Iran, the most loving people we have met up to now live in this country. We are invited everywhere for a cup of tea, for a delicious lunch or even for a great overnight stay of a few days. We enjoyed Iran, but Iran entertained us as well!!
On our motorbikes we laugh a lot about all the videos made by Iranians at 100 km / h, whole families hang out the windows to make the perfect picture or selfie. The heartwarming but often confusing English that is spoken also works on our laughing muscles, Bertha is often Erik’s Husband and any moment of the day is Goodmorning. On the question whether we speak English, we often get their follow-up ‘question’ Thank You. But everything with a beautiful smile. We stopped counting how often we have taken pictures with Iranians.
The extreme heat in combination with the head scarf, covering clothes, heavy smog that strikes your throat and eyes, traffic that really comes from everywhere and the sometimes incomprehensible laws of this country will all be forgotten when you look in the bright eyes of an Iranian. What an incredibly beautiful country! We’re glad to take you in the adventures we’ve experienced in Iran over the last two weeks.
Saturday 22nd July 2017 Esfahan
We wake up on a bed of concrete and enjoy breakfast on the Iranian way; ‘Mätze’ with goat cheese and tea. It’s kind of childish that we have to pay for the coffee or the second cup of tea in Amir Kabir hostel.
After breakfast we walk to one of the largest squares in the world, the Meidam Emam, or the square of Imam. A beautiful large square surrounded by a large bazaar which is full of mostly bronze vases, pans and copper crafts. Everywhere you hear the craftsmen hit their hammer.
The two mosques we visit, Naghsh-e Jahan and Sheikh Lotfollah are truly beautiful and immensely large. In the heart of the dome of the first mosque we clap a few times in our hands and we are rewarded with a huge echo. Bertha is suddenly encouraged by some Iranian boys to sing a song at the centre. After a few sentences of Wilhelmus (the Dutch National song), a daunting applause is released. Bertha invites the boys to sing a song and after a short hesitation they sing together something that resembles an encouragement song from a football team. The dome enhances the vocals beautifully.
Erik stands shy in a corner, afraid that he should also sing a song 🙂
After visiting the square and surrounding mosques, we walk back to the hostel where we walk past a sticker shop. We will produce some additional stickers with the instagram logo for on the motorbikes. Especially in this country, where Facebook is forbidden, Instagram (or Innastagramme as they say here) is totally hot. Often, the second question in a conversation we have with people here is if we have an Instagram account. We also put a sticker on the back of the laptop, you never know 😉
At the hostel we write on our blog and chat with the “fellow residents”. It is common ground that almost all travelers smoke here. Based on the price of a pack of cigarettes it is understandable, a pack does not cost € 2.00 yet, but we’re glad we do not smoke ourselves. Even though we suspect that after a year on the road we will have pretty paved lungs, especially in the busy cities, the smog can really hit your lungs.
In the evening we open our first beer in the country, a malt beer! It does not taste like a cold one in other countries, but in this way we try to create a bit the feeling of weekend. We look at each other smiling and wonder when the last time was that we did not drink alcohol for a long time. We suddenly begin to discover different characters from each other 🙂
Sunday 23rd July 2017 Esfahan
In the morning we put our blog online. Yes! Soon we receive (many many!) nice and interesting responses! Thank you very much!! This motivates enormously to continue with what we do!!
In the afternoon we will be picked up by Mehdi. We received his phone number from Sahar in Tehran and he likes to join us. With the motorbikes we drive behind him to one of the better suburbs of Esfahan. We are welcomed in his palace which is at least 6 times as big as our apartment in Amsterdam and we even assigned our own room. Together with a girlfriend who speaks excellent English, Mehdi makes a delicious lunch on the barbecue that we enjoy in the end of the afternoon. Mehdi also speaks English quite well and we have long and engaging conversations when he is not on the phone.
After lunch, we leave by car to the centre towards Meidan Emam. Behind this 6th largest square in the world, is a busy mosque where the evening praying takes place. Here is a square too, but now full of carpets and praying people. Especially for the higher people, there has been made some holes in the floor so that they will feel mentally no more than the normal people and thus the people will not look up to them and the result is that everyone is equal. We continue our journey towards the green minarets. Mehdi is meanwhile accompanied by another girlfriend who unfortunately does not speak English and seems to be less interested in our stories. Mehdi gives Erik a wink and advises him to live in Iran 🙂
We get back into the car and drive towards Khajou Bridge. Unlike the Si-o-se bridge, this bridge does have a small chamber in the middle. Mehdi tells us a strange story. On the side of the bridge are two lions facing each other. When you stand near the lion on one side you see two eyes in the dark at the lion across the river. The same goes the other way around. However, when you look at the eyes of the lion while standing next to it you cannot see the lights. We have discussed every possible solution, two holes could reflect the light of the bridge, but it remains a mystery!!
