Back into internetland! (Kyrgyzstan – Osh). Here is the last part of Iran:
On the way back from Qeshm Helena and I first went back to Hamed and Saghi in Bandar Abbas, where again we were received with much hospitality. I lost the pictures I made there but we had another great day and were invited to stay the night. My visa extension was waiting for me at the police office next day and after picking it up we continued our way towards Bam. On the road we saw many camels. Once in Bam, we searched for a place to put up the tent but when we headed to the edge of town we were stopped by a local in a 4×4 who told us to go to the camp ground on the other side of the city. Bam’s camping park is very busy and packed with locals, which also made it a little hard to have some alone time. The thing with Iranian hospitality is, that sometimes it doesn’t feel voluntary anymore. And that evening we just didn’t feel like it and it was a bit hard to say no all the time. But at some point everybody left and we could relax.
After a short night (because Iranians also really like to ride their mopeds through the park at early hours :)) we packed up camp and went to the age old Arg-e-Bam. Bam was pretty much destroyed in a massive earthquake in 2006 but a lot of work has been done to restore at least parts of the citadel. But, still a lot is still under construction so the main route through the complex takes about half an hour to an hour. After that we went to “backup Bam” near Rayen, which was not affected by the earthquake. This complex is really beautiful and there are tons of chambers, alleys and rooftops to explore, some of them restored, some of them left original.
Because Helena does read the Lonely planet, we found yet another sight on the road to Kerman, which we would first skip before doing a short trip in the Kalut desert. We stopped for a short visit to Shahzadeh garden near Mahan. A nicely maintained place which was apparently quite a popular spot for locals to hang out at. So, after this it was time to go to the Kalut! But, on the way there I wanted to pass a truck and the engine started hampering. I tried to use maximum power a few times and every time the engine seemed to refuse. After some doubt and deliberation we decided to go on, but at a careful pace. It would probably be some clogged filter or so. We arrived at the spot we picked out on the map in the dark. So with the spotlight and some driving around we managed to find a perfect spot near one of the highest kaluts. Hamed had arranged some beers \m/ for us which we drank while being amazed by the presence of millions of bright stars due to the lack of light pollution there. Also, against my expectations, the temperature was perfect all evening and night. We were there mainly for a desert sunrise so the alarm clock went at about 5:30. Around that time some other people arrived from Kerman (a bunch of Dutch and some Iranians), to witness the same. I got some pretty nice pictures that morning. Because we didn’t want to feel the full girth of the desert heat we packed up the camp quickly, did some careful desert driving (due to the engine acting up), drove a bit further to check out an old carevanserai and get the hell back to Kerman before the sun could get its grip upon the desert sands.
We arrived in Kerman quite early so we had enough time to do some sight seeing and find a nice place to eat. After that it was time to say goodbye. Helena decided to take a bus to Shiraz while I went searching for a place to check out the fuel and air filters. In the west of Kerman I found a street with a bunch of car repair shops, but by then it was quite late. Almost per standard a guy approached me on the road and asked if I needed any help. His English was perfect so he helped me out really well by directing me to a Toyota garage (which was closed), and later to the local park to put up my tent. The next day I went back to the Toyota garage to get the air filter changed and fuel filter washed (they didn’t have diesel filters in town). After this Brutus was ready for action again.
The Austrian family I met in Tabriz were stuck with engine problems in Ravar, which isn’t far from Kerman. Also their visas got denied by the Turkmenistan embassy. So I decided to catch up with them and try to give some moral support. The engine trouble was quite severe and because I wasn’t really in a hurry (still waiting for my Turkmenistan visa) I stayed near them for 2 nights while their truck was being repaired. We caught up with some road stories and had some meals together. The first evening, while socializing with some of the locals, 2 dudes offered to give me a tour of Ravar on their motor cycles. We met a bunch of people on the way and had some late night snack. They also let me drive for a bit good times. I slept in my car east of the town near the hills. On the third day, after trying a whole bunch of times, I finally managed to contact the Turkmenistan embassy. They told me that my visa was ready and I could pick it up in Mashhad!! Such luck It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. From the 9th to the 13th of May I was allowed to cross their insanely closed off country with my own car! So I had one week left in Iran, which I wanted to spend in the northeast.
