Today was - Iran here we come, with all sorts of unanswered questions about how the border crossing would go and how we would manage in a country where we could not even read the writing let alone understand the language. A Turkmen guide arrived at the hotel at 8:20 am to escort us to the border and we followed his little white Nissan van onto and along the border highway south into the mountains that separate Turkmenistan and Iran. First stop a few kms down the road was a Turkmen checkpoint that ensured that only those with legitimate business at the border post (a further 25 km away) could actually get to the border post. The checkpoint took only a few minutes and then we were on our way up into the mountains. Note for other travelers, contrary to the advice we had received from the Stantours manager in Ashgabat this checkpoint clearly opened well before 9:00am.
As we pulled into the Turkmen border post we came up behind 20 European motorhomes that were part of a Seabridge-Tours group that was on a 7 month round trip through Russia, to China and back to Europe through Iran and Turkey. It was pretty plain that this crossing was going to take a while as all those 20 motorhomes had to be processed before us.
The Turkmen exit was a long drawn out affair. Firstly there was a delay at passport control as their computer system was not working (we have heard that before), they were simply collecting all the foreigners passports and holding them until the computers were back up. Once processed an officer came out into the waiting area with a huge pile of passports and started calling names.
With passport stamped Nina went to the Turkmen exit gate, had her details recorded, was checked to make sure she was suitably attired and then passed into Iran passport control. Meanwhile I stayed with the truck while all those motorhomes one at a time where inspected by Turkmen customs. Then it was finally my turn at the Turkmen exit gate where my passport and truck details where recorded and I passed into Iran.
The first step inside Iran was a brief vehicle inspection and passport collection. Then I waited again behind those 20 motorhomes. Somewhere along the way one of the Seabridge guides told me that a man was at the gate (exit gate from Iran customs) looking for me. That is how I finally hooked up with Hossein Ravaniyar (at IranOverland.com) an Iranian guide that I contacted well over a year ago to help us get our vehicle into Iran and to do it without a Carnet.
From that point on Hossein and his couple of helpers ran backward and forward between a number of offices, got me to sign a variety of papers, had me write out an itinerary for our stay in Iran, translated that itinerary into Farsi, took me to the office of the Iran security forces to record my passport and vehicle details. Apparently the security forces will track us through Iran as police along the way will report our license plate to the security forces as they see us along our route.
It was well after 3:00pm when we finally had all the trucks paper work in order and could leave the border area. I cannot conceive of how we would have managed the border process without the help of someone like Hossein as at the end of the process we had a large stack of documents all in Farsi and totally incomprehensible to us.
A brief summary of the costs is something like this:
Euro 800 for a temporary import license - this would not have been necessary if I had a Carnet for the vehicle
Euro 600 diesel tax to offset the fact that diesel fuel is about USD0.12 (12cents) per liter or 47c/gal in Iran.
USD 300 for 1 months insurance. From what I could understand this would not have been necessary had we been carrying European green card insurance
From the border post we followed Hossein's vehicle for about 80 km to the town of Quchan where we bought a SIM card for my phone. To do this we needed to get a copy of Hossein's drivers identification papers as SIM cards must be associated with an Iranian citizen. Tomorrow when I try to activate the SIM card I will know whether I got all the instructions correctly written in English.
We drove about 20 km down the highway from Quchan before simply pulling off onto a flat patch of dirt about 30 meters away from the road.