Posts From Iran


Iran (Quchan, Iran)

Journal entry for Tuesday 24th Sep, 2013 (day 175, miles 12610)

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.

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We found a real campground (Mashhad, Iran)

Journal entry for Wednesday 25th Sep, 2013 (day 176, miles 12702)

I will get to the campground a bit later. Once underway this morning Nina started reading from the short Iran language primer that is at the end of the Lonely Planet guide book for Iran. So as we drove along we started trying to read the license plates on the vehicles that were passing us. This seemed like an achievable goal as the plates seem to contain mostly numerals. For the interested here are the numerals zero through nine - ۰ ۱ ۲ ۳ ۴ ۵ ۶ ۷ ۸ ۹. Unfortunately it is not quite that easy as there are two alternative symbols for the numeral 4 and also for 6, but I cannot find a way of putting in the alternatives.

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Surprises (Mashhad, Iran)

Journal entry for Thursday 26th Sep, 2013 (day 176, miles 12702)

I hate to admit it but we arrived in Mashhad yesterday almost totally ignorant of the importance of Mashhad to Shia (Shiite) Muslims and to some degree the sheer size of the city. So today when the local guide we organized yesterday turned up and took us on a short tour of the city we were more than a little surprised by what we found.

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A ride in a police car (Deyhuk, Iran)

Journal entry for Friday 27th Sep, 2013 (day 177, miles 12967)

Today we headed south with the plan that over the next 2 or 3 days we would make it to the desert town of Kerman. So as the day progressed the landscape dried out, and the temperature increased. We had company on our travels. We shared part of todays journey with the Seabridge-tours but about lunch time they turned more directly west while we contnued south. We also had the company of many long distance trucks.

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Hot desert (Kermen, Iran)

Journal entry for Saturday 28th Sep, 2013 (day 178, miles 13209)

We got going early this morning in the hope of getting close to Kerman by the end of the day, and also in hope of covering a good distance before the days heat was upon us. As it turned out we covered a lot of distance and finished the day within 80 km of Kerman but we did not really escape the heat as during the middle of the day we crossed some really spectacular desert country (called the Dasht-e Lut) complete with heat haze, drifting sands and temperatures of 100°F. Again we lamented the demise of our trucks air conditioning system.

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The Kaluts (Dasht-e Lut, Iran)

Journal entry for Sunday 29th Sep, 2013 (day 179, miles 13376)

The first leg of the days travel was a pleasant mountain descent that brought us to the main highway into, and about 35 km from, Kerman. There we were confronted by another no-truck sign and an indication that we should take a western ring road around the town. We were a bit perplexed by this as none of our maps, even the GPS map, indicated that this ring road existed. We followed this for some time as it made a very wide detour and eventually linked up with another major highway running west out of Kerman towards the city of Yazd. Again no-truck signs seemed to bar our entry to (or even bypass of) the town.

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Mahan, a quick visit (South of Rafsanjan, Iran)

Journal entry for Monday 30th Sep, 2013 (day 180, miles 13566)

After a few more photos we started early on our return trip from the Kalut in the hope of covering some of those kilometers before the sun got hot. The climb back over that mountain range seemed longer on the return and as on yesterdays drive the altitude moderated the temperature. So we stopped for a break at the summit and spent a while simply enjoying the cool air.

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Troglodites (South of Yadz, Iran)

Journal entry for Tuesday 1st Oct, 2013 (day 181, miles 13803)

This morning we spent an hour or more searching for the town of Maymand. The group of Iranians we spoke to two nights ago at the Kaluts told us that this town was a must see, so there we were, or maybe there we were not. The town was not mentioned on any of our maps, that was a good start. From the Lonely Planet Guide we found that it was north east from the town of Shahr-e Babak. So here we were this morning driving through the Shahr-e Babak with no sign (or signs to) Maymand.

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A visit to Yazd (Yazd, Iran)

Journal entry for Wednesday 2nd Oct, 2013 (day 182, miles 13940)

Our visit to Yazd today was a good demonstration of the extra difficulty we are having trying to see some of the towns/cities of Iran. Todays strategy was to enter the city early before the rush of early morning traffic, then find a place to park while we went looking for a hotel. The early start was somewhat thwarted by a poilce checkpoint on the southern edge of the city that wanted to record the details of our passports. Our initial entry to the city was not too bad as there was an extensive modern freeway system. But once into the heart of things the streets narrowed, the traffic became dense and frantic, and we kept getting faced with no-truck signs; however by now we have concluded that those signs can be largely ignored. After a few attempts we found a place to park the truck while I went scouting the central area of the city looking for some of the hotels that claimed to have parking.

