Turkey (3) – Iran

Sunday 12th July

Trottie much better, but Pam ill again, so we decide to hang on another day. Spent most of it reading and playing cards.

Monday 13th July

Pam still ill, so we decide to take her in to the doc. He reckons she’s just had dysentery, and gives her a few pills. Then in the afternoon we noticed that one of the push-rod tubes on the VW was bent (hit by a stone) and seeping oil, so we went into town to a spares shop one of the nearby garage’s salesmen showed us and bought another.

Rather a luxurious supper, as the American in the caravan next door gave us a couple of tins of peaches, of which we ate one.

Tuesday 14th July

Took the VW into the garage at 8:00, and hung around the campsite until it was ready, at c 4:00. They’d had to take the engine out twice, as our original part was the wrong one. The bill still came to less than £5, however! Set off immediately, giving a lift to Jean, a French boy hitching around by himself. Went about 100 miles, then camped on a deserted hillside.

Wednesday 15th July

Got woken up by an insect, the shape of a grasshopper but about 4-5 inches long. It started charging at us in our sleeping bags, which was very brave of it. Did about 320 miles (roads fairly bad) and then stopped to camp by a garage. This was mainly for Trottie’s sake, as she does not feel safe out in the country, though hopefully this will pass.

Thursday 16th July

One long hard day’s motoring. Did c 400 miles to Agri, which is near the Iranian border. Driving on past the town, after doing a bit of shopping, to look for a campsite, we came across a lonely military outpost of c 6 soldiers, and obtained their delighted permission to camp by their hut. They were very helpful, lending us a couple of Turkish army blankets, and were suitably impressed when I showed them my English army blanket, which of course was much nicer.

Friday 17th July

Another long day’s driving, again about 400 miles, into Iran. Right near the border we passed close to a really magnificent snow-covered mountain which was about where Mount Ararat should have been, so we supposed that was it – there was really no mistaking it. Apparently there are the ruins of a boat appearing out of a glacier at about 15,000 feet, which of course everyone says is the Ark. The trouble is, 15,000 feet is way above the level of the flood historians reckon to have been the Great Flood. As a further puzzle, two similar boats have been found at roughly the same height in the Swiss Alps.

Iran was very much like a lot of Turkey as far as landscape went. It took us about 2 hours to get through the border, after which we were pleased to find that the road was an excellent one, up to English standards, and very fast. So we decided to ignore the overall 6o kph speed limit.

Stopped fairly soon after the border to buy bread, and it suddenly struck us that none of us knew any of the Farsi alphabet. However, the first storekeeper we approached knew a little French, so we got by. We worked out the numbers from the road signs, which were in English as well as Farsi, and so we got the coinage pretty well taped.

We reached Tabriz, and after a little exploration decided to camp in an Agricultural Research Station, which had at the end of its large grounds a reservoir with bathing huts and a nice wood. Nobody seemed to mind us being there. We bumped into an English-speaking Iranian, who gave us the leftovers of his lunch, luxuries like butter and cheese.

Saturday 18th July

Got up early and made the 400 odd kilometres to Tehran. There is only one official campsite there, which was full of hippies and quite a laugh. The traffic in the city was awful, even worse than Istanbul, and neither Mike nor I (who seem to get lumbered with the city driving) enjoyed it much. Ate out (kebabs) and then turned in after a quick smoke.

Sunday 19th July

Had a nice lazy day. Nipped into town to go to the Post Office and then the Afghanistan Embassy for visas. Spent the afternoon lazing around and swimming. Learnt how to eat cheaply in Iran – soup and bread. Half the bread is torn up and mashed into the soup, then you eat your soup-mash with the other half of your bread!

Monday 20th July

Went again to the Post Office, picked up our Afghanistan visas and then headed on out of town. There were no signposts, and the only way to find the road was to keep asking people. This led to us taking the wrong road, for there are two to Mashad. One goes north of the mountains along the Caspian sea, and is (we later discovered) a good road but was marked as bad on our map. The other goes south of the mountains along the edge of the Great Salt desert, is marked good but is, we discovered, atrocious. The macadam melts in the heat and is then formed by the wind into wavelets across the road at about 9” pitch and 2-3” high. This alternates with sand dunes, which makes driving quite hazardous.

We stopped at a small hotel, and eventually arranged to sleep on the roof for about 1/6d a head. There were some beds up there, but for our half-price we had to sleep “on the ground on the roof”. We didn’t get much sleep, though, as it was very windy.

Tuesday 21st July

Had hoped to make an early start, but we all overslept. Eventually set off about 6:30, averaging about 15-20 mph much of the way. The road was even worse, and we were very worried in the afternoon to hear horrible noises coming from the front when we tried to steer. Luckily we were approaching Sabzevar, which was quite a large town, and there we stopped to have a look at the van. The front torsion leaves were protruding from the front axle and fouling the nearside front wheel. We weren’t altogether sure how to fix it, but we found a garage with a small VW sign, and they just took a hammer and banged the leaves back in! They also noticed one of our shock-absorbers had gone and so quickly banged on another. Then came the hassle.

The bill came to the equivalent of £7 – £4 for labour and £3 for the parts. Seeing as the job only took ½ hour we reckoned the former a bit excessive. We also did not have that much money on us, and the banks were shut until the following day. They demanded we leave the van as surety, which we didn’t want to do. So we offered the bloke we doing most of the talking with (who spoke a little English) £7 Stirling as surety. He agreed but then said that he would do this privately, as the garage owner would not approve. I reckoned this was off, and asked for a receipt. He started scribbling on a bit of notebook, so I told him I wanted it on official paper. He said he had none, so I asked to speak to the owner. I was told he had gone to bed, whereupon I walked out into the street and pointed him out down the road having a cup of tea. I eventually got my receipt!

Spent the night a mile or two out of town, in the desert.

Made the bank in Sabzevar as soon as it was open and changed some money. Meanwhile, the others went to find an English-speaking police officer to ask him what the labour charge should be. I was in the garage when the police rang through, and the owner went noticeably more sulky, so I guessed what the phone call was about. Anyway, they dropped the price to £5.

Another hard day’s drive, to within maybe 30 miles short of the Afghan border, and camped out in the desert again. Getting tired of only warm heavily-purified (chlorinated) water to drink.



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