Iran – until the Caspian Sea

Written by Martin on August 20th, 2011. Posted in Allgemein

Sebastian: So we finally made it to arrive in Iran. The moment you cross the boarder you can feel that you are somewhere else. The landscape is exactly as I imagined it (from the movies 😀 ) and after just a couple of kilometers my eyes get wet (only a little!) from the emotions boiling in my body. Iran has for a long time been a destination of strong interest for me an it is the first time that I really start to realize what we are doing here (I am sure this will happen a couple of times).

The road is a highway of dreams going trough a valley with rock mountains that seem to have exploded out of the ground to reach the sky like in a cartoon movie. On the right side of the street there is a river and unbearable heat is cooking our brains. Martin is having a hard time and eliminates around 1,5 L of water in 30 seconds but doesn’t really feel better. So we decide not to exaggerate and stop at Tabriz around 250 kilometers after the boarder crossing.

We decide to take the first hotel and realize quite fast what the month of Ramadan will mean for us. That we have to hide while doing the things we love so much… And that is what we do, I eat and drink in the hotel room while Martin checks out the place for a toilet in the hallway to be able to smoke a cigarette before nightfall. We will soon discover that its not that strict and people also respect that we are foreigners but this was the first impression :).

Tabriz gives us a first idea of how a city might look like in Iran – chaotic but working traffic, extremely friendly people, good food and heat. In the morning we leave direction Caspian Sea making a little detour to Kandovan, a city with houses built into rock formations. It looks similar to Cappadocia, the only difference is that people are still living in these houses and that it is not that much adapted to tourism which makes it a quite authentic place.

Knowing that we need to get some RIAL (local currency) we start to check out the banks in all the cities we drive through but all of them are closed. We decide that this is due to a lunch brake and go on until we arrive in Myaneh were Iask  somebody on the streets where the heck we can find an open bank. The guy turns out to be a great help taking me to a bank (which is also closed), offering me to change the money, bringing me to an internet coffee to check the exchange rate and calling his friends who turn up 30 minutes later to change the money. In the meanwhile Martin has to handle around 20 kids and adults who ask questions and want to take pictures of the motorcycles. When we leave the place we feel great – never before have we seen such helpful, curious, always smiling and over all still not intrusive people. Let’s hope its the rule, not the exception.

On we go direction east to cross a mountain chain that separates us from the sea. Right after Myaneh we take a street that leads us through a beautiful desert like landscape. Again sunset enlightens our path and I am overwhelmed. After sunset we ride over an hour in the dark before arriving at Givi where we hope to find a hotel. It turns out that in this place there is no hotel but faster than I can spell “Can anybody help us to find one” a young guy on a small motorcycle indicates us to follow him. He picks up a friend before leading us through the night to a village 5 km further and to a hotel located on a hill right above a public “hot spring” pool.

Luck is on our side yet again, the people here do not stop to amaze us. We unpack our bikinis and we go to the hot springs where around 50 young and old guys scream and jump into or fight in the water having the time of their lives as it seems. The hot water is great and exactly what our bodies were in need for. One guy after another sits down next to us asking us questions. Since here nobody speaks English we communicate with mimics and gesticulation which works out perfectly.

The next morning we return to the bath with a guest from the hotel, Ali – an Iranian living in the US and being here on vacation. He tells us that he comes down every morning to be alone in the pool. So we get up at 7.00 to go with him. Only problem about this idyllic hot spring bath is that the water is now way hotter than the night before. We estimate it to an around 80°C or more. Ali insists that we just have to go in and keep cool (a word play in every sence). Even though the skin of our feed seems to peel off any second from just holding them inside for 3 seconds he convinces us to jump in (staying outside himself…). I jump in and jump back outside as fast a I can screaming and wining like a little baby that fell into a cooking pot. After me Martin takes his turn – I haven’t seen him move that fast in a long time (and I mean a looong time) as he tries to escape this liquid hell (before his balls get boiled hard…). Ali then tries to impress us a little but cant hold it longer than 1 second before screaming his way out of the water. I recommend you to take a close look at the pictures below to see how the three of us looked like :).

We leave with burned skin to reach the Caspian Sea a short time later. Interesting about this day trip is the extreme climate change when we crossed the mountains that separate the sea from the inland. On the one side dry heat up to around 40°C and on the other side tense fog, jungle and temperatures that dropped to 17°C! We have to drive for around 1h with a sight of no more than 10 meters and seriously this is the least pleasant driving for me so far.

When we arrive at the coastline we are a little bit disappointed because it takes a long time before we could really see the sea. Also the region is quite dirty with plastic bags and bottles lying around everywhere. Still in the afternoon we take a hotel that has been recommended by a family that stopped us on the highway to take some pictures… while it was raining (for the first time so far while driving!). Nothing special was to see there, even this immense lake was not really nice to watch. High waves, brown water and a horribly humid weather make the stay little interesting.

For the next day we have a simple plan: leaving the seaside and already heading direction Teheran but driving by the Damavand volcano which is located northeast of the capital of Iran. Only trick: we will not take the main roads but the small direct route that should lead us there :). Well well, thanks to this decision once again we find superb routes that lead us through beautiful landscape BUT… we drive and drive and at a moment find ourselves in a dead end. No problem, we asked and yet again are offered to follow two guys on a motorcycle. Of course they ask us if we want to stay to eat something but we have to go on. They lead us to a dirt track which goes steeply up the hill – I enjoy this a lot until we arrive at the top and are trapped by fog for the second time in two days. Now I take the decision to take a left turn and not right and after 1,5h we should realize that we went the wrong way… back to the seaside!!! When we realize this mistake its to late to drive back (especially through the fog again) and we head to the coast to find a hotel.

On the way there we enjoy our first police control which takes over an our due to language problems (not many Iranians speak or understand English). After 5 people came to say hello, check our papers and left again because they didn’t understand a word we were allowed to leave. The highlight was that a young police man After it already became dark we took the first motel and were lucky once again. It had its own terrace next to the shore and we met 3 brothers there (sons of the owner) with whom we spent a great time. Omid, the oldest of the three helped us to get an Iranian phone and to get proper internet access and with Amir and Iraj we went to a friends place to have dinner – the first Iranian dinner with local people, just great! So we get the confirmation about the hospitality of Iranian people which seems to have no limits.

After two nights in the Parastoo Motel we leave direction Teheran – but not before I take the biggest of the three brothers on a ride with the motorcycle which makes him happy like a little kid as it seems. We hit the road to finally drive by the Damavand and to reach Teheran at night, were the KTM Dealer is already waiting for us. I ask myself how the people in this big city might be,… also that polite and simply nice? Or different? Let me tell you that we were surprised… and yes, you have to wait for the next article to get that info 🙂