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Written by Sebastian on September 6th, 2011. Posted in Allgemein

Martin: We leave Teheran direction to the highway where we are stopped by a police officer in front of the toll station telling us that motorbikes are not allowed on the highway and that we have to take the old country road. While explaining me how to get there, a motorbike police officer stops by and after two minutes of discussion between them he tells me we are free to go („you will not find the old country road anyways“), but asks us to drive on the emergency lane („because the cars on the highway drive really fast“). This guy has obviously no idea what we have between our legs 🙂

Isfahan – the city of the 33 arch bridge

The road to Isfahan is again nice and before the sun goes down we are stopped again by a police officer. After he checks our papers which he obviously doesn´t understand he looks at us helplessly for a minute, starts smiling, asks „dinner“? and points towards the police station. Since we are already late we decline but this guy would have invited us to have dinner with him in the police station.. and this before sunset! 🙂 We continue our trip and as usual we end up driving at night, enjoying a beautiful sunset through the rear mirror followed by almost full moon above a mountain range before we finally reach Isfahan.

We take a walk through the old town and get to the world famous 33 arch bridge Si-o-Se-Pol. We are not only overwhelmed by it´s beauty, but also by finding our first open air bar/restaurant in Iran. Unfortunately we are a bit unlucky because for the first time in over 12 years the river is dry, but nevertheless, the atmosphere is great and we enjoy a delicious chicken kebab. Onboth sides of the bridge are  beautiful parks that stretch all along the river bank. Next day we visit the Imam Square (Meidan-e-Emam), one of the biggest squares in the world and UNESCO Heritage. Here we marvel at the beautiful mosques and Sebas falls in love with a carpet he finds in a shop (later on regretting not to have bought it). Next to the square we walk through a huge bazaar which seems to us like a city within the city and where one can easily get lost. There´s not much business going on, but I guess that´s because it´s about noon and there are not many idiots besides us who decide to walk through the city at 40 degrees.. 🙂

Btw: most of the sights in Isfahan date back to approx. the 15th century when Isfahan had been the capital of Persia. Interestingly, most of the beautiful buildings, even the mosques, had not been built by Persians, but by Armenians, who back in the day had been famous for being great architects and had been invited specifically for this job to come all the way from Armenia. That is why even nowadays the Armenians living in the Armenian quarter of the city still have a very high reputation in the Persian community.

Sebas is starving, so we decide to buy some food in a shop and hide somewhere to eat it. Having everything bought and on the way to the park we pass by a fast food restaurant which entrance and windows are covered by curtains. By chance I see someone rushing out and tell Sebas to check the place out. I lift the curtain and both of us can´t believe online casino what we see: it´s in the middle of the day, it´s Ramadan and the place is packed with people eating and drinking. Our eyes start shining and a couple of minutes later we gather a table and gorge down a fat burger. The rules are not so strict after all 🙂 In the evening we meet Michael again, he comes with two nice Germans he had met and we enjoy a shisha in the grass next to the dried up river.

Next day we are invited for lunch to a very nice University professor whom we had met while walking from one bridge to the next.  He and his wife speak perfectly German, the food is great and after a couple of hours talking and looking at photos we leave and head to the Atashgah, a fire temple on top of a mountain that dates back to 300 BC. It´s a remain of the Zoroastrian religion, that is, before most people converted to Islam, they worshipped fire and so they built temples where fire was burning 24/7. Walking up there at 40 degrees is a pain in the ass, but the place is nice and one has a beautiful view over the city.


Persepolis with Rostams rock graves round the corner

We leave for Shiraz and decide to take the longer route through the mountains. It pays off, even though we arrive again at night, we are rewarded with a great road with many curves and a beautiful scenery that takes us up and down a mountain range. Luckily we find our hotel right away and next day we visit Persepolis in the morning. We get there at around 9 and there´s almost no one besides 2 French and a Danish we had met the evening before at our hotel. We strive around the beautiful and impressive remains of this ancient city that dates back to 500 BC and which had been destroyed by Alxander the Great in a moment of not so greatness (he decided to burn it down while he was drunk).  Since no one is there we can sit down, take the time to inhale the atmosphere and imagine how life must have been there. Even touching one of the many beautiful stone carvings fills you with great respect, knowing that this very carving had been done 2500 years ago.

After we climb up to two tombs that had been carved out the rock face of the mountain above the remains of Persepolis, we drive to Naqsh-e Rustam, where we gaze at 4 huge tombs that date back to 1000 BC and that had also been carved out the rock face of a mountain…but about 30 meters above the ground! Looking at them make you think of some Indiana Jones movie and the both of us wished to somehow climb up there to explore the tombs.


Yazd – where people get stuck

From Shiraz to Yazd we drive along a real desert road for the first time, meaning, the road is totally straight, it has above 50 degrees and no matter if you look left or right, everything around us is flat. It doesn´t take long and we decide to go offroad and drive around in the desert, which we really enjoy.

