IranWestern Asia

Nature and culture in Iran

Alamut Valley in Iran

We continue our journey in Iran to the mountains. The ski resort of the Iranians. We are so busy on some roads even in traffic jams. A bit like the highway on black Saturday in France in the summer. There is of course no more snow in the ski area (Only on the top of the Damavand) but everyone walks and picnics in the area before they continue their way to the Caspian Sea. The sea was gray, gray, the water polluted and the beach full of stray dogs. Not really recommended, so we stay in the mountains 😉 We find a quiet spot in the middle of a mountain where we are awakened the next morning by the many bubbles of a herd of goats.

The two faces of the Iranians

Traffic is really crazy in Iran. You would think that in the meantime we are already quite used to Africa, but still they only drive here from all the countries where we have been! The difference is that in Africa they are proud when they can pay a car and even though they usually buy their driver’s license there and have no insurance, they do their best not to drive their car. In Iran almost every family has a car and you are constantly cut off. There seems to be a rule that you only have to look at what happens to you, you anticipate. Everything was done behind the car is the problem for the other. Furthermore, they do not ride on lanes, zebra crossings and direction indicators, in short; chaos!

It is incomprehensible to us how this driving style contrasts with the friendliness of the people. The people are so sweet, but as soon as they get in their car they turned into extraordinarily aso drivers. It is therefore clear to us quickly why you see car shops everywhere in Iran (no matter how small the village is). Everywhere are fitters and everywhere you can have the car made. On the way we can fortunately help an Iranian family who are unlucky because their fuel hose has jumped. Our gas hose turns out to be the right size so we cut a piece and can continue 10 minutes later.

The overwhelming friendliness of Iran

It is also the first country where we do not have to pay any toll. Every time we drive, they only want to know where we are coming today and we get a friendly ‘Welcome to Iran’ smile with ‘You can go, no pay’. (France, read and learn 😉

Tea (chai) is very important for the Iranians and a social affair. You are therefore constantly invited for tea. On the market, during photo stops, on the road. They all have a jug with hot water, glasses and of course a lot of sugar with them, no matter where they go. If we stop at the side of the road to view the route, someone comes to us who wants to drink tea. Even a driver of a truck that we overtake keeps his cup of tea out of the window and calls ‘Chai Chai’.

Sleeping in a small village with mom on the floor

On the advice of many people we drive towards the Alamut Valley. A mountainous area with small villages where the green wheat fields stand out against the yellow mountains. It is a super nice trip and when we have found a spot on the mountain in the evening with a beautiful view, we are not picked up by the Iranian family yet 5 minutes later. According to them, the view from their village is much nicer so we can not stay here. We try to indicate that we really do not mind staying here, but no is not accepted and so we drive 20 minutes later behind them to deeper into the valley. The wide waste makes way for ever smaller and steeper gravel roads deeper into the mountains. Even our GPS does not know the way anymore, but they did not say too much. Wow what a place!

It is a village of nothing and everyone is surprised when they see our car. The couple appears to live in Tehran and they were on their way to their mothers for a weekend in the countryside when they met us. Their mother does not seem surprised at all that two people suddenly get extra. We go to grandma and grandma who live in the house next door and when it’s time for dinner, two extra plates are put down. Nobody really speaks English so we spend the rest of the evening gesturing, looking at pictures and trying to tell each other stories with pen and paper. We get some blankets and pillows (in Iran they almost all sleep on the floor). Mama’s house is big enough for all of us.

Looking for bears in the wild

The next morning we are awakened at 6 o’clock. They want to show us the bears. Ali is crazy about wild photography, so he knows all the places well. We see a beautiful sunrise with a view over the mountains and we follow the wild trails of the bears. Indeed the paths are full of fresh bear poop, but do not see a bear that morning. We have breakfast with fresh walnuts, sheep cheese and iranian bread and we go around noon to continue our journey through the valley. What a friendly people and special to experience the culture so close.

Tabriz and on the way to the border crossing with Armenia

After almost 4 weeks of wandering around in Iran, we really have to move towards a border as our visa expires. We decide to go to the border with Armenia to enter Turkey via Georgia. We understand that these are very beautiful countries and that way we stay away from the risk area in Turkey. It gives us the opportunity to visit Tabriz. A city in the north of Iran where the oldest bazaar in the country is. Suus goes completely loose with her camera at all carpet shops and other shops. Again you notice that there are few tourists to this country. Everyone loves to take a picture. They proudly pose and we are of course again invited to Chai 😉 We’re going to miss this if we cross the border soon. In Tabriz we are at a free public campsite where we also meet other overlanders in Iran for the first time. Cyclists, motorcyclists and other cars. We conclude Iran with a lot of fun and on our last day of the visa we leave for Armenia.

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