Along the Zayandeh River we drive further to the Joui Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that is beautifully lit. In the tea house in the middle of the bridge we can try tea in almost all flavours. From the bridge we have a view at the Ferdowsi Bridge. Unlike the Joui Bridge, which is lightly yellow, the Ferdowsi is a jumping rainbow that might even stand out in Disneyland.
Esfahan also has a street where young people meet each other. It’s not a street with pubs like we know in the Netherlands, but one with fast food and ice cream shops. Nevertheless, most of the dates seem to be made in the car as all young people drive back and forth on this street all the time. When we stand for a traffic light, we see that two girls from a car hand over their phone number to two boys in another car. We are on the other side and Mehdi opens the car frame and points to Erik. The girls immediately move their attention from the one car to our car and start chatting with Erik, who seems to be somewhat more interesting. Again, Erik gets a wink from Mehdi, come and live in Iran!
Monday 24th July 2017 Esfahan
We sleep long, because of the night out and Erik seems to have even dreamed a lot. We really love to have good beds during our journey. Mehdi indicates that we are going to have breakfast in the ‘ballroom’ after which we enter the city. There is unexpectedly a lot on the program today. We start the day at the construction site where Mehdi is in charge and today we need to make some big decisions. Strikingly enough, the inspections from the government appear to be more important than in the Netherlands. Erik walks with Mehdi and together they discuss the business at the building site and assess a number of drawings. They finally nod and afterwards the work can be resumed.
Just a little bit of history. From 1600, more than 150,000 Armenians fled from Julfa, West Armenia, to New Julfa in Esfahan, Iran. The then king in Iran treated them well in the hope of gaining information in dealing on the Silk Road.
This Armenian district in Esfahan currently has more than 15 Christian churches, of which one is called Bedkhem Church, built in 1627. It is quite special to see a Christian church in a Muslim country and we can see that on the outside of the church. Most paintings of probably naked people are white-painted by the Muslims. On the inside, the church is intact fortunately!
We continue our way through the Atashgah Zoroastian Fire Temple and agree that it is really too hot to visit this temple in the midst of the desert. At the shaking towers, Monare Jonban Shaking Minaretes we are not lucky. When building the mosque something went wrong and the upper part of the minarets can easily move back and forth. The crazy thing is that when you shake one of the two, it shakes the other one. Previously everyone could shake the towers, but to reduce the chance of breaking down, they were shaken only every one and a half hour by an employee. We do not decide to wait so long and shake our heads back and forth, making it seems like the minarets also move. With a smile we crawl into the cool car again.
We are going back to Emam Square where Mehdi’s English-speaking girlfriend is waiting for us. Mehdi knows a wonderful tea house where there is antique everywhere. Everywhere you look do hang tea cups, man-bags from 1900, dried butterflies, packets of cigarettes, water pipe flavours and matchboxes. Very busy but also a nice collection.
At the end of the day, the sun and temperature have become more comfortable and we visit the Aali Qapu Palace of the former king. In the past, a kind of polo was played on the square. From the palace with its 3 floors you had the most beautiful view. At this viewpoint there was even a swimming pool!
We drive along the office of Mehdi’s company, because yes, he also has to work. His phone is ringing like (we do not exaggerate) 100 times a day. He also indicates that he must always charge it again at noon. His company is dealing in marble floors and wall decoration and is located in a shopping mall full of shops in gold and silver jewellery. The entire property is packed in a building that, like the Ferdowsi Bridge, would not be missed in Disneyland. The TL lights in the colours pink, yellow, blue and green meet you from all sides.
We finish the day in a colourful way and drive into the mountains to an amusement park which is also fully illuminated. Everywhere you look people love to go picknick and use to smoke water pipe. We do not go into the park, but take the cable car to the top of the mountain from where we have a beautiful view of Esfahan which is well lit. Esfahan has more than 2 million inhabitants and from this height the city is visibly bigger than we suspected.
