Day 3. What a beautiful day. Never got below -2, only snowed for 5 minutes on the way, lots of sun and endless white. The landscape was mountainous and just amazing
Ankara is at 1000 m. high the plains after were at 850. Then you go up to 1300 m and the next plain is at the 1000 m high. Gradually the last big valley is at 1800 m and the mountains around go up to 3100 to 3450. The high passes from one plain to another are at 2300 m narrow and hard to pass due to the usually bad conditions in the area. At the end of all this is the famous Mt Ararat at 5350 meters in the Georgian plains, as the guide book says. We couldn’t tell which one it was because all the picks were in the clouds. Hopefully on the way back we get to see it. Or from where we are tonight if it can be seen in the morning. We are not that far away. We shall see.
We got at the border at 5 pm and it took us forever to go through. An hour and a half at the exit side and another hour and a half entering on the other. In the first side it was because of inefficiency and on the other for too much efficiency. The height there was at 1650 and at 0 degrees so most of the time was spent waiting in the car. Very polite the Iranians but veeeery slow.
And then we got in Iran. And we had to turn our watches an hour an a half forward. So we lost 5 and a half hours today. The first border city was 25 km in Iran and we found a good hotel with a restaurant still open (by now it was almost 10pm) so we stayed.
Tomorrow will get to see were we are.
We did see. Mt Ararat was again in the clouds and straight behind us. In front of us lays Iran. We have a 7 day transit visa and that’s how much time we will have on the way back unless we put Iranian plates on the car, which we won’t. So we are going to take our time getting out of the country, especially since we did Turkey in such a good time, we are on schedule. The only problem is that our mobiles don’t work in Iran. So we have no phones unless tomorrow we get a local one. (we tried but wouldn’t sell us one or didn’t understand what we were looking for)
We only drove to Tabriz today, only 300 km from Maku, where we stayed last night. Iranian driving out is of this world. The traffic in the cities is completely crazy. We are in different territory now. Bare land and mountains and snow was the scenery today. Oh, yes and some wild camels grazing. And half way to Tabriz it started to snow and to get cold. Got down to -5. We entered the city with heavy snow and hell traffic and it took as an hour to reach the center and the hotels area. We found a double room for 17$ with a sitting toilet. The one last night didn’t and I forgot how it is to squat.
The muezzin is praying and we are going out for a stroll in the city and dinner. If I find an internet cafe I’ll get in.
Very nice dinner and now back to the hotel for some rest.
Day 5 & 6.
What can I say. Sun is God. We woke up in a brilliant sunshine. Not a single cloud in the sky and white fresh snow everywhere. The plan was to go to the bazaar of Tabriz early and then start our driving a bit later and go a bit more south. But it was Mohamed’s birth day and it was a big holiday so everything was closed. So we started our driving early. By 10 we were on the road. We did a lot of kilometers today. 950 and we were on the road for about 12 hours. Not all of these kilometers were on the main road or aiming at the Pakistan border. We are taking the scenic route and scenic is not a word to describe what has been passing in front of our eyes. Adding today’s numbers we are 3.500 km from the Mediterranean coast and 1850 of those were in Turkey. We are not doing the best of time though. Although we wake up early and leave early, we stop many times. Some times we stop to take pictures, sometimes to take some more pictures and all the time we stop to fix (or trying to fix) the squeaky noise that comes from our roof rack The holes on the street and the bad condition of parts of the road is causing some rattling noise and yet to discover what is that is causing it. We think that the hours spent on that rack alone has cost us already a full day’s driving. We will fix it. We have to.
Any way. Since we got delayed so many times, we also changed our routing. We decided to visit more of the Iranian Kurdistan area and take the back roads to Esfahan, which is where we are tonight. This area looks a lot like Capadocia in Turkey but tourists don’t really make it here. (maybe it’s because Iraq is just behind the mountains we have on our right)
Last night we slept at a city called Hamadan. Nothing special but our hotel was nice and also found an Internet cafe. I logged in this morning but I guess that the Iranian server doesn’t allow people to upload things to the internet. That means that I couldn’t put a new entry. (now you know why I have been so bad with posting)
We couldn’t stop driving. We are at an altitude of 2000 m all the time and on our left and right we have mountain peaks that reach up to 4.300 m. At least now after the Turkish border our compass (which has become a very valuable instrument since we depend on it a lot to find the correct way to places) is showing some south direction and not only an eastward one. That means that it’s getting a bit warmer. Our thermometer for the first time reached the 9 degrees we had in Chios. Even at 2500 meter high it didn’t go below 0. The first day we could keep our sun roof open and even get some sun on our faces although today was not a brilliant day as yesterday. The snow is only at the mountains and the roads are dry and very safe.
Esfahan is the most beautiful city of Iran and of many other places I know. We can’t decide if we should stay an extra day here and be here to see at 3:30 am on the morning of the 21st the celebrations of the New Year. (Zoroastrian remnants in the religion). From here the border of Pakistan is another 1400 km and we don’t have that many days left on our 7 day transit visa. We will definitely come by here again on our way back.
All of Iran apparently is on the roads because of the holidays and this is another reason why traffic is so bad at times which is also slowing us down a lot. But now we will take major high ways which have 3 lanes of traffic in each direction so then we can cruise at a good speed. A very good thing is that all the signs are in Farsi so we have a very good excuse when we get pulled over for speeding or passing on a no passing zone. They see we are foreign that don’t speak a word of Farsi and have no idea what to make of us. I don’t think that many foreigners come here with their own car. The last foreign plates we have seen were some Swiss plates a bit after Erzecan. That seems like ages ago.
