It is time to head north, we must keep on track as we only have 12 days left on our visas. Again, there is great mountain scenery but as we skirt around Bandar Abbas & head north we are on a main truck route. In fact, most of the traffic is trucks. It is still proving hard to get diesel. Sometimes none, sometimes 50 litres, in the end John resorts to “encouraging” the attendant with $1US to help! Fortunately, as we head north the situation improves and we can easily fill up.
It is a big day with 580kms as we head towards the huge desert of Dasht-e-Lut & the city of Kerman. We stop for coffee at a huge Caravansari just on the side of the motorway. They are dotted along each of the numerous Silk Routes about 30 kms apart. On the flat plains before Kerman we turn and head east towards Mahan to have a look at Aramgah-e-Shah Ne’matollah Vali with its gorgeous blue dome & peek inside at the gardens & mausoleum. Then we head over the mountains on our way to the desert. We had hoped to camp in the desert, but the long delays at petrol stations have changed our plans. So, at dusk we find a spot in the mountains, & in the morning carry on to the desert. At first it is sandy with tussocky grass, but then it starts to change. Mainly little hillocks of sand, but strangely covered in trees. Then there is miles of flat sand, finally we are at the Kaluts themselves. Wow! We park amongst these huge sandstone pillars, reminiscent of Monument Valley in the States, and just absorb it all. John gets out his drone for a little flyover. Before we retrace our steps, we carry on to the Rud Shur River, and yes, the water is flowing & the sides are white with salt. But disaster strikes… my camera ceases up – all I can see is the black screen of death!!! We retrieve our old camera that is stored in a cupboard, but the batteries are flat, so I have to resort to my phone (shock & horror) A lot of signing and moaning today.
Anyway, get over it Lynda. Time to move on. Once over the mountains & past Kerman there is lots & lots of desert and lots of driving, apart from stopping to try to get diesel. By evening we stop at Zeyn-al-Din: a highly renovated caravansari that is just off the highway. It is now a hotel, but we park outside for the night and enjoy a buffet dinner with other overseas visitors. Great to meet some Aussies & Kiwis here. Most of tourists here are French.
We head off bright & early to get to the city of Yazd before the traffic is crazy. I have become a bit neurotic about city driving after talking to a tour guide yesterday & John is humouring me. So, we stick to the main ring road & find a nice spot beside a park, then taxi to town. Crazy as there was heaps of parking on the streets in town!! Anyway, we have a good explore & try to hunt down a camera shop. No go with the camera shop, but we do visit the Water museum that shows how qanats/aqua ducts were tunnelled under the city to supply water to town. Fascinating how they did this so many years ago. And of course, there are heaps of badgirs/wind towers here to keep the homes cool during their long hot summers. And of course, the odd mosque & medressa. Yazd done we continue the long drive to Esfahan.
We are planning to meet good friends of Konrad & Ingrid here. They have suggested we camp/park at the Hotel Arbassi carpark. So, we set our GPS and head in. Naturally we have arrived in the city at crazy traffic time (Most of the day is crazy but late afternoon & evening are the worst!) And this hotel is right in the centre of the maze of the old city. Phew, I get pretty stressed, and John stays pretty cool. We are nearly there, but in another crazy snarl. We park and I go to hunt for our hotel. A friendly policeman gives us directions – we only need to do a very tight U-turn and we will be there. Its’s not cheap (in fact $27 US), but a great position & actually pretty quiet.
First destination a camera shop and he can fix it. By 9pm we have it back ready for us explore of the city tomorrow. We head off bright & early so nothing is open & the place is pretty deserted. So, we can get absorb the gorgeous Imam Square. We head in to the palace to explore – it has gorgeous tilework & a lovely upstairs ceiling stuccoed with pictures to improve the acoustics. Then on to the Bazaar – mile after mile of shopping & for us people watching. Finally, we pop out in the Iman Ali Square, which is even bigger than the last. A coffee stop before heading to the oldest & perhaps the loveliest mosque –Masjed-e-Jameh. It is closed for lunch, but John asks if we can peep in, & we find it still full of people so we wander around for free! Bonus. Back to Imam Square for a final few mosques before heading back to GR2. Sadly, my camera is still not OK. Way too much light is coming in so it is back to the camera shop. Eventually it is fixed, but many of my photos of Estefan are not so good.