On the way back, like many other Esfahanners, we take a sandwich of halal meat as dinner, which we eat ‘at home’ at 23:00. It is clear that the people here have different eating times than in the Netherlands.
Tuesday 25th July 2017 Esfahan – Mount Barmfiruz
Fortunately, Mehdi does not mind we want to leave early and he is ready for breakfast at 7.30 am. With a full belly we get on the motorbikes, finally we can ride again after 4 days. We cannot wait! We thank Mehdi for his hospitality, interesting conversations about women, interest rates, travel and various cultural differences and leave his palace. We leave with a happy face and stable intestines. Before we leave Esfahan forever we refill the bikes. Today we drive into the mountains and we never know when we will see a gas station again. Esfahan is located at 1200 meters, but after leaving the city, we soon get higher. In the middle of the day we break our high record so far, the counter ticks 2800 meters. A very nice occurrence is that it is also a lot colder.
On the road when we buy some fruit, cars stop making pictures of us. As a thank you, Erik gets a bag of nectarines. Hanging out of his car, a smiling man invites us to watch his vegetable garden. We are secretly wondering where all the fruit is coming from here in the midst of the dry-desert. But since we’ve been heading a couple of days with a guide and want to make a few miles today, we thank the man kindly for his offer. A few kilometres down the highway, the man is waiting for us, waving at us if we really do not want to visit. With a smile we continue our way.
At the end of the afternoon we arrive at Pooladkaf Ski Resort, which is at 2790 meter. The temperature here now is 29 degrees, which is cool for Iran. It takes a while before they realize at the front desk that we do not want a room, but want to camp. One of the employees will bring us to a nearby nomad camp. There are wooden poles covered with a roof. The space is filled with carpets and overlooks the mountains. Here, in southwest Iran, it is a lot greener than in the middle, which makes the landscape more interesting to drive through. We hit our tent under one of the roofs and find our way in the nomadic culture.
As we rest on the carpets, an older gentleman serves fresh tea all the time. Yummy! In the evening we are talking with him and an Iranian boy with hands and feet at the campfire. It cools down quickly, the temperature seems to be at the freezing point. That promises to be a cold night. The men ask 3 times if we do not want extra blankets and why the campfire for our tent is not on. We thank him kindly for his awareness and think that our sleeping bags should be enough.
When we brush our teeth in the half-finished toilet building it is full of torrents, flies, butterflies, cockroaches and grasshoppers. For Bertha, her biggest nightmare seems to have become reality. With her headscarf she is already trying to strike the beasts off. Also above our tent hangs a lamp which attracts many small animals. The tent is full of grasshoppers and around the tent there are some small scorpions with big flies in their shears. Blowing and swinging we step into the tent and we hope we have not taken anything in. After thorough checking, we crawl under our 3-season sleeping bags and sleep in an ice-cold tent for the first time on our journey.
Wednesday 26th July 2017 Mount Barmfiruz
At all we notice that the campsite has just been opened. For example, the shower in the toilet is already connected but has no hot water yet. We end up with a cold shower this morning. When the old man brings us 4 fresh eggs and tea, he points to the nearby Ski Hotel. If we want to shower, we can better go to the hotel, he makes clear with gestures in combination with his Persian bubble. It is already hot and cold shower is not that bad.
In the morning we read and rest well in our camp. Such a day as today, we have nothing planned and cannot do anything at all. We have not had yet these days during our trip. Secretly, your body, but also your mind, needs this to handle all the adventures of the past few weeks. Still, we receive some visit of curious Iranians who want to go on the picture with Erik and the motorbikes.
We lunch at the chic hotel, where the meat is good spiced, but prices are at Dutch rather than at Iranian level. Happily, the expenses are compensated when the owner indicates that the nomad campsite is free for these nights. Probably because the facilities are not ready yet and there are scary animals everywhere.
The rest of the day we do not much more than drinking tea, playing games and read. When we accompany the old man at the campfire in the evening, he indicates that he has prayed 3 times for us today. He understood that we would like to travel all the way to Australia and prays for a good run.
When we make it clear that we travel to Mashhad, he tells us that he has been to Mashhad (Northeast Iran) 2x. He had gotten bad knees from the hard work. After praying in Mashhad, he walked away with good new knees!
