Kashan to Shiraz
Trip Start Dec 01, 2005
20Trip End Oct 31, 2008
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Where I stayed
part 2 of this fantastic journey I will try my best to recount. There
are some things, of course, that words just cannot describe. In fact,
most things. I am continually thinking of you, wishing that perhaps one
day you can experience and see what has happened to me in the last
couple of weeks, and feel the notion that the trip is not yet nearly
finished, despite how quickly the day of parting is approaching.
I arrived on the 1st of October, as most of you know, which was the day
of the new moon, and up until now the moon has been my albatross,
watching me from the early afternoon, reminding me of how quickly time
is moving, and staring down the sun in the evenings, where it cowers
beyond the horizon in the east.
Leaving Kashan wasn't too difficult, as I had Ali there to help me book
my train ticket. The last day we spent touring around the city and the
ancient ruins of Sialk, the first city in the world, which lies just
out of the centre of Kashan. Sialk is now just over 7000 years old, and
you can still easily make out the doors, windows, and streets nestled
in the dry mud designed by people so much older than my mind is even
capable of thinking. Amongst the ruins lay two graves, partly
excavated, of a father and daughter who both died after the collapse of
a roof 5500 years ago. His skull was crushed, but her skeleton was in
near perfect condition though in a very awkward position.
When I boarded the train, I found my cabin, which consisted of six
beds, five of which were occupied by five snoring Iranian men. When I
squeezed myself and my bags into the tiny room, they awoke, turned on
the lights, and began to interview me in pantomime about Iran, Canada,
and my thoughts and notions about my my travels thus far. The Iranians
dont' let something as small as a language barrier get in the way of
discussing politics, religion, and travel, as is something I will learn
later on. After only a few minutes, before the train even left the
station of Kashan, there were men coming from other cabins to see the
Canadian, perched on the top bunk with a big backpack. They all shook
my hand and welcomed me to Iran and prayed for my journey to be safe.
I got into Yazd at around 4.00 in the morning, and my couch-surfing
friend, Mansour, was there to meet me. We took a taxi to his friend's
house, as his house was already full with couch-surfers. When I came
into the apartment, I had to watch my step as there were already three
people sleeping on the floor beside a pile of backpacks, and in another
room were Mansour's two friends who were still awake and playing
computer games. After shaking their hands, they set up my blanket on
the most comfortable persian rug I have ever felt. We may have been
sleeping on the floor, but it was just as comortable as any bed I could
find back home.
When I woke, I could see who the people around me were: Thomas, from
Hungary, Cecile, from France, and Therese, from Austria, but whom was
studying in Munich with Cecile. They were traveling together, but
Thomas, like me, was traveling alone. We sat on the floor for a while
and talked about what we've done so far and the thigs we've seen, while
we took turns showering. It was the first time I was able to bounce my
experiences off of foreigners, and it felt so good. Just to speak my
mind and to hear what everyone else had to say really made me feel like
I wasn't the outsider I was in the train. After we were all clean, the
four of us walked down the street to get some food for breakfast. We
came back and made a big omlet for us and the boys, as well as ate some
tradition Iranian breakfast of bread, cheese, butter, jam, and dates.
All of this along with copious amounts of tea, of course.
Mansour took us around Yazd, yet another ancient city filled with
strong mud buildings which have been standing for thousands of years.
We walked through museums and mosques, snapping photos and greeting
people in the streets, who joyfully returned the "salaams" and
"khobis". We saw one of the Zoarastrian fires which has now been
burning for 1300 years, and is tended to by very trusted individuals.
In the evening, the five of us piled into a taxi and drove to a place
in the dessert called Kharanagh. This village contained one
hotel/hostel and perhaps 200 inhabitants. The village itself was quite
large, but has been abandoned due to water restrictions. Next to the
hostel loomed a massive dirt castle, which had what seemed to be an
infinate amount of rooms, which we could - - and did - - wander freely
about. We camped that night under the stars, tentless, a little cold,
but with smiles on our faces. The next night we spent in the hostel, in
one of the dorms, and woke up to a big breakfast of eggs, fruits,
cheese, bread and jam.
Thomas left that night before, but me, the girls, and Mansour stayed
for that night. The next morning, I realized that I was way too far
behind schedule to leave to Kerman and go down to the southern coast of
Hormuz like I had orginally planned. I needed to take some time out for
Shiraz and Esphahan, as I've heard people get stuck there very easily
because these are two of the main focal points not only for Iran, but
for the entire middle east.
I left with the girls on a big hitch-hiking journey through the dessert
of Kavir, because there was word of a small oasis town called Garmeh.
We intended to find it.