So I said my goodbyes to the Austrians and Ravar and started driving towards Mashhad. On the way the landscape changed a number of times, from desert, to step, to lush green mountains. I found an old deserted mud brick town on the side of the road which wasn’t on the map and drove through it for a while. I suppose people lived here once but now it was either half destroyed or used as storage or for keeping animals. Some great picture material in any case. After a 650 km drive I ended up in Torbat Heydarieye, when darkness had already fallen. After studying Maps.me for a while I managed to fine a spot with a great view on the side of the hills west of the city. I slept a solid night in the car without being disturbed. After a small morning walk I continued to Mashhad to pick up my highly prized Turkmenistan visa but I arrived too late. So I went looking for a nice spot near a village east of Mashhad. After driving and hanging out in the hills for a few hours I found a secluded spot to have a good nights rest. The next day I went back to Mashhad for the visa. It was fairly easy to pick up but there was still a form to fill in with the same questions as the form in Teheran. But as it seemed I filled everything in correctly and got the visa after some 20 minutes. The embassy was also where I met Mohammad, who didn’t speak a word of english and started showing me pictures of his walking trips he did in the surroundings of Mashhad. After that he suggested to go walking (climbing) together near Shandiz, and in the afternoon we drove there together. He had climbed this top before, and all the others near it. It took us about 3 hours to reach the top, partly because the weather turned nasty for a while and Mohammad was a fervent photographer who stopped for literally every opportunity to take a picture. We walked down in about an hour while trying to talk and singing children’s songs. After that we drove back to Mashhad where we met a friend of him who was an English teacher. They invited me to a late dinner after which they showed me the way to the park to camp. An amazing day!
The next morning I visited the massive mosque complex in the center of town. I wasn’t allowed to take my camera there, but taking pictures with a phone is perfectly alright. The complex is absolutely ridiculously massive, with more than 10 squares that all have a bunch of mosques on them. There are golden gates and arches and it’s full of people praying or sightseeing. To be honest, a place this big, in the center of town, purely for religious purposes is absurd to me and I hope that they will soon turn it into something useful when the state becomes less fanatically religious. Since Mashhad is not much more than a massive religious center I decided to leave and head for the Kholeh Zou, a tiny village with a canyon near the Kalat of which Mohammad had told and shown me a lot.
On the way to Kalat I decided to randomly enter a little path on the left of the road. The path led me to a small farming community and an awesome rock formation. These are the moments when I really enjoy having a car. The guy who lived there invited me for a cup of tea, but his wife wouldn’t have it . The first time Iranian hospitality got cancelled.
When I arrived it started raining pretty hard and I saw 2 non-Iranians hiding under a bridge. We said hi and they invited me to stay with them in their rented place in Kalat. They were a Belgian and Peruvian couple, traveling the world for a couple of years. I told them about what Mohammad told me about the Zou and they were eager to join me there and go for a hike. So the next day we hopped in Brutus and drove to the canyon. This was the first time I really felt like I went somewhere in Iran where almost no foreigners had been. It was not on the map, not in the Lonely Planet and also there wasn’t a lot to find on the internet. We parked the car in Kholeh Zou and were greeted by some locals. We asked where the entrance of the canyon was (because we weren’t able to find it), and a guy named Esmael said he would show us. In stead he showed us the whole way down the canyon and all the nice places he knew there. Even some rather steep and dangerous places. We spent probably like 5 hours walking, climbing, collecting plants and herbs and enjoying the great view. After we got back to the village we were invited for a meal at his place. We ate some kind of lagman while a goat was slaughtered in the room next to us, his family was super nice to us and were truly glad to have us around. It felt kind of ungrateful to leave them again somehow. They were so nice to us! On the way to Kalat we enjoyed a beautiful sunset. That evening we played some cards and went to bed early.
The next day they decided to join me for a ride westwards. I dropped them off in Dargaz and I went a little further south to find a nice camping spot in the hills. I spent one rainy night near a small river in the hills, and a part of the next day until I was chased away by the may flies that were around. From there I drove directly to the burder with Turkmenistan where I spent the night on a parking lot between a bunch of trucks. The Iran adventure was over. It was amazing and beautiful and social and overwhelming and totally different than expected, mainly in a good way. Thank you people of Iran!