Thursday 27th July 2017 Mount Barmfiruz – Shiraz
After a cold shower we are ready for the day to come. This applies at least to Erik. When Bertha gets dressed in the shower, you can hear her echo scream in the mountains. There is a grasshopper of about 10 cm in her pants. Fortunately, this fear was heard in the nomad tent, and Erik was able to help to accompany the grasshopper into nature. Some staff members in the field are looking to Erik, in sign language, he makes clear how small the problem is.
After breakfast with freshly baked eggs we repack the white horses. We give the old man a nice tip in his hands for all his teas, eggs and apples and say goodbye. We have not been able to make large conversations with him but we have felt very home at this man and are honoured that he has prayed for us.
Let’s go to Shiraz!
The city of Shiraz sounds like wine! And this is true too, because until the 1979 revolution in Iran there were also hundreds of wineries. Currently, alcohol, including wine, is completely prohibited. The rumor, however, is that there is still a lot of wine made for own use around Shiraz. Unfortunately, we have not been able to discover these wines.
Along the road to Shiraz there is no wine, but red and white grapes are offered everywhere. Super sweet and often pitless, delicious! When we score a hamburger just before the city (according to the cook ‘better than McDonalds!’) we draw the attention of many men who are busy to make motorbikes in the nearby shop. Erik must be on the picture with everyone. ‘Wow, 2 cylinder engines!’, one guy discovers. In Iran there is a restriction on motorbikes, Iranians can only drive up to 250cc motorbikes. With 650cc, our motorbikes are therefore a top attraction for the men. Bertha also attracts attention, because for a woman (“your husband?”) it is not common to ride on such a big motorbike. Fortunately, an exception is made for tourists.
Around noon we arrive at Golshan Guesthouse, right in the centre of Shiraz. The motorbikes can be parked on a nearby ‘guarded’ parking lot where some bored looking young boys are employed. With a slight discomfort, we say goodbye to our motorbikes.
In the evening we walk along the Karim Khan Citadel (City wall) to Qavam Restaurant. Besides the kebab which they serve here everywhere, this restaurant also serves vegetarian meals with eggplant. Both we are not really raised in a vegetarian way, we love meat, but when you eat only meat for three weeks during lunch and dinner this restaurant is a kind of Walhalla. Not only mentally but also for the taste pupils this dish was phenomenal. To this place we definitely go again! We finish the day at Ferdowsi Café. With its rusty canned and hanging plants, this cafe certainly would fit in Amsterdam. Once again a perfect steak!
Friday 28th July 2017 Shiraz
We are going on a day trip to Persepolis. You can also book this trip from Shiraz, but it is of course more nice and better for our daily budget to visit the settlement with our own motorbikes.
Afterwards, Persepolis was not worth the visit. A few old stones are stacked on top of each other and on some stones are drawn flowers. Well done! And you have to pay an entrance fee of 5 euros for a few stones in that bloody heat environment! They should give money to the people who visit the graves to honour the dead. But now seriously … Persepolis comes from ‘Parsa’, meaning the city of Persians and made around 500 years before Christ. Although the name suggests a city, there were no people living in it, the establishment was used to rule the Persian country from here. Sjahs (kings) held their audiences here, and different populations could offer their gifts / taxes to the Shahs. In addition to the many rooms, there are also tombs that are dug high in the mountains. The tombs are about 23 meters high and 19 meters wide. The magnitude of these tombs, engraved with precious drawings, makes them very impressive.
In 330 BC, Alexander the Great robbed and conquered the city. He cleared the treasures and then burned the city. According to Alexander, this was the most hated city in Asia. This was because the king whom he stumbled upon, Xerxes, would have burned several temples in Greece, including the Acropolis in Athens. With Persepolis, Alexander conquered the Persian Empire.
After Persepolis we continue to Necropolis (Naqsh-e-Rustam). Here are 4 larger tombs, all cut out in the form of a cross. It is unnecessary to enter here, as you cannot look inside the tombs. In addition, all gifts are plundered. Outside the entrance gate, from where the tombs are also good to see, we make some pictures.
On the way back to Shiraz we stop at a restaurant that is already pointed 10km ahead. We therefore expect a full restaurant. Once arrived it appears to be completely empty. An old curly female meets us and looks at us with a big question mark. We have to wait 10 minutes for the woman probably to clean up inside and open the curtains. Once inside we are provided with a delicious meat meal with rice. After we have paid, we should not leave before we drink a good pot of coffee and a full pot of tea. After a few bowls, the bottom of the jar is still not visible, but we decided to move on. We thank the old female, pull our motorcycle jackets back on and continue or way to Shiraz.
