In Tehran it was visa arranging time. But first I went to the palace of the shah, which was in the exact state is was when he and his family fled the country after the revolution in 1979. A beautiful place that I wouldn’t mind living in. There I met a British-Iranian woman who was back in Iran for the first time since the revolution. We had lunch and conversation together in the north of Teheran, close to the mountains. After a walk we went back to the palace. I parked in front of the Uzbekistan embassy and spent the night there in the car, to be there when it opened in the morning. One problem was that it was a national holiday and it would only be opened from 9 to 11, and I had no dollars. Also the exchanges were closed. Luckily I met some French guys who were willing to trade me some euros for dollars. And with the letter of invitation that I arranged earlier in Tabriz, I got the visa in about 5 minutes. After that I drove to the south of Tehran, where Suse was couchsurfing with Shiavash, a relaxed guy with plans to work in Rotterdam. That evening I went back to the embassy neighborhood to sleep, to be in time for the turkmenistan embassy, and apply for a transit visa.
After doing that, Suse and I left Tehran to begin our 2 week trip to Qeshm together. First stop was a camp near Kashan, where we sort of bargained the tent into the soft grass, instead of the concrete blocks next to the noisy highway. There were a lot of interested, friendly locals so if was a long social evening. It was a bit of a restless night because of traffic noise and early visitors to the park. Our walk in Kashan was hot and sunny. We bought some food and checked out the bazaar and their beautiful mosque complex, before leaving for Abyaneh, another Unesco world heritage village to the east of Kashan.
The village of Abyaneh is located on the side of a hill, and consists of pretty red mud buildings, cozily stacked together. There is a very relaxed atmosphere and there were some happy people waking around in very colorful traditional clothing. We attempted to climb the hill next to the village but my leg still wouldn’t let me go very far. Still, we managed to get a good view of the village and valley. Close to Abyaneh is an iOverlander spot in a valley. We drove there after some tea and soup and it turned out to be the perfect spot. That night was crystal clear and perfectly dark. The temperature was perfect and the view the next morning was great.
The path we came on continued into the mountains and we decided to follow it for as far as Brutus would allow. But the path would just go on and on and finally, after taking a right at a junction and passing a 3000m peak, the path came to an end. So we turned back and took the other path at the junction. It went all the way to a village on the other side of the mountain range, from where we continued to Varzaneh, on the edge of the desert. It was already quite dark after we have up looking for a camping door in the desert because of the hard wind, so Varzaneh traditional guesthouse was decided to be the best option. This would be my first night under an actual roof in Iran :).
A good night sleep later we went to take a look at the wetlands, salt lake and to do some off-road driving in the desert dunes. With a heavy loaded car not such a great success but fun nonetheless. The smart lake was easier but I have to warn everyone who wants to drive there that your car will be covered in… salt. And with no water hoses around that is a bad thing for a car. So, before we arrived in Esfahan and saw a river, we had an hour of cleaning fun.
In Esfahan we went straight to the city camp grounds in the north of town. A guy who was also washing his car at the river told us that this was the best place to go. As (almost) per usual he was willing to escort us there, but we were sure we could find it ourselves. We built a decent camp on one of the most shaded concrete blocks and relaxed a bit until our neighbors invited us for tea and playing a football game on their laptop. In the end we only talked because the battery was empty :). It was a noisy night but we still managed some hours sleep before heading into Esfahan the next morning, by taxi. It’s one of the oldest and largest in the world and very much full of life. One of the strangest things that happened to me in Iran was when a guy tapped me on the shoulder pushed his child into my hands and quickly took a picture. “thank”, and he ran off again. We walked for hours in the bazaar and visited some mosques until we were tired and headed back to the camp ground.
The next day we met some other campers who were happy to escort us to another part of town and help us out with looking for cloth to cover the awning with. We succeeded by finding cloth, having it prepared in a sewing shop, doing groceries and finding traditional food in the bazaar for a very reasonable price. Also we visited the amazing Jameh mosque and Si-o-seh bridge with its 33 arches
After walking over the bridge we started driving in the direction of shiraz. But this is for the next blog post because you’re probably tired now.