were able to get their hit of travel experiences.

The situation in Afghanistan impacted us particularly hard as we have a very close connection with the country, and we are still working to help people affected by what has happened. If you would like to be involved, scroll down for more information on the virtual Marathon of Afghanistan and don’t worry, you can walk or run any distance you like! 

Personally, my 2021 travel highlight was in December, when I got to ride not one, but two lesser known train lines, both famous in their own way! Firstly, the Baghdad to Basra sleeper while working on a documentary series in Iraq, and secondly the Bolan Mail from Quetta to Mach through the Bolan Pass in Pakistan

Baghdad was the terminus of the Orient Express in the 1930s so it has some serious train buff pedigree. The city has a grand station with a high vaulted ceiling, and numerous ticket offices for multiple local and international destinations. However, the reality is that currently only 3 half empty night trains depart each week – all to Basra. The trains are modern Chinese built inter-cities, but the track is open at many intersections so the top speed of 140kph is an aspiration never to be reached as we chugged along, taking 10 hours to cover a distance that can be reached in five by car.  

It was hard to really feel the romance of the journey, until I met three retired train drivers in the buffet car. It seems they occasionally meet up and ride the train just for the love of it, to catch up through the night over coffee, and as it seems, critique the current crop of drivers. It was a lively conversation and a reminder that the love of train travel is universal.

Less than a fortnight later I was standing in Quetta station, waiting to catch the Bolan Mail to Mach as part of our new PBalochistan group trip. Dropping 800 metres in altitude, the route passes through the narrow Bolan Pass, and along with the Khyber it’s the “other” great traditional trading route linking Central Asia and the Subcontinent. Described as travelling either upcountry or downcountry, the route is a real feat of engineering, passing through tunnels and over breathtaking bridges, winding downwards as the weather slowly becomes warmer and more humid.

This train had a lot more character than the one in Iraq, the doors and windows open during the journey so you can sit outside and watch life go by while Chai wallahs and snack sellers move up and down the carriages. To me, The Bolan Mail was a real feeling of nostalgia, and a journey I would recommend to all.
Wishing you all safe and happy travels for 2022,

Upcoming Trips

We have some real adventures coming up at the start of this year! Our three featured trips below still have some space, and if you keep scrolling you will find a list of all our upcoming 2022 departures including our soon to be announced Autumn dates:

Riyadh Marathon

We have a brand new marathon trip! This is the first official marathon ever organised in Saudi Arabia, and the full marathon course will pass through all the attractions of the Saudi capital city. Multiples races will be on offer, including a half marathon, 10KM and 4KM course enabling people of all abilities to participate.

South Sudan

Experience the complex diversity of the world’s youngest country though an immersive eight-day journey into South Sudanese culture. Starting in Juba, we travel to remote villages meeting some for the countries different tribes. From the Toposa villages to the foot of the Boya Mountains home to the Larim tribe, we then pass through Lotuko territory on our way to meet the Mundari tribe in their livestock


A couple of places have come up on our fully-booked Yemen departure in March. On this six-day trip, we explore the coast, its bustling ports and white sand beaches, and travel through the dry desert Wadis visiting people and a culture that has occupied the land for centuries. There are cities of mud skyscrapers to explore and we meet the beekeepers of Al Hajrain, famous for their delicious Yemeni honey!

Countries we can Travel to

Below is a full list of our upcoming and future group departures. We are in the final stages of confirming dates for Autumn 2022, so please contact us if you would like to be notified when we release dates to ensure your place is secured. We can also organise private departures to any of these destinations:

  • Libya (group trip in February, Autumn dates announced soon)
  • Pakistan ( group trip in May, Autumn dates announced soon)
  • Syria (Contact us for upcoming dates)
  • Iraq (group trip in February, Autumn dates announced soon)
  • Ethiopia (Autumn dates announced soon)
  • Yemen (group trip in March, Autumn dates announced soon)
  • Kyrgyzstan (group trip in July)
  • Tajikistan (group trip in August)
  • Saudi Arabia (group trip in February
  • Algeria (group trip in February)
  • South Sudan (group trip in March)
  • Somalia (Mogadishu tour in March)

Other Destinations

In addition to the above, we can also currently guide you on private departures in the following destinations. Please  get in touch for more information and suggested itineraries: 

  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Central African Republic
  • Sudan
  • Djibouti

On all our trips we ensure that our guests are up to date with any entry requirements and they also make themselves aware of any re-entry travel requirements when they return home. In addition, all our trips comply with local public health protocols and we also ensure our staff and guests follow general WHO guidelines.

On these trips we ensure that our guests are up to date with any entry requirements and they also make themselves aware of any re-entry travel requirements when they return home. In addition, all our trips comply with local public health protocols and we also ensure our staff and guests follow general WHO guidelines.

Virtual Marathon of Afghanistan 

As most of you know, Untamed Borders were heavily involved in organising the Marathon of Afghanistan. The change of regime has affected Afghans from all walks of life including those who we worked closely alongside at this event. Some had to leave Afghanistan, others are in places we can’t make public, but many are still in their home country, trying to find work and understand a new life under the regime.

During the week of 21-28 January 2022, we would love you to join us and others around the world to walk or run 5k, 10k, 21k or even 42k. Our aim is to raise funds to help the Afghans who were involved in organising the race, to support them through the current crisis wherever they are. 

Full information and how to take part can be found here.

We are Hiring!  

Fancy a move? Or know anyone who does? Well, we are hiring!

We are looking an Operations Co-ordinator to join our team based in London, UK. The role will be wide ranging and varied and the ideal candidate but have a passion for adventure travel, obviously!

If you, or anyone you know would like to come and work for us, a small company leading the way in cutting edge adventure travel, please do contact us for more information and a full job spec.

P.S Sadly no camels allowed in the office! 

If you would like to talk to us about anything mentioned in this newsletter then please do get in touch.

We hope to see you all on an Untamed Borders adventure at some point soon.

The Untamed Borders Team

January 2022