Deserts, mountain ranges, beaches, stunning architecture and loads of history. There is so much of all that in Iran that all the effort to get a visa and to convince your relatives and friends that this country is safer than London will be well worth it if you choose to come here.
Kashan, an introduction to a desert city
Kashan was the perfect follow up to our Iranian detour. A desert city, with houses made of brick and mud, a maze of inviting alleyways and beautiful traditional houses.
Being highly recommended by Lonely Planet, it is obvious that things have recently changed here and more often than not you will find hotels and restaurants being advertised with signs on the main road. Having said that, big international firms have not reached Iran yet and streets are full of small, family run businesses as oppose to the monotony of the same stores over and over again that we have to suffer in the West. This contributes to an amazing atmosphere and it is probably the reason why bazaars are still bustling with life. Please stay that way, I would hate to see a Starbucks in a bazaar!
It is in places like this, where the fun is in getting lost and so we did for a while until we stumbled upon a beautiful mosque. Despite not being as overwhelming as the one in Qom, it had a really good vibe, with kids running in the courtyard and people just chatting about life (one can only guess that of course).
Blue is the colour
Esfahan claims top spot when it comes to tourist destinations in Iran. There are more souvenir shops and hotels than in all the other cities combined together and the bazaar feels soulless compared to the ones in Tabriz and Qazvin. So why should you come to Esfahan? To start with, Naqsh-e Jahan Square. Whilst full of life throughout the day, it is at night when it becomes something truly special, when hundreds of people congregate here to have a chat, take some ice cream and enjoy their tea. And then there is Masjed-e ShadJameh-e Mosque, which is by far the most beautiful mosque we have seen to date.
Bread is at the heart of the Iranian diet and watching one of the small bakeries in action is something quite entertaining. What is even better is when the man in charge of the bakery asks you to come inside, take a few pictures and gives you some bread. Thank you!
A date with history
The ancient city of Persepolis resists the passing of time just a few hundred kilometres south of Esfahan. Despite the lack of rules in Iran against free camping, we thought the parking lot just before the entrance to Persepolis would be pushing it a bit. Once again, wrong. By the time we arrived it was 21:00h and there were a couple of fires going on, a few tents here and there, a guy giving people rides on a carriage pulled by a horse and some kids playing football. What a great atmosphere. To top it all off, the people from the car next to us came to say hi and gave us some fruit.
Next morning we woke up bright and early to check out Persepolis and Naqsh-e Rostam, a tomb complex a few kilometres away. After visiting the sites it was time to make a decision. Either going further south into Shiraz or getting back on track on our original route and head north-east towards Turkmenistan. Hearing the stories of other teams about Turkmenistan, Russia and Uzbekistan had renewed our thirst for tarmac and long drives. Plus we had reached the 5000 miles mark. The decision was clear: north-east, next stop: Yazd!
It all starts with a dirty air filter
Once in Yazd, we parked just outside a small business on one of the main roads. As soon as got out of the ambulance, the owner of the shops came to greet us with a bottle of cold water and asked us to join him for tea. The scene was as lovely as it was bizarre, as we both sat in this man’s sports shop, surrounded by hundreds of football boots and random sports memorabilia, without saying much as the language barrier was too much this time. Welcome to Yazd!
Next day it was time to have a quick check on Lola. She was never the fastest around, but for the last couple of days we had noted a slight loss of power. Our limited knowledge of car mechanics led us to think that this was either due to the poor diesel available in Iran, the fact that the air con is now always on, or a dirty air filter. Swithing off the air con at 40C is not an option and there was nothing we could do about the diesel, so we decided to clean the air filter.
Little we knew that decision would changed our day and our perception of Iran for ever. However, that is a story for another day.
Lola gets some auxiliary lights for the desert and we bumped into Team Go Camel in Yazd!
- As far as we know there are about 4 teams (including the Dizzy Dames and the fire truck from Team Yeyo) crossing the Caspian Sea from Baku, Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan.
- Our friends from Khan On Aussie and Team Quokkastan are having fun enjoying the pot holes of the roads of Uzbekistan.
- Team Mongolanssi got their entry to Russia denied due to their export plates and had to drive all the way back to Helsinki to get new plates. Then they headed East once again and have now joined Baby Don’t Yurt Me and Team Catchusifustan in Barnaul, Russia.
- Team Sidetrack are also in Iran, but so far we have failed miserably to get in touch!
- As many as three teams have already arrived in Mongolia and there are still some who have not started yet.