The Maharlu Lake is situated southeast of Shiraz. This is a salt lake which is mostly dry. The thing is that we really wanted to drive with our motorcycles on such a large salt lake. This is even in the top 5 of our bucket list. Between Tehran and Kashan we had already seen a salt lake at a distance, but the distance in combination with the heat then made us decide driving further. At 45 degrees today, it’s not too cold, but it’s located right on the highway and only 25km from Shiraz. In short, we had to go there!
Carefully we drive to the former lake with the motorbikes. Because in spring there is probably some water, you can quickly sink into the salt.
Carefully, we put the motors on the side stand while the white landscape is overwhelming. What a fun and exciting experience. On such a salt lake you feel so terribly small and at the same time you feel like you can rule the whole world. We forget the intense heat and make so many pictures of the landscape and each other, making it almost like a photo shoot. Due to the heat and the high concentration of salt, the lake looks a bit pink in some places. It looks strange. Drown in the sweat we drive back to Shiraz. We are so lucky we finally did this!
Back in the hostel we take a shower to get rid of all the salt and get ready for the evening in Shiraz. We walk to the near Shah-e-Cheragh Shrine to meet the rituals around the evening prayer at 20:00. The Friday for Muslims is what the Sunday is for Christians, a rest day dedicated to the faith. On Friday, almost everything is closed in the city and the Muslims make extra time for their faith.
Arriving at the complex we see it is really big. Erik walks in, but when Bertha enters the woman’s entrance, she is stopped. It seems that you cannot walk around here as a tourist. Video equipment should be left behind and we will soon be assigned an English-speaking free guide. From the guide Bertha gets a chador, after which she can dress in this curtain. Two Italian girls are also added, after which the group is complete. The guide appears to work as a volunteer and tells us all the ins and outs of the Shah-e-Cheragh (King of Light). The complex contains many blue and turquoise colours, which symbolize sky and heaven. Although, as a tourist from the square, we cannot visit the Shrine (Imagine’s Tomb of the Imams), a rule that has been made half a year ago, the guide finally decided to enter with us. In this holy tomb, we see a lot of money and Muslims pray in the midst of the mirrors-covered walls. The mirrors do not come from Iran, but the mirror art is an Iranian speciality, according to our guide. Through all the small pieces of glass you cannot find a smooth mirror image of yourself. This reflects the idea of Islam, even if you do not see Allah, knowing that he is always there. After this mirror room we walk across the square to the large prayer room where men and women are separated. This is a logical, because otherwise you’ll be on the ass of someone else male/female and it would be a strange place. On the instructions of the speaker, everyone bends forward, kneel down and pray, sometimes using a prayer stone at their forehead. This ritual repeats itself continuously. The large crowd that moves simultaneously makes great impression. It is overwhelming and the realization that faith is important here is reaffirmed.
After praying, we leave the square, thank the guide and eat at a so-called typical Iranian restaurant with local music: Sharzeh Restaurant. Actually, this is just a tourist trap, where the waiters speak almost no English. We: “Can I have french fries?” Ober: “You want rice?”, Repeat this 6x and then just let it happen …. The meat is offered for Western prices while we hear the false music. No, we would not recommended this restaurant. Let’s quickly forget it and go fast to sleep.
Saturday 29th July 2017 Shiraz
It’s Saturday and that means everything is open again. Time to have a look in the city. Fortunately, our hostel is in the middle of the city, all sights are within walking distance. However, we are not really happy about the hostel Golshan. The owner is quite arrogant and when we indicate that we miss some items after a wash, he laughs at us and says they are probably caught by a mouse or blown away from the roof terrace. We had a look at the roof terrace, but we cannot imagine that something can blow down the walls.
However, we start a new day with new experiences! We visit the Nasir Al Mulk Mosque, a pink mosque known for the glass-in-wood windows made without glue, a puzzle in itself.
Then we search for a cool spot at the sheltered Vakil Bazaar, where it is really a maze of streets and shops. Erik buys a new buffalo skin belt for a few euros. We actually want to renew our stock of socks, but we could not find our size anywhere.