A glorious sunny day this one too. Our mood now changes. We have to do some serious driving now and we have to time our arrivals at cities. Of course Allah was not on our side this morning and we spend it all on the car again. 3 hours on the rack and another 2 hours fixing our car alarm system which went caput. We need it in the areas to come so we had to fix it. So we left Esfahan at 2:30 this afternoon. The terrain was same same but different now. Still high plateaus with mountains left and right but very far apart now. Just at the end of the horizon. A very big horizon. Esfahn is at the same latitude (longitude don’t know which is correct) as Cairo. So although we are still at 1700 m high and the mountain tops reach up to 4000 m there is no snow. Pure desert now. Nothing else. Oasis and desert. We are at one now, 700 km away from Esfahan and 700 km before the Pakistan border. The city is called Kerman and next one is Bam. (kai then bammmm?) Tomorrow we will spend the night at Zahedan (10 hours drive we’ve been told) and cross first thing in the morning of Thursday. The drive to Quetta, witch is the next leg is another 600 km and we have to do it with day light and it takes about 10 hours too. So we rest early tonight, miss the festivities for the new year coming tonight and wake up even early tomorrow and even earlier the day after, to do the crossing..
So more desert for us and Voukefalas, The Road Eater. (our jeep).
We are at Zahedan now. Only 4.700 km from the Aegean coast. Another beautiful day and drive. We left Kerman around noon, after our mandatory 3 hours of dealing with our rack. This time we were rearranging the legs of the rack. We ended up braking one of the screws and that lead to a wild hunt for a mechanic or any kind of anic with screws to fit. Our perfect Farsi or their perfect Greek (I don’t know exactly which) make communications really easy and very soon after we left the hotel we found somebody to help us. Don’t forget that today is new years and everything, but EVERYTHING was closed. We found somebody who had forgotten his door open and we saw that he could be the mechanic type and sure enough we were helped by two very helpful and very young Baluchies. The way people look has changed a bit to the darker and to more facial hair. A few wear their traditional outfits and their white turbans. The landscape is desert but this time not as rocky. It is smoother and sandy now. Some journey records were made today too. It got up to 27 degrees to the previous high of 9 and we got up to 2650 m high to the previous high of 2500. I lied yesterday when I said no more snow on the peaks and that they went up to 4000 m. Just before Zahedan the mountain goes up to 4.400 m. but the valleys are down to 800 m now. Another bizarre thing which we found all over Iran but now it’s more evident is that we can’t find diesel fuel easily. Gas is so cheap here (6.5 cents of a euro) and diesel is almost free (1,38 cents per liter) that nobody has diesel cars. Thus only truck stops have diesel and none of them are in towns. It can be hectic let me tell you. Distances are so vast that if you don’t do your calculations right you can run out of fuel very easily. We almost did run out our second day leaving Tabriz. We didn’t find any in the city and the highway we got on was the brand new highway to Teheran that was so new that there were no gas stations on it and no U turn points. So we knew we were in trouble when the next city was 65 km away and we had left only for 20. We were not panicky yet but we had past the point of no return to Tabriz or to a gas station and we only could go forward and pray. Allah was good. We spotted a police car on the side of the street and we stopped and ask for help. They commandeered a truck driver who was stopped at the opposite direction of the highway and the guy filled a 25 lt tank and gave it to us and wouldn’t even take money for it. (and why should he? It was under 40 cents any way) Then the caps gave us directions to a city out of the highway some 35 km that wasn’t even on the map and we filled up. So because of that and because of Baluchistan we are trying to be very careful. So today we decided to fill our extra tanks from Kerman and not wait till Zahedan just in case. Well that was harder than we thought. They wouldn’t fill our tanks. At the first station (third actually because the first 2 had only regular gas) we started filling our tanks first. It was some tracker that was helping us out and since the stations here are self service we had a good tank and half of a second one filled before the station guy realized what is going on and run to us yelling and screaming. (we have 4 tanks of 20 lt each. He even refused to fill our car which was les than a quarter full and he tried to charge us some crazy price for the 30 lt we had just filled. We left the station without paying the 40 cents that we owed him. We hadn’t tried to fill our tanks earlier so I don’t know if it’s because we are so close to the border and they are afraid of smuggling oil out of Iran or something else. One trucker showed us something that looked like a diesel permit. Also he said that if we couldn’t get any fuel from the station we could drive out of the station and he would give us his. We were trying to figure out what to do. One idea was to find a hose fill the car’s tank, do a “roufoula” fill our extra’s and then refuel the car. The fact that we are Greek may have helped a lot because after we told them that, somehow the station manager allowed us to fill up. That was outside of Bam. We filled up when we got here at Zahedan and we will do another top up just before the border which is 85 km away. Also we found out that, those last gas stations won’t give more that 20 lt per car. So now we are set for the big crossing which is 720 km to Quetta and we will definitely waste 2 hours at the border crossing. (previous one we stayed for 3). So we have a full day ahead of us. We did some more work here in Zahedan on the rack and I think tomorrow we might even be squeak less for a change. The road will get bad after the border and the squeak squeak makes the trip a bit annoying. For Vangelis even more because he paid top dollar for it in order to avoid the squeaks. Bon Voyage
I will make a proper entry later. We are in the middle of the baluchistan desert in a very small town. We couldn’t make all the way to Quetta before dark so we are here. More the next time. You have enough reading to do as it is.