Iran Mashhad N 36.24112° E 59.61820°
Last night over dinner we discussed at length and without conclusion whether we would try and enter the city of Mashhad, the next big town about 100 km down the road from last nights camp. Mashhad is an important town for tourists and Muslim faithful as it has a well known shrine complex. But it is also a big crowded city and we are still unseasoned in the art of driving Iranian towns and so last nights discussion went back and forth between yes and no. However this morning while studying our GPS maps to ensure I understood the alternative routes I happened to see a place on the southern side of Mashhad near the airport called Qadir Camp and it was marked by a tent symbol. At first I was a little sceptical; a camping ground - we have not seen a real camping ground since the US. But with nothing to lose we decided we would try to get to Qadir Camp to see what it was. Arriving at the northern entrance to Mashhad we were confronted by a no-truck sign so we took the eastern bypass road that turned out to be a toll road as well. We traveled some distance along this toll road, maybe 30 km, until we came to a road heading west back into the heart of Mashhad. Fortunately we found no more no-truck signs and this road took us all the way into the heart of the city with its manic traffic. As a brief aside we had been discussing during the morning whether Iranian drivers were as crazy as Central Asian drivers. The answer we concluded was yes, lane lines mean nothing, u-turns anywhere you like, and stop in the middle of the road. We did however conclude that Iranian pedestrians are a little more cautious than the Central Asian counterparts. However so far it seems that small motorcycles are much more prevalent in Iran than Central Asia and they seem to obey no rules of any description. So after our traffic experience we arrived at the entry road to Qadir Camp and pulled up behind a European campervan. It was one of the guides from the Seabrdige-Tour group we met yesterday at the border. It seemed that the rest of the group would be along later and that the group was going to spend the night at this place. While Nina chatted to the guide I went to the entrance/ticket booth and "talked" to the guys there about whether we could camp in the place. I noticed that there were dozens of groups of locals with tents set up relaxing in the warm afternoon sun, so it really was a camp ground - amazing. After some discussion the answer was yes and I was instructed to "get car" and "follow me" and a group of men some on motorcycles and one on a bicycle led me through the very extensive campground to the place where they were going to put all the tour group vehicles. So for at least one night we became honourary Seabridge-Tour members - sort of.
Iran Kermen N 30.91319° E 56.97399°
Late in the afternoon the road climbed into the Payeh Mountains and the temperature moderated. We took that as a sign to find a camping spot where we might get a comfortable night.
Iran Dasht-e Lut N 30.80097° E 57.77116°
After the sun went down the temperature moderated slowly. By 8:30 Nina was able to convince herself to try and get some sleep inside the sweltering camper but I decided to layout a tarp, blanket and sheet and sleep under the stars. I have not done this in years. About midnight a gusty wind arrived and, after wrapping up my make shift bed, I adjourned to the camper.
Iran South of Rafsanjan N 30.13250° E 55.95542°
Then we retraced our route back to Kerman, onto the Western exit highway to a town called Rafsanjan, and then up into the moountains west of Kerman where, thanks to the altitude, we found some cool air and a place to camp.
Iran South of Yadz N 31.47961° E 54.66017°
From Maymand we retraced our route back to Shahr-e babak, then north to intersect with the main road from Kerman to Yadz. We stopped about 60 km south of Yadz, well poised for an early entrance to the city of Yadz tomorrow.
Iran Shiraz N 29.61189° E 52.53864° Our hotel is right in the center of Shiraz and this has given Nina a chance to visit a number of nearby clothing stores selling head covering garments for Iranian women. She is in the process of accummulating a sizeable collection of these things. Some of her collected items look very nice, others are a bit comical. When photos can be uploaded I will include some of Nina trying on these garments.
Iran Road To Esfahan N 32.11809° E 51.88134°
About 70 km from Esfahan we simply found a road side parking area and stopped. We did not want to brave Esfahan traffic with dark approaching.
Iran Esfahan N 32.59449° E 51.66769° We had the names and gps coordinates of two potential parking/camping places in Esfahan. (a truck repair shop and parking area) on the Northern side of the city and Isfahan Tourist Inn on the southern side. So this morning we set off early to make our way to Esfahan-parking. As expected the traffic was dense and a little crazy but the road system of Esfahan was up to the task with good freeways all the way. We got to the correct GPS coordinates and could not see esfahan-parking anywhere. A quick call to the phone number we got from their website and we were told - sorry, we sold the workshop some time ago. Bummer. That meant a drive back through and around the city to our second option. The Tourist Inn turned out to be a real gem of a camping place. Our earlier mistake actually worked in our favour with the Tourist Inn. Because of that mistake we approached the Inn from the North which put us on the same side of a divided road as the place. Had we come at it from the South as we would have without the earlier mistake it would have been very difficult to see and impossible to turn into their entrance way. Anyway, the place seems prepared for motorhomes. It has electricity, a toilet and shower block just for us campers and the showers are hot.
Iran Hamedan N 34.67448° E 48.75039°
Eventually daylight ran out and we stopped a little way short of our destination of Hamedan. We simply picked a roadside parking area next to the highway.
Iran Takht-e Soleiman N 36.60090° E 47.33312°
We could probably have camped in the parking lot of Takht-e Soleiman, but decided against that on the basis that there were too many people curious about us and in particular a couple of young guys seemed to keep hanging around. They were probably OK but part of our usual practice is not to take chances. So we drove some distance down the road and found a nice flat spot some distance off the road.
Iran Near Gilvan N 36.76980° E 48.84635°
We found a large informal camping area, flat area well off the road, and settled in for the night.
Iran Masule N 37.16250° E 49.02295°
We drove a few kms back down the Musueleh access road to camp. Throughout the evening a few cars stopped to look at us and we had a conversation with one young couple.
Iran Canrood N 38.34712° E 48.84517°
near Hosseins house.
Iran Tabriz N 38.02550° E 46.36948° The city of Tabriz was our next stop and was where we planned on camping for the night. We had a few misadventures on the way to Tabriz as Hossein and his driver seemed to have no idea when it came to the well known practice of "follow the leader". No sooner would Hossein say to us "just folow me" than they would tear off weaving through the traffic and within minutes be completely out of sight. But having observed Iranian drivers the problem may be genetic as we have not yet seen a single driver in Iran that exhibits any degree of patience or thought for other vehicles on the road. We have even seen pedestrians standing in the middle of a lane on a freeway reading emails on his phone simply expecting traffic to avoid him. In any case we eventually found our collective way to a place called El Goli which translates into something like "peoples lake". It is a large park near the southern part of the city's ring road, allows camping in vehicles or tents, has a nice lake and a number of restaurants.
Iran Khoy N 38.55281° E 44.99118° No sooner had we started down the ring road than Hossein called to say "take the city center exit from the round about we will camp in the city". We declined his suggestion continuing along the ring road until we found a small roadside mosque where we decide to park for the night. We quickly had a small group of local truckers and mechanics looking at the vehicle and through sign language and their few words of English we established that it was ok to park here for the night. Eventually Hossein turned up and told us that he and his driver would continue to the border tonight and would meet us tomorrow morning at the entrance to the border town of Bazargan still 170 km away.