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Ancient Persian ruins (Persepolis, Iran)

Journal entry for Thursday 3rd Oct, 2013 (day 183, miles 14102)

Up with the sun again this morning. We are beginning to notice the shorter daylight hours and so for the past week we have been trying to get started earlier. Before leaving the Abarkuh area this morning we went back into the town to see a 4000 year old cypress tree. Fortunately there were a series of signs in English that took us to the tree which was situated in a small park and surrounded by a fence/hedge. Interestingly even at this early hour we found two families picnicking on the entranceway. The Lonely Planet guide for Iran notes that Iranians are the world champions of picnicking as they stop and put our their picnic carpet just about anywhere. We agree with that comment and would add that Iranians are also world champion tenters. As they pop up their little self-erecting tents anywhere.

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Our Shiraz Odessey - Episode 1 (Shiraz, Iran)

Journal entry for Tuesday 8th Oct, 2013 (day 188, miles 14122)

My previous post at Iran Update gave a mere notification that we had some vehicle problems. It is about time I tried to bring everyone up to date on our Shiraz Odessey.

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Our Shiraz Odessey - Episode 2 (Shiraz, Iran)

Journal entry for Saturday 12th Oct, 2013 (day 192, miles 14122)

So our Shiraz odessey continues. Following our day of testing the truck and the lack of a clear conclusion Mr H and I decided to explore more seriously the possibility that we could get (source) new genuine Unimog parts to replace all the suspect parts in that right rear hub. It took a couple of days of chasing around but by Wed 9th we concluded that such a plan seemed feasible. Thereafter we (Mr H and I) spent a couple of days with more chasing around and more phone calls to set such a plan in motion. So as of Friday 11th we seemed to have organized to source the parts and have them delivered to Shiraz. The bad news is that it is going to be expensive ($6000+) and slow - at the earliest the parts will not be in Shiraz until Friday 18th and they could be considerably later than that. Just to make things more interesting this means we will have to extend our visas as our current visas only last until Oct 23rd.

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Our Tehran Excursion (Shiraz, Iran)

Journal entry for Wednesday 16th Oct, 2013 (day 196, miles 14122)

The night bus trip to Tehran was surprisingly comfortable. The bus was clean, the seats spacious and they reclined. Also to our surprise the bus crew served dinner of rice, chicken kebab and coke. Really quite civilized.

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Shiraz Odessey - Episode 3 (Shiraz, Iran)

Journal entry for Saturday 19th Oct, 2013 (day 199, miles 14122)

So back to the ongoing story of the truck and the spare parts. On Tuesday in Tehran the FEDEX website was reporting that the 2 parcels were in Dubai. That was good news, the German end of this saga had been completed, the parts were obtained, packed, shipped and had arrived at their first destination. So as we got on the bus Tuesday 15th evening to return to Shiraz I was feeling optomistic. All we had to do now was to get the parts from Dubai to Shiraz. That next step was going to depend on a pair of local entrepeneurs called Mr H1 (in Shiraz) and Mr H2 in Dubai.

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Shiraz Odessey - Episode 4 (Shiraz, Iran)

Journal entry for Tuesday 22nd Oct, 2013 (day 202, miles 14122)

When we went down for breakfast Monday morning (Oct 21st) Hossein R (the guide that helped us at the border) was waiting for us. As noted in the previous post he had come all the way from the Caspian Sea coast to sort out an issue with the Iranian Customs Department who were coming to the conclusion that we (Nina and Robert) had sold our vehicle and left the country

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Shiraz Odessey - Episode 5 (Shiraz, Iran)

Journal entry for Thursday 24th Oct, 2013 (day 204, miles 14122)

This entry could have been called just waiting as that's what we are doing. On Tuesday we heard that our 2 parcels of spare parts were "about to land" in Iran (what ever that meant) and that once "landed" they would be "put in a taxi to Shiraz". Well it is now Thursday and we have heard no more about progress.

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Shiraz Odessey - the 6th and final Episode (Persepolis, Iran)

Journal entry for Saturday 26th Oct, 2013 (day 206, miles 14244)

Last night we heard that our long awaited spare parts had arrived in Shiraz and that we could pick them up at 9:00am this morning. Well as with everything else about this story that 9:00am dragged out a bit and it was not until 11:00 that we had the two parcels in our possession. After that we spent the remainder of the day preparing to depart Shiraz. We had to buy oil, get some more money, and pack up all the stuff we had taken to the hotel. Just in case you think we are getting ahead of ourselves as we only have the parts in our hot little hands, they have not been installed in the truck yet. Well the plan was that we would take ourselves, the truck and parts back to Marvdasht to have that same mechanic install the new parts. After all he has had the experience of taking the hub apart once now and that's more experience than anyone else in this town is likely to have had.

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On the road again (Road To Esfahan, Iran)

Journal entry for Sunday 27th Oct, 2013 (day 207, miles 14468)

Our truck is fixed (we hope) and it is time to get back on the road. Today we headed towards Esfahan about 450 km away. We maintained a moderate pace and checked the wheel hubs a number of times to make sure that the newly repaired hub was not getting hot. The good news - it seemed OK.