The next day is earmarked for Wifi in the Hotel foyer and then catching up with our new friends. We have a lovely lunch & visit at their home. They suggest we stay overnight, but we decide we really should move on. After negotiating the crazy ring road of Esfahan, we take the motorway towards Tehran. At dusk we pull over at a rest area. More motorway driving before we decide to stop at a few scenic spots. First is the old mosque at Natanz – lovely on the outside, but bare inside- So, a bit disappointing. The second is the old red mud brick village of Abyaneh up in the hills. Despite the rain it is lovely. We explore the narrow alleyways with lots of local tourists. Many of the locals are in their ethnic costumes. Finally, our third stop is at the town of Kushan which is famous for its lovely old homes. We park & explore a few – they are truly lovely. Finally, the last of our drive to Tehran. We plan to park near the city so we can drive right in to the centre early the next morning. We end up in the cemetery which appears to have a major road through the middle – surprisingly quiet after the Mullan has finished his calls to prayer.
So, at 7am we drive in to Tehran & park slap bang in the old centre and set off to explore. But as it is Friday the bazaar & quite a few sights are closed. Fortunately, the Golestan Palace is open and today it is free. So, we can gawp at every museum & palace room to our hearts content. The mirrored rooms are particularly jaw-dropping. They are blinged to the max! Time to tackle the roads that are now busy with the usual crazy traffic. Then we keep finding ourselves on motorways with no truck signs & no pickups! When they police stop us, they say to carry on.
Our plan is to take the scenic mountain road over to the Caspian Sea. As it is Friday everyone else has the same idea so we are immersed in traffic, but despite the craziness it is a lovely twisty rocky drive. Hours and hours later we reach a beach where we stop for the night. Here John meets Dariush who lives in an apartment overlooking the beach. He invites us to breakfast and we spend a few hours in his lovely home. He was a famous body builder & actor here in Iran, so he has heaps of interesting stories. Continuing our drive along the waterfront – of which we see very little – we stop for John to have a swim (not for me sadly) and decide to continue inland. There are lots of big towns and miles of rice fields. But John has noticed that we have broken a spring – so we stop at Amol to get it fixed. By the end of the day it is all done & the workshop owner insists we come with him. We think we are camping outside his house, but he takes us to town, picks up his family, head out for dinner, then off to the city (which is a visit to the new glitzy shopping centre) & then go back to his home. They want us to stay for the night but after much protesting we head back to GR2 to sleep (so much better than mats on the floor) We felt totally out of control, especially when they only have a few words of English.
Head off bright & early. Town after town until we head up in to the mountains following a river valley full of rice paddies – it looks amazing. We are heading to Badab-e-Surt to explore the travertine terraces. They are off a little bumpy track. We stop & walk in. At first, they look a bit disappointing, but as we circle around they certainly improve. Definitely worth a visit. Then some more magic mountain driving before we reach the main road through the desert – we are now heading to Mashhad. This is when GR2 gets her very first tyre blowout ever. It only takes John an hour to change it, but it is getting late so when we see a lovely caravansari we stop behind it for the night.
We want to get to Mashhad today to book an appointment at the Isuzu workshop, so lots of driving. But we do squeeze in a stop at the very lovely caravansari at Za’faraniyeh. The door isn’t locked so we can explore, but even more fun is exploring the remains of an old mud brick town behind the village. Finally, we reach Mashhad & the Isuzu place by early afternoon. We wait. Yes, they can start today. Awesome – John has a list of jobs to get done. But because Ramazan has started work finishes early. We will have to come back tomorrow. Rezi, the owner of the workshop, gets us to follow him to a place we can camp closer to the city. He says he will come back, so we relax and wait. In the end he takes us to visit his friends and we eventually have shish kebabs at nearly midnight. What a fun night meeting some lovely people and discussing life in Iran. In the morning we are back at the workshop and finished by 2pm. When Rezi discover that we plan to go to see the Holy Shrine (he thinks we are crazy) he takes us in for a drive past. Actually, probably more than adequate as the whole city is busy with Ramzan. Finally, out of the city we find a quiet riverbed for the night.
This morning we have enough time for chores, then head towards the border. We aren’t due to cross until tomorrow morning so we have time to detour to Radkan to see an old tower, then head to Quchan to fill up with food & diesel. Here we meet some lovely guys who are at the University here. They show us where the supermarket is & invite us to their place. Again, we have to drag ourselves away so that we can head up in to the mountains for our last night in Iran. In the morning we drive through glorious fields of red poppies. A magical sight as we leave Iran.
I will be glad to throw off my scarf, but sadly those ladies we left behind have to continually wear them. They also cannot ride a motorbike or pushbike. They are so hampered by rules. We have met so many friendly people and are sad to leave, but we will not miss the white-knuckle driving. Maybe they will drive better in the Stans – we are about to find out.