From Yazd we have read that it´s a city where, even though extremly hot in summer, many visitors get somehow stuck and stay way longer than they planned. This is absolutely true 🙂 Most of the buidlings in the old city are made of mudbrick and striving through the narrow streets is simply incredible.We find a very nice hacienda-like hotel and there also we are cought by the „let´s stay a bit longer“ virus… meaning 4 days staying mostly in the hotel, lying around in the shadow, reading and writing on our blog. There is one highlight: with the help of an Iranian friend that Sebas met in the hotel, he manages to finally buy two carpets and is happy like a little child.

After 4 days we leave direction Kerman, where we agreed with Michael to meet him the same afternoon to go camping into the famous Kahlut desert. We drive on the highway and suddenly, between two trucks, I see a shape of two motorbikes that can impossibly be Iranian. We meet Fabian and Janine, a very nice Swiss couple, who, as it turns out, have the same route until Nepal. We are very happy , but because we are in a rush to meet Michael, we agree to meet the next day and go through Pakistan together.


Kerman and the Kaluth

Halfway between Yazd and Kerman Sebas realizes he forgot his passport in our hotel in Yazd. We decide to continue to Kerman and try to solve the issue from there. Not very intelligent as it turns out 🙂 We arrive at the Akhavan hotel and Sebas calls our hotel in Yazd and they tell him not to worry, they´ll send the passport by bus and he should have it next day at noon. Great, relaxed we head off with Michael and a guide to the Kaluths in the Dasht-e Lut desert. This desert is not only famous for its stone formations within the desert no one really knows where they come from, but it´s also one of the main drug traffic areas.

On the way the guide shows us a qanat (thats a water management system for irrigation and human settlements), where we stop for an hour to take a swim and to rest. Afterwards we continue into the desert, where we stop in the middle of nowhere, are surrounded by beautiful rock formations and decide to stay there overnight. Staying overnight in the desert is an experience for itself, it´s absolutely silent, you feel a warm breeze on your skin and in the sky you see millions of stars. The moment the sun went down and it started getting dark, we were all in silence, everyone deep in his thoughts, inhaling the moment. Just beautiful.

Next day we get up early and head back to the hotel only to find out that the passport is not there. Another phone call to Yazd and Sebas is informed that the passport hadn´t been sent by bus but because of security reasons, by priority mail and should be there the next day. We contact our Swiss friends telling them what happened and they decide to come to our hotel and wait with us to go through Pakistan together. Of course it takes another 3 days until the passport arrives, because priority mail in Iran means, that the mail goes all the way back to Teheran from where it is flown to Kerman. Nevertheless, Fabian and Janine stay with us, to save costs we agree with the nice manager of the hotel that we can camp in his backyard. They are amazed about our camping equipment, especially the camping stove (“this is the best you can get”)..and even more amazed as they realize that we have no clue how it works 🙂 We get a crash course on camping and motorcycle maintenance and are very thankful that they share their experience and know how with us. Seeing how they are prepared made me question how we survived this trip so far… and I guess they thought the same 🙂

After 3 days the post office calls, the passport has finally arrived! We are very happy, if the passport with all the visas had gotten lost, I guess we would have been in real trouble. Lesson learned is: never forget your passport and IF, then better go back yourself to get it 🙂 We pack our staff and head direction Bam and are surprised that shortly after Kerman we are already escorted by police who take us all the way to a hotel in Bam (thats almost 400km). There we are allowed to park our bikes in the coffee shop inside the hotel and experience another (typical?) Iranian situation: we ask if there is a shop somewhere to buy food and instead of giving us instructions how to get there, he jumps up, gets his car, drives us there and in the end even pays the stuff we bought.

Bam had been a beautiful city btw, but had been totally destroyed by an earthquake in 2003 where more than 50.000 people died and the old city, that dated back to 650 AD, had disappeared.

From Bam starts the tricky part of our trip, as we enter Baluchistan, an area that covers the South-East of Iran, major parts of Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan and is considered as quite dangerous. Again we are escorted by military and police to Mirjaveh, the border town to Pakistan and even though with the escorts we feel safe, I understand why so many people try to escape from them. Then handing over from one escort to the other takes ages and despite the current security situation even we were thinking that it would have been partly better to go without them.

We stay over in Mirjaveh and next day in the morning head to the Iranian border, where some guys from the military guide us through the passport and customs counter and since foreigners get preferred treatment we are done in less than 45 minutes. We drive through the main fence and leave Iran behind us.

Iran, with it´s beautiful landscapes, rich history and extremely friendly and hospitable people. There was no moment where I didn´t feel safe, but numerous moments that filled me with gratitude and happiness. The black & white picture the media is drawing on this country unfortunately focuses only on the – also among the Iranians – very questionable political situation, but ignores Iran´s heart and soul: the people.

The second we cross the Iranian border I can feel the tension in the group getting bigger. Everyone seems worried. Is it true what we hear in the news? Are these Pakistanis only waiting to kidnap or to kill us? Are we taking too much of a risk? Let me tell you this: Pakistan took us by surprise and what we experienced there, I will never forget. But that´s another story… stay tuned 🙂