So, a bit earlier than anticipated I entered Iran. On the border I changed some money into rial and asked for car insurance but nobody was able to understand me. The next part of the drive to Tabriz was without insurance. Iran seems to be stuffed with pretty landscapes. Taking pictures is almost always a disappointment because 2 kilometers down the road there will always be a better spot to photograph. There were a lot of people picnicking alongside the road because of Nowruz, Iranian new year, which is a 12 day public holiday. I found a public park in Tabriz on iOverlander and drove there. Traffic in Tabriz, and as it seems in all of Iran, is insane. And everyone agrees :). Lanes are drawn on the road but no one seems to see them, cars just stop randomly, all indicators seem to be broken and people yawn at you right after almost crashing into you. But if you apply the same behavior, it is actually quite ok. And everyone means well because 50% of everyone waves or gives a friendly look-at-me-honk.
At the park I met overlanders Leander, Maria and Lennox, a family with the awesome goal of driving from Austria to New Zealand. They built a huge overland vehicle, pretty much from scratch in 2 years. Truly a home on wheels. We would hang out for the next couple of days, sitting out the Nowruz holiday in Tabriz. We went to the center together, had some dinners and did some football to bide the time. The second day there we went to Dizel Abbat to see if we could get some work done on the vehicles. I needed a brake check and perhaps an oil change. They needed to reset the springs and do some engine work. I got nothing done that day but it was interesting nonetheless. There was a very good atmosphere on the garage complex and I even got invited to lunch with some of the guys. Good stuff.
On the third day there I played some volleyball with Leander and some Iranians. It was a lot of fun until I felt a sharp pain in my calf. After that I wasn’t able to walk anymore. Conclusion, tennis leg. The muscle had torn and hurt like hell with every movement. So, I decided to stay for 2 more nights and sit out the worst of the damage as much as possible. But since stuff had to get done, I didn’t get a lot of rest. 2 days later though, I was able to put my foot down on the ground again so improvement was noticeable.
The last day in Tabriz was also the last day of Nowruz, known as Sizdah Bedar, the day of nature. A lot of families decided to come to the park to picnick and it was a very social day, with a lot of invitations to eat food, talk, drink tea and visit homes.
On the campsite we were invited to have dinner at a family’s house. They would pick us up in the evening and take us back afterward. It was a nice evening with some good food, tea and a bunch of sweets.
Before leaving Tabriz I still had to arrange insurance. I got a tip on where to get it and went there by car. The insurance was €90 for 2 months. Quite expensive but it was the only option, so I took it. The guy who helped me at the insurance company also offered to help me with my Irancell phone card that wasn’t working, drove me to a shop in town, and fixed it. Also he offered to eat lunch with him. Super friendly and very interesting conversations!
After a cold night in my car I decided to drive to warmer pastures on the coast. My leg was still complaining a lot but it was possible to drive. The road to the coast was beautiful, especially the last part from the mountains down to the Caspian sea. Everything slowly turned into spring.
I ended up on a campsite near Talesh. I read that this place is a typical Iranian camp site. When I arrived I could enter for free and even got some freshly baked bread from the camp guard. When I started preparing food, some guy asked me if I could light the coal for his hookah (Iranian waterpipe), and soon the whole family was standing near my camp, offering me to smoke hookah, giving sunflower seeds, warming their hands at my stove, laughing and trying to communicate. It was a very interesting encounter in the dark
My downloaded version of Lonely Planet suggested me to check out Masooleh (Unesco) so that’s what I did. This town is reportedly about a thousand years old and situated on the side of a mountain. The roof of each house is the road of the ones above and there is a pretty bazaar in the middle. In masooleh I slept on one of the parking lots, had a talk in the morning with the taxi drivers and drove on, back to the coast where I found a nice camping near the shore, southeast of Tonekabon.
The camping on the shore was so nice and comfortable that I stayed 2 nights. The first night another family joined me after I lit Mordor and had a nice fire besides the car. One of them actually worked in Rotterdam and knew quite some Dutch. It was a good evening. There was also some whiskey Don’t tell Khomeini.
The second day was leg-testing-day. But before I left I met Komeil, who was strolling on the beach. We sat down and talked for abit while he made me a drawing. He helped me out with my iranian phone chip and then left to do some studying. Then I went out and walked a few kilometers for some groceries, and with some discomfort it went ok. That night I wanted to light Mordor again but I didn’t have enough wood to properly make a fire, until Reza (the neighbor) showed up with a wheelbarrow filled with firewood. He also brought a bag of oranges and insisted to bring tea as well. Iranian hospitality at its top I thought. After some time at the fire communicating with some words, hands and feet we said good night.
The next day my car wouldn’t start because of my extensive electricity usage and because the solar panel didn’t charge the batteries yet. Reza heard that, came over and called a friend who was a car expert. It wasn’t really necessary to help me but the gesture was really nice, and also it didn’t stop there. while the batteries were being charged they invited me into their house to have lunch. They made an amazing meal with self caught fish, rice, tomato sauce, olives and much more. Of course I was also allowed to use their bathroom and father handed me a necklace and some nice words before leaving. Awesome.
When my batteries were charged I left for Tehran, where Suze would land, to join me for 2 weeks, the next day. I spent the night in a park in Karaj, where my (pretty old) shoes were stolen :). I think someone really needed them.
Next up: Iran part II (Tehran and southward)