After visiting the Vakil Mosque, a mosque with many pillars, we go to the Karim Khan Zand Boulevard to exchange some dollars against Iranian Rial. It’s worth to ask around for different exchange rates, because at the one you get a lot more for your dollar than at the other place. Changing and paying in Iran is sometimes confusing. On the bills, the amounts are shown in Rial, but in principle, everyone in the country calculates in Toman. Officially, the Toman was abolished and replaced by the Rial in 1932, but in reality, everyone still uses the Toman as speaking and writing money. If we can read menu cards, these prices are also shown in Toman. 1 Toman = 10 Rial. For example, if you have to pay 15 for a dinner, they mean 15,000 Toman and thus 150,000 Rial. It was hard to understand and to get used to it in the beginning, because you have the idea that people are fooling you, but meanwhile we begin to understand the system.
At the beginning of the afternoon, when the sun is at its peak, we return to the hostel with some fruit and chips and especially a lot of water.
After we have closed the office of Erik & Bertha we are going out for dinner. In order to not lose our habits, we decide to eat at Qavam Restaurant again and then finish the evening with coffee + brownie at Ferdowsi Café.
Sunday 30th July 2017 Shiraz – Abarkuh – Yazd
When paying the rooms we indicate that we do not pay the laundry. The owner suddenly turns out to be kind and pretends to regret. When he meets Bertha’s insane look, he stops with his act and says that we really have to pay the laundry. We stick to our decision and with full speed we leave the hostel. A bit too speedy, suddenly Bertha must make an emergency stop in the middle of the centre when a car is driving through the red sign. The emergency stop is accomplished, Erik can see and smell the tire tracks on the pavement!
Along the way we stop at Pasargae, where the tomb of Cyrus the Great is located.
Between the mountains, across the desert we drive to Abarkuh. The city is abandoned and the hotels are either bankrupt or not yet open. Because of the extreme heat we decide to change our plans and drive to Yazd.
The road to Yazd goes straight through the desert where we occasionally have to drive through some dustbins. Almost all the way to Yazd, the motorbikes are fighting against the wind. Through the many narrow streets we reach the hostel where we receive a great welcome. When we parked the motorbikes in the garage we discover that all our luggage is already in the big room. We have to sit down first, enjoy the tea and fresh fruit and only then finish the formalities. The name Friendly Hostel is well chosen.
Monday 31st July 2017 Yazd
We take a good rest. Traveling costs energy we understand. When we leave the door at around 11:30, someone from the hostel is asking us. “You want breakfast? Please take, there is some left. You want fried eggs? “We actually thought we were late for breakfast, but even the leftovers of this breakfast is more luxurious than what we have seen before.
With a full stomach we step into the heat. Yazd is one of Iran’s oldest cities, with about half a million people living. We walk to Dowlat Abad Garden. Google maps indicates that it is about half an hour walk, but with the heat it seems to be hours. Erik also seems to suffer more from heat today, as a somewhat older man, he is walking behind Bertha.
Nevertheless, we decided to walk because otherwise we would not get much movement during our trip. Every 5 minutes we stop for a sip of water in the shade. At these days you can never drink too much water. Currently we drink about 3 litres of water in one day, next to all the tea, soft drinks and doogh (a kind of sour buttermilk).
The Dowlat Abad Garden was built in 1750 and equipped with ingenious water systems, so that every pomegranate tree or plant gets enough water. In the garden is also the highest badgir (wind tower) of the country, 33 meters. The building is a bit like a water tower in the Netherlands, hollow inside, but in the top there are holes which are going down, that catch air. Inside the tower, this air is ventilated, making it cool inside. It is a natural aircon and actually even better than an electric one!
After a tea and a bottle of water, we continue to Imamzadeh Jafar’s tomb. There is nobody at the entrance and despite the fact of being tourists, people do not look strange when we enter. We see Chadors in the women’s entry and Bertha takes one right away. Unlike previous tombs we have visited, this one is remarkably quiet but huge. Again in each room there are mirrors on the wall and on the ceiling and the floor is covered with big clothes. In the middle hall the holy shrine (tomb) of Jafar is situated and here is a men section and a section for women. Again overwhelming.
At the exit we are both perplexed by the size of the mosque and beautiful siren rest. On the streets there are not many tourists. When we walk to the Amir Chaqmaq Complex we meet the first tourists today. The building is big and should be impressive, but unfortunately, the fountain in front of the building does not work. Maybe we should come back here again when it’s dark.
