Adventures in the Islamic Republic 13-18/10/10

Posted: October 20, 2010 in 6.Iran

Things you might not know about Iran:

The majority of chairs you sit in have been covered in PVC wrap, which can make for a rather sweaty posterior.

Everyone drives old Peugeot 405’s and Hillman Hunters.

The men wear some very pointy shoes.

The women sport some massive hair, lifting their head scarves a clear metre off the top of their heads.

The driving is unbelievable, 12 million accidents all about to happen at once.

Iranian pizza is not like any pizza you have tasted before, and not in a good way.

There are no vans.

There are no pushchairs.

Hotel toilet seats are frequently padded, which is something every toilet should have, man are they comfy.

Iran didn’t start well with the border crossing, which is a story you’ll have to wait for until we are safely tucked up in Dubai I’m afraid, sorry.

The first couple of days were spent in Tabriz finding our feet and getting use to the constant stares from the locals. As a man if you are not wearing white pointy shoes five times too big for you then you are clearly a tourist. The tourist information man was very helpful in changing money (you can’t use Visa in Iran so all money has to be brought with you) and after we changed $300 we became multi millionaires! The exchange rate is around $1 to 10,000 Iranian Rials, and 3,000,000 Rials in 50,000 notes is a lot of paper to shove in you pockets, under t-shirts and down bra’s but we managed it! When I got back to the hotel I lived out one of my many fantasies by making a bed of money and rolling around in it… until Megan came out of the bathroom and gave me one of those looks that bring play time to an end.

We met loads of fellow travelers in Tabriz; two Spanish couples overlanding, one going the same way as us and another coming back, plus a Polish couple coming to the end of their year back packing around the world. We shared a nice meal with them, which only cost a dollar each. However due to the overspend in Turkey I still insisted we split it between four, I mean 2 dollars is a tank of fuel!?! Yes, fuel is that cheap- 80 litres is around 2 bucks! It’s heaven if you can find a station selling diesel, as everyone in Iran drives petrol cars and only the trucks use diesel, so in order to find diesel we play the game of spot the queue of trucks and cheekily jump to the front, which no one seems to mind. One problem with using petrol pumps that are solely designed for lorries is that the nozzle is massive and the fuel comes out very, very fast. I got caught out on the first and second time (and the third time to be honest), as the tank in the Land Rover is not really designed to accept fuel entering at Mach 4 and it comes shooting back out all over shoes and trousers. Megan pointed out that I always wanted a pair Diesel jeans and then couldn’t stop giggling when I had to change outfit in the middle of a garage forecourt with Iranian truck drives watching on, character building stuff.

From Tabriz we headed to Qazvin about an hour west of Tehran, stopping briefly on the way to engage in a polite conversation with a policeman who thought we had been speeding. It turns out that on Iranian motorways there are different speed limits for each lane and even if there are no other cars on the road and you still want to travel at 100kmph you have to be in the outside lane. $50 was his initial demand but after a little persuasion we gave him $25 and drove off quickly before he had time to count it. Anyone else driving in Iran be warned, there are men with speed cameras everywhere!

Qazvin to Kashan took us round the outskirts of Tehran. We had been warned not to go into Tehran as the driving is even worse (if that’s possible) and due to our short time in the country there are more interesting places to visit. Kashan is a very interesting town with one of the most interesting bazaars we have visited. Megan and I could have spent hours watching men repairing the old carpets and sitting in the courtyards people watching, looking to see who had the pointiest  shoes. Here we met yet more overlanders, Tom (look4tom.com) Gruss and Fred, all making their way to Bandar Abbas as well and we spent another evening being affable. Man are we being sociable these days! It’s not in my nature as normally I hate everyone but I’m beginning to come around to this ‘talking to others’ lark.

Another day and another city. Esfahan was described as the jewel of Iran and it did not disappoint. The main square is massive and second only to Tiananmem Square (that’s in China Nick). There is one problem though, sitting down to enjoy the evening we were approached four times by different people all wanting to talk to us and tell us their life history and how amazing Iran is. To be fair, it was very interesting and gave us both a glimpse of what life in Iran is like for normal people. The final time we were approached by a young builder who was learning English by himself and it lead to one of the most surreal conversations I have ever had. He presented us with a list of words that he had clearly copied out of the dictionary and asked us to explain them to him. It was all going well until the words started to become difficult, for example, ‘pious man’, ‘hermit’, ‘irrefutable’, and others I can’t remember (but more likely don’t know the meaning of). If we didn’t know the definitions we made stuff up that sounded right. He then went on talking for about 20 minutes in broken English while Megan and I had no idea what he was talking about, but we just said yes a lot, and eventually looked at our watches and said we had friends to meet!

So far Iran has been interesting and it is nothing like you think it’s going to be. Yes, all the women wear headscarves but we have both found it more relaxed than certain parts of Turkey. Everyone is über friendly and although there is a lot of staring at no time have we felt threatened. We have been stopped by the army at check points but it’s all very pleasant and after checking our passports we are sent on our way with a smile and a wave. When we told people we were coming to Iran the first thing people said was ‘is it safe?’, and so far yes, it’s very safe.

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Comments
  1. david deere says:

    Just finished reading your trip log. Very interesting and great photos too. Am impressed that Megan is coping with everything so well, as my missus is not so keen on drop toilets and camping…..

    I am building a LR 130 to ship it up to UK and then drive to South Africa, so took special note of your vehicle build-up page.

    Are you headed to Adelaide in South Australia? If so, drop us a line and we’ll put you up at our farm for a day or two. Plenty of shade, plenty of water, etc.

    Keep up the good work & might see you sometime in the future perhaps.

    Cheers
    David

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