We went to the police checkpoint at the entrance to the city, and
started to wave down trucks and cars. The first truck that passed us
stopped but told us we was only going to where we had just come from,
Karanagh, but the second one was more than willing to stick us into the
cab with everything we had. You may think we were lucky to get the
second truck we called, but in fact there was another one behind it,
beckoning us to come and join them!
We eagerly piled into the cab, stacking our backpacks on the bed in the
back. It seemed roomy from the outside, but once we had everything in
there, we were stuck in there like a box of dates. Besides the three of
us, there were three other men who were transporting the truck, which
we later found out somehow was full of dates on their way to Masshad.
This is where we were able to pantomime out our political views,
religious, and even try to describe our travel stories to them. They
were so keen to hear about us and everything we thought, coming from
different countries all over the world.
We arrived in a place called Tabas, which was a slight detour from
Garmeh, but it was on their way. We were closer than we were before, by
about 400km. We quicly grabbed some kebabs, and were back out on the
highway, waving down trucks. The third one that stopped had enough room
for us, but in the back. The walls of the box were about four feet high
and there was nothing in there except for a tarp. The drivers were two
guys in the thirties who were more than happy to give us a lift, so
long as we stayed down so the police didn't see that we were there.
This made us slightly nervous so we did stay down, and it was fine. The
sky was cloudless and blue, the breeze from the drive cooled us off
after being cramped in a truck for nearly four hours, and we could lay
down and stretch ourselves. I even brought out my harmonica and we sang
songs as we rode. Once in a while we would pop our heads out of the
side to see the vast flat land, dry and barren, of the Kavir dessert.
We arrived at what seemed to be a checkpoint, so we got down and looked
at each other, wondering what was happening. The truck slowed and
pulled to the side of the road. We skidded to a halt in the dirt, and
the driver door opened. Eight fingers wrapped themselves around the
side of the truck and the driver pulled his head up over so he could
see us. We stared up at him like three sad dogs in a pound it seemed.
He looked at us, waiting a beat, smiled and said, "chai?". "Baleh!!!"
We stood up and the passeger in the cab came out with a pitcher of tea
for us. We talked and drank for a good ten minutes and told them about
where we were from and what we're doing and where we're going. What we
thought was a checkpoint was actually just a junction of roads where
most truckers pull over to have tea or something to eat.
Our worries gone, we felt very easy as the truck started up again and
we continued along through the dessert. The sun was setting and the
moon stared at me, glaringly.
With our free minds, we sat on our bags and watched the scenery move
past us. Large pointy mountains shot up from the flat sand, all around
us, and the road moved between the all into even flatter territory. The
wind felt so good. We waved to truckers passing us, and they honked
their horns. We sang songs and talked of the world. A jeep was
approaching us in the distance with a bike hitched up on the roof and I
wondered if people ever attempted to cross the dessert by bycycle and
what sort of preparations you would need to do something like that. As
the jeep got closer it flahsed it's headlights, which isn't uncommon at
all in Iran. As it got closer, I realized that it didn't have a bike on
it at all, but instead had a big machine gun attatched to the roof. I
don't mean just any machine gun either. I think this thing could easily
take down planes. "Get down!" I yelled to the girls and they dropped to
the floor, but it was waaaaaaaay too late for us to hide. By the time
my sense got the better of me and I couldn't stop staring at the size
of this massive armament and do the maths of the situation, the truck
was already to our flank. Our truck pulled over to the dirt and skidded
to a halt again. We stared at each other, like before only that much
more intently because we knew we were fucked. It was quiet. Nothing
happened. We waited. Then there were fingers that wrapped themselves
around the top of the box. Then another set. Two heads poked themselves
over the top with green army hats appropriately propped on the top.
"Salaam" said one. "Salaam" said we. The back of the truck opened and
there stood another two military men with our drivers. Here we were in
the middle of the dessert with nothing around. We were at our most
fragile point of our journey. Everything I've been told about Iranian
policemen crept up on me through my bowels and my stomache began to
churn. "Passport" said the one who was in charge. Quickly and fluently,
in unicine we reached into our bags and pulled out of documents and
handed them over. They began discussing with each other in Farsi, and
then with the drivers, who seemed to be laying on the charm. Soon they
started laughing and joking around with one another. The three of us
looked at each other, confused, unmoving, except our hearts which were
now able to continue pumped blood to our extremities. One of the
drivers looked as and said "OK. OK." and smiled, which is when we knew
everything was fine. We still didn't have our passports, though. The
main guy kept flipping through them, glancing at us and our pictures,
then to the visas, and back to the pictures. "Khob", he said and passed
them back to us with a smile. He shook my hand and welcomed me to Iran,
and told us we just had to stay down until we get to where we want.