Near the complex is a water museum. Contrary to the complex, this is interesting. At the entrance we have to pay 7.50 euros. However, the man behind the counter cannot change our money and he indicates that we may pay when leaving the museum. Then he makes sure that he has the change at that time. Yazd is famous for its qanats (underground aqueducts). With the help of a photo report and various attributes, we are included in the 2000 year old story of the construction of the underground channels, which sometimes go up to 300 meters deep. The channels are up to 60 centimetres wide, which made it difficult for people to walk through. There is always a risk of collapse and for this reason you see often that two holes are made side by side. When the first one falls, someone can quickly dig to the second hole for oxygen. In short, a dangerous but also significant activity. In most cities, we see that richer people live in the outer area, closer to the mountains and thus to the fresh water.
At the exit there is still no change, the Iranian is kindly pleased to say that this should be our lucky day and let us leave without paying.
Tuesday 1st August 2017 & Wednesday 2nd August 2017 Yazd
Working on our blog – resting – working on our blog – resting.
In Iran it is not usual to remove the plastic from newly purchased items. In fact, on mostly all products you can still see the protection layers. On TVs, refrigerators, cars, car seats, restaurant chairs, but especially on garage doors. Below a small collage.
Furtunately Yazd has in our opinion the best restaurants of Iran. For the Kebab you should go to Termeh & Toranj and for the one and only Indian restaurant with real Indian spices and a great lookout the Marco-Polo Rooftop Restaurant is the one you should not miss!
Thursday 3rd August 2017 Yazd – Tabas
We wake up early, at 6, in Hostel Friendly. The hostel almost feels like home. The employees are realy friendly, we sleep very good and in the hostel and in the city there is a good atmosphere. Nevertheless we have to move on, because we have to be on time at the Turkmen border.
We drive through the hot desert with a lot of wind and we see every 100 meter a warning sign for camels. We look everywhere but don’t see them. Just before Tabas we finally see camels. We drive into the desert to see them closer but the camels are clearly not waiting for us. Full of sweat we drive further.
Apart from a mosque there is little to experience in Tabas. We must necessarily stop here as we can not ride the distance between the Yazd and Mashhad desert at one time. This town is the only one on the road that has a hotel that is open. This hotel is located across the street from the mosque, where the death of Imam Reza is celebrated today. From a hotel employee we borrow a chador and walk to the other side of the street. It’s giga busy. Everywhere people pray on carpets. There are also many families with a picture of someone who died and people give away fruits and candy, as we have seen before at a mosque in Turkey. After this impressive experience we take another beer and go to sleep.
Friday 4th August 2017 Tabas – Mashhad
We get up early and leave Tabas at half past eight. We have a long day, almost 600 km. It is not extremely hot yet, but the desert wind is still present. Almost every hour we stop for tea, lunch or to refuel. Either way, the motorbikes work like a magnet and every stop people need to take pictures of us and the motorbikes. We also need to go on the pictures with the two sandwich bar owners we visit for lunch. When we want to pay, we may not pay anything.
In the full wind we drive further towards Mashhad, the second largest city in Iran with more than 3 million inhabitants. Here the important 8th Imam Reza is buried and today it is the annual anniversary of this Imam.
We arrive at Guesthouse Vali where it is busy. Paul is also here, he drives on his Honda from Austria to Bangkok and maybe even further. Paul is in our China group tour we have already booked from the Netherlands, so we will meet him more often. In the hostel there are also an Australian, a Dutchman, a Japanese and another guy from Austria, it is a cozy place. In the evening we eat with the group at the hostel. The food tastes fine, the vibe is good, but the hostel itself is pretty dirty. We have to make the bed with sheets that are likely to be clean and the crumbs or waste we produce remain throughout our entire stay (and forever) at the same place as where we leave them. Vali repeats all the time that everything is for free. But breakfast is $ 2, dinner is $ 5, oh and I forgot to say that parking the bike is $ 2 per bike per day. Not so nice to tell this afterwards, but well, we’re really tired of a long day and falling right away asleep between the bed bugs.