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Jewel of Iran (Esfahan, Iran)

Journal entry for Monday 28th Oct, 2013 (day 208, miles 14531)

Once having completed checkin formailities and parked ourselves I set about draining the oil from the newly repaired hub. Every one in Shiraz told me I had to do this and in truth I wanted to see how much metal had accumulated on the magnetic drain plug. A large accumulation would indicate a likely problem with the most recent repair. The outcome was a modest amount of metal debris on the magnetic plug. So we are probably OK, but I will check again in a few days.

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More spectacular sightseeing (Esfahan, Iran)

Journal entry for Tuesday 29th Oct, 2013 (day 209, miles 14531)

So we were off again this morning at around 9:00am to see more of the treasures that Esfahan has to offer. Our first stop this morning was to be the Jameh Mosque but after our taxi driver dropped us a little way from the Mosque we proceeded to get a little lost and wandered through alleys crowded with small businesses of many sorts. Eventually after asking a number of people for directions we found the correct entrance at the back of a crowded part of the central bazar. Within minutes of entering the Mosque we were approached by a man named Mahmoud who took on the role of guide. He took us around this amazing building. Initially constructed in the 11 century by the Seljuks there have been a number of reconstructions and additions over the years. But the spectacular northern and southern domes are original.

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First snow (Hamedan, Iran)

Journal entry for Wednesday 30th Oct, 2013 (day 210, miles 14819)

Today really brought home to us that winter is just around the corner. Some how the change in weather just snuck up on us as only 3 weeks ago we were trying to stay cool and complaining about the truck airconditioner not working. Whereas this morning as we prepared to depart Esfahan the sun was not up until 7:00am and the morning was cold, temps in the low 40°F. Later in the day as we drove north and a little west into the edge of the Zagros mountains we saw a dusting of fresh snow on the peaks and the temperatures in the valleys were sometimes only in the 30°Fs.

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Takht-e Soleiman (Takht-e Soleiman, Iran)

Journal entry for Thursday 31st Oct, 2013 (day 211, miles 15036)

We tried for an even earlier start this morning being on the road and moving even before the sun had poked its face over the horizon. An effort on our part to get past/through the town of Hamedan before the traffic got really crazy.

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A driving day (Near Gilvan, Iran)

Journal entry for Friday 1st Nov, 2013 (day 212, miles 15149)

The next, and penultimate, leg of our Iran journey is to the village of Astara at the very northern end of Irans Caspian Sea coast. Our guide Hossein R (the one who oranized the vehicle entry to Iran) lives there and he has invited us to spend a night with him before we make the trek together to Bazargan and the Turkish border. We are to meet Hossein at Astara on Sunday night so we have two days to get to and explore a bit of the Caspian Sea coast.

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Rain! (Masule, Iran)

Journal entry for Saturday 2nd Nov, 2013 (day 213, miles 15272)

When we woke this morning the mountains around us were shrouded in cloud and by the time we got underway that had turned into a light rain forshadowing the rest of the day. This (the rain) was such an unusual occurrance that Nina and I spent some time discussing the question of "when was the last time we had rain" - our conclusion was Almaty, Kazakstan.

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A visit with Hossein (Canrood, Iran)

Journal entry for Sunday 3rd Nov, 2013 (day 214, miles 15382)

After retracing yesterdays sidetrip into Museuleh we got back onto the main coastal road heading north towards Astara and the border with Azerbaijan. This road was not memorable for any good reason, pretty much the Iranian version of strip developement being small villages with crowded mains streets every couple of kilometers, continuing rain and no view of the Caspian see. What we did see apart from lots of trucks and crazy drivers were lots of rice fields. This area is famous (in Iran) for the rice it grows.

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Iran, the final leg (Tabriz, Iran)

Journal entry for Monday 4th Nov, 2013 (day 215, miles 15571)

Today began the final leg of our visit to Iran which was to be a circuitous route to the border at Bazargan with the prospect of some interesting sights along the way. To our pleasure and relief the rain was gone when we woke and we got under way in bright early morning sunshine. From Hossein's place at (or just below) sea level we climbed into the coastal mountains through some spectacular forests and switchbacks to over 7000ft before arriving on the outskirts of the town of Ardabil.

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A bit of a shambles (Khoy, Iran)

Journal entry for Tuesday 5th Nov, 2013 (day 216, miles 15774)

Before getting underway today we took a taxi ride into the city of Tabriz to see the famous blue mosque and the city's bazaar. The blue mosque is no longer blue, it gets its name from the fact that when it was built in 1464 it was decorated inside and out with tiles in various shades of blue. The mosque was destroyed by an earthquake in 1773 and the ruins remained untouched until a recontruction effort started in 1953. Today there are only some small patches of the orginal decoration. One of the interesting features of the mosques reconstruction is the way some of the tile decoration has been extended. Gaps left by missing original tile decoration has been filled in with plaster and the plaster painted to replicate the orginal pattern but in a slightly lighter color. This means that visitors can get the effect of the full sized original decoration but can see clearly where the original finishes and reconstrution starts.

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