Fair enough. With that, they were gone, and we were left in the back
laughing from relief about the situation which just occured.
The guys dropped us off in Khor, which was about 40km from our
destination, and they made sure we were taken care of. We were standing
to the side of a massive round-about and they asked a guy who was
passing by on a motorcycle to call us a taxi to take us to Garmeh. Then
they were off.
The man on the motorbike said he would be right back because he didn't
have a mobile, so he went home to call. By the time he came back, we
were surrounded by 20-year-old men on motorcycles who were curious as
to what we were doing and why we were there, also wanted to call a taxi
for us. They wanted pictures with me and to know everything about us.
Soon the taxi arrived and we had our 15-minute ride to Garmeh, the end
of our journey for a couple of days.
Garmeh was surely an oasis village at the foot of some rocky hills
where somehow the water seeps out of. The hotel sits among a crop of
palms, which are mostly dry and dead, but still beautiful. It was well
into the evening by the time we got there, and the hostel was full of
backpackers, some of which we had seen before in Yazd or Kharanagh.
There was a French guy who I even saw in Kashan but didn't get the
opportunity to talk to. There were even a couple of Italians from
Verona, but who were travelling seperately (in fact, one came on a
motorbike). We ate dinner and mingled with everyone and then we headed
back out into the dessert to get some more camping done. We laid by the
water spring near a cave in the mountains and stared at the stars. We
didn't make a fire beacuse we didn't have a lighter but we fell asleep
easily after the busy day.
We woke up and walked back to the hotel for breakfast. We then later
got a taxi to another small village about 90km away to do some camel
riding. It was pretty exciting but I wouldn't want to do it for long,
for my body's sake. One of the brothers who owned the hostel traveled
to France by camel and now has two seperated disks in his back. What a
journey that would be...
We had to make it to a train station by that night, which there was one
near the western edge of the dessert, near a place called Naien, which
was about 300km away. If we could make it there, the girls and our
new-found Italian partner, Gianluca, could take the train to Tehran to
get their plane the next day (and Gianluca was heading to Turkey), and
then I could get the bus to Esphahan, and hopefully a midnight train to
Shiraz. We arrived in Naien through the means of course by hith-hiking.
This was a much more modern truck, but the only driver wasn't really
keen into talking, but we made it there anyways, which is important. We
ate kebabs, and then went in search of means of transportation.
Perhaps my plan was a little idealistic because the bus station was
closed, and there was no way to get to Esphahan at this time of the
night (around 21.00), so I went with the girls and Gianluca to the
train station. I figured I'd just grab the next train to anywhere,
whichever showed up first. A train came at around 22.30 and I jumped on
after saying goodbye to my newest friends and travel partners. We
wished each other luck and then we were seperated. The train was going
to Kerman, but because I didn't have a reservation for a bed, I was
going to get off at Yazd again. I sat in the restaurant car and met
some pretty interesting people. The table next to me is where I spent
most of my time. There were a few young people, two were girls studying
English in Tehran, one guy studying music in Tehran, and an old man who
was a caligrophy artist. I had an immediate connection with them all,
especially the old man, who didn't speak any English except for "thank
you" and "yes", but he said to the girl that I had a friendly face, and
through her we were able to communicate efficiently. We had a very
similar sense of humour. I asked him if he had any of his work with him
here, and he went off to his cabin where he had his brief case. He
showed me all of his bamboo tools and some of his practice work. As I
looked through them it didn't take long for a few people to approach us
and take a look as well and start questioning him about his work. I
said to the girl that I've made him famous in the train now, and she
responded with, "he's already very famous in Iran". Ah, that would be
why. (Perhaps you Iranians can help me out with his name again, I can't
remember: Mohammad something, but I dont' know what. I know we
discussed it when you called last night, Mahsa, but I just can't
remember his last name). Anyways, I sat with them for a few hours, and
Mohammad did some work and showed me how it all functions and then he
went to bed with his old age. One of the girls, the guy, and myself
stayed up talking until we pulled up to Yazd at 2.00.
I took a taxi into the centre and then walked around until I found a
hotel which was still open. I ended up in a dorm room of the same
owners who owned the hotel in Kharanagh in the desert. I ate breakfast
quickly the next morning with an Aussie guy, and then I was at the bus
station on my way to Shiraz. It took me about 8 hours and I got in last
night after dark. I ate. I slept. And here I am.
It's been a long one, I know, but there's so much to say. I hope I
didn't waste too much of my day. I am now off to Persepolis; the
capital of the Persian empire. After I get something to eat, that is.
I hope everybody is well everywhere, and I will be able to post
pictures when I get to Italy, hopefully. If not, definitely when I get
So until then...