Published: June 8th 2009June 8th 2009
On the morning we left Cappadocia we were up bright and early at 5.30 am for camp breakfast at 5.45 and we were met by the most beautiful sight. Hundreds of hot air balloons going straight overhead. Cappadocia is one of the top five places in the world to do a sunrise balloon flight. It was a real WOW moment and we just thought “How lucky are we?”
We had a long drive ahead that day and Lucy was on her own as Steve had had to go on ahead to Erzurum to collect his visa for Iran. It was a very long day on the truck going through several mountain passes, from deep gorges to being up with snow line. It was the most beautiful drive. It was rewarded with a wonderful bush camp by the side of a lake (sorry another bushless camp). Again we attracted a lot of local attention and we were soon surrounded by locals curious about the truck and us. They were all very friendly though. It was onwards to Erzurum to meet up with Steve and spend a night in the town and an extremely early start to get to Dogubayazit at the foot
of Mount Ararat and the Iranian border. We had to leave Lucy behind as she doesn’t have an Iranian visa and she was trying to get it hurried through. We have now heard that Lucy has failed to get her visa and had to be ejected from the Iranian High Commission when she refused to leave without it! The police helped her to leave!! She will not be joining us in Iran and we will next catch up her in Turkmenistan. Dogubayazit town has nothing going for it really, except Mount Ararat which dominates the skyline. We were at the Iranian border by 6.30 the following morning as we had been told getting over the border can take some time! All us girls were togged up in our Chadors (literally meaning tents) and headscarves. At least wearing a tent I can eat what I want! Two and a half hours later we were through. The Brits in the party had to have all fingers and thumbs printed twice apparently because we do it to Iranians entering UK. The two New Zealanders didn’t need to have anything done - just passports glanced at and stamped! Steve ran into a bit of
difficulty as he was not the named driver of the truck although he had a letter of authority to be driving it - the Iranians seem to make up their own rules as they go along about visas etc. After some careful negotiation by our guide who met us at the border and Steve flashing his huge pearly white smile and looking innocent they let us through. By this time we were in No Man’s Land between Turkey and Iran - locked gates on either side, it was about 8am, so we had breakfast - much to the amazement of everybody around - quite a laugh. We finally cleared the border after 2 ½ hours. Steve stopped to fill up with diesel which cost US 1.6 cents per litre. He filled up for about US$1. We camped that night under trees (there is a God) near Tabriz. It was quite funny, one of our fellow travellers, Glenn from Yorkshire, is a real comedian and because Iran is dry, he has started a “virtual bar” selling virtual beers, draft or bottle, wine,G&T, etc etc. He had difficulty obtaining a lime for my virtal G&T though. It’s really funny, he has also
organised virtual cricket matches without stumps bats or balls and has managed to get local kids playing this virtual cricket. He has us in stitches all the time. Mike the New Zealander is the camp commandant who is a control freak, but he has gently been put in his place by Glenn the comedian and is now a much better person for it. The Scottish couple take their travelling very seriously and spend most of their time making notes, reading guide books and get cross if we have to miss any sight out because of time pressures! We all get on very well though and I hate to think what they say about us. James has been appointed “treasurer” and is in charge of the kitty which we have all contributed to. I am in charge of sweeping the truck - where’s the justice in that! We all take it in turns to buy the food in local markets, prepare and cook dinner, breakfast and lunch for everybody and then it passes on to the next lot. Everybody mucks in getting tables and chairs out and washing up etc. There are very strict hygiene rules and we have to spray
Inside a cave dwelling
our hands with a weak dettol solution every time we get into the truck and the dishes are washed in soapy water first, rinsed in a mild dettol solution and then rinsed again in clean water and then “flapped” dry. I will never smell dettol again without thinking “Eau de Kristina” as it has been nicknamed. We’ve all decided we’ve got used to the taste of dettol after a while! It did wonders for the flies on the truck yesterday, they soon made a quick exit out of the windows when we came at them with the dettol.
We are now in Esfahan and all I can say is WOW! We are in a very posh hotel for three days with laundry service, hairdryers, mini-bar (quite funny really considering we have no alcohol) It’s full of fizzy drinks and water! We ate dinner last night in the best restaurant in Esfahan and it was another WOW moment - there have been so many and we’re only two weeks into the trip. The restaurant was part of another hotel just along the road from ours. It is in the central courtyard of the hotel in the open, surrounded by rooms. The
The ceiling of a cave church with fresco
courtyard has fountains, trees, flowers etc etc. And the food was good too. It cost us about £10 each - makes a difference when you don’t add wine to the bill! Esfahan is the most amazing place I have ever seen. Today we visited the main Aman Square which is the 2nd biggest in the world next to Tiananmen Square in China and it has mosques on two sides of it and a palace on the third. The Aman Mosque is supposedly the most beautiful mosque in the Islamic world - and is absolutely beautiful with towering tiled minarets, blue and gold tiled dome and every wall in its numerous areas around the central courtyard are also tiled in blues, greens and gold. (another WOW). There is also the “Ladies Mosque” built in the 16th century for the harem. It is much smaller but just as beautiful. Again we think how lucky we are to be seeing all this. The Iranians are extremely friendly and all of them want to talk to us and practice their English. We have another day here to see even more wonderful architecture so I expect more of the Wow moments tomorrow.
So far we
Balloon on top of Kristina
have travelled upwards of 2600km we think!
I’ll try and download some photos with this blog, I forgot last time till I had pressed publish and by then it was too late - I’m on a steep learning curve with this technology! We have also loaded a map hopefully for those of you looking at Google Earth! I’ll blog again in a week or two. I hope everybody who gets this doesn’t get bored before you get here, because I will be asking questions! I hope you are all well a good summer (or winter if you’re in Australia)
There are more photos below