Saturday 5th August 2017 Mashhad
We have breakfast with the two Austrians Paul and Simon, after which we go to the Turkmen Consulate. It’s busy early, but after a little push and pull we are at the front of the counter for a visa. However, after a short discussion it turned out that we are at the Afghan Embassy! Dumb, stupid, we look further to find the Turkmen Consulate. We have to pass our passports through a small hatch in the wall of 20x10cm. In spite of the invitation and approval of the Turkmen consulate from Frankfurt, we must again complete all visa forms and hand in passport photos. When we want to pay, the lady behind the shutter only appears to be pleased with new not crumpled dollar bills. Of the $ 110 we have to pay, our $ 100 bill with a small tiny hole in it does not seem to meet Turkmen standards. While Bertha monitors the queue, Erik runs to the hostel to get other dollar bills. The banknotes we received from the bank in Holland do not seem to meet the standard; too many crumples, ink on the side, does not seem to be real, older than 2010, and so on. Eventually we find the right bills, but we secretly hope that we can still pay in Turkmenistan with the remaining bills. Otherwise, there will be little money left and getting dollars in this country will be as good as impossible.
At 4 pm, we may visit the Consulate again to collect the visas. At the queue we see the 4 Japanese people we saw this morning too. Unfortunately, one of them did not get a visa for the reason that he has been in the country before. Because previously we have heard stories from tourists who for no reason get no visa for this country, we secretly pray for our visa. Erik looks through the tiny window, kindly laughs at the lady and gets back the passports including the visa and the requested entry and exit borders (this may differ from the application). Yes, yes, yes, the first step has been taken !! After a fruit shake we go back to the hostel, where we chill for a while.
Together with Paul we walk in the evening towards the holy shrine Imam Reza. This mosque is the largest in the world and is nearly 600,000m2 large. Yesterday, on Friday (August 4th), Imam Reza’s death day was celebrated here and about 1 million visitors came to the complex at this time yesterday. Today it’s probably a bit quieter, but almost every square meter is occupied.
The mosque is like many mosques we have seen covered with lots of glass and everywhere you look, people lie or pray. It is noticeable that here people pray with more passion, sometimes with tears. Also, here are many less valid people. It’s nice to see that it seems a playground for small children. Everywhere they crawl over or swim in one of the fountains. Also, as a non-Muslim, we feel welcome. Erik is addressed several times and at the holy shrine there is even someone who gives some additional information. Unfortunately, Bertha did not come close to the shrine as a woman, but Erik saw him. In appearance, this is not much different from the other shrines we have seen, but because this place is almost the most important for the Iranians, it is quite special. We walk around for a while in the complex, get lost several times and go with a smile on the picture with a lot of people. Iran is still a beautiful country.
Sunday 6th August 2017 Mashhad – Bajgiran
We get up late and have breakfast with Paul and the terrifying Vali. The owner is a nice man in the base, but eventually we recognize that he is only interested in the money. We now ignore him a little, pay for the room and pack our stuff. Paul secures two spare tires on his motorbike and says goodbye. He also goes to Turkmenistan, but has assigned another border crossing.
We leave for the border town of Bajgiran, about 200km away. It is not so far, but as we expect a difficult border crossing, we would like to stay close so we can be one of the first the next day to cross the border to Turkmenistan the following day.
On the way to Bajgiran we enjoy an Iranian sandwich while dozens of men gape at our motorbikes. Arrived at the border, we check whether it is open tomorrow and luckily it is. Then we search for a hotel. There are two hotels in the village, but unfortunately both are closed or bankrupt. Behind the police station there is a nice picnic area where we may camp according the young policeman. After giving his agreement, Erik is called back, if he has by chance a bottle of Vodka for him …
Once we have set up our tent, suddenly more people arrive, almost everyone joining the Mongol Rally. This international car rally begins in Europe and ends in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. The cars participating have a limit of 1000cc and 1 liter tank, so really old and small cars. It’s funny to realize that these cars take the same offroad routes as we do through the Stan countries. At the same time we can imagine that only 70% of the cars get to the finish. In addition to the rally drivers, two Italians and two German boys camp on the field. It started to be crowded! In the evening we make a lot of fun with the local residents and talk about Clown Trump and the President of Turkmenistan who glorifies himself as Rambo, we exchange some money and take some pictures again!
We expected a quiet camping evening, but in the end it was very busy. We are looking forward to tomorrow, what the next country Turkmenistan will bring us, but the Rambo movie this evening has made us hugely curious!