July27 Hamedan, Iran
Over breakfast at our hotel in Maku we met Amir an Iranian guy living in London, England. He had driven his Land Rover from England but because he didn’t have a Carnet they wouldn’t let his car through the border. He had already spent 3 days in Maku trying to get it through customs and expected to spend another week or so. It turned out that he is from Shiraz, the same city as Arash. He didn’t know Arash but he knew the Pourkia name, a very old and respected name from the region. Amir was very helpful in explaining the difference between gas purchases with a subsidy card and without and told us we would only have to pay 40 touman or about 40 cents per litre for gas in Iran. He also recommended a couple of places for us to see and when we went out to the car he talked to some guys from a mountaineering club about where we were going. The guys were very helpful drawing out the route on the map that Arash gave us. Calen has a sheet of tasks for a photo contest that one of the other teams is running and one of the tasks is a photo of as many people in your vehicle as possible. We enlisted the help of the mountaineering club and stuffed the vehicle with about 10 guys in their bright orange shirts. We started on down the road and stopped at a bank to exchange some money. Got 1,980,000 rials for $200USD. It’s a great big banded wad. Calen brought his torn sandel to a guy on the street that was doing shoe repair and while he waited struck up a conversation with someone else in line. The guy he was talking to ended up insisting that he pay for Calen’s repair.
Several hours later we stopped for gas in Tabriz but when we finished filling up the pump said 400,000 rials. I gave the attendant the 20 bank notes and he counted it a couple of times and then handed back 12 of them. We were both a little confused but quite happy for the refund. It turns out that there is a state set gas price of 400 rials/L, or about 40 cents Canadian and the gas attendant was thankfully very honest. Driving out of Tabriz we got lost of course. There are some signs in English but most are in the Arabic script so if you miss one sign you are out of luck. You also have to spend a lot of time watching the other drivers. The lines on the road are merely a suggestion with often 3 lanes crammed into 2 and don’t even think of following a car length behind the guy in front of you. Iranians hate to waste space on the road and will fill that space in a second from any direction. Once we were thoroughly lost we stopped to ask for directions to Zanjan and luckily enough the people we asked were Zanjanians. A man and his wife and son. They tried to explain and then the guy said just follow me and he left his wife and son behind and jumped in his car to show us the way. Not only that but his wife gave us their ice cream bars out of the car before her husband left. It took him about 10 minutes to get us on the highway and all the while Calen and I were saying “Iran is awesome”. We love this place, the friendliness and hospitality is incredible. Every time we stop the car people want to come up to us and talk to us. I sure wish we new how to speak Farsi.
Today we are off to the caves at Kabudar Ahang and then we head for Isfahan.