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Published: November 4th 2014
Breakfast- check, pack day pack for 2 nights- check, be back at lodge for 10am- check. The plan from yesterday is no longer clear. I think I am now going to the desert with the 4 Iranians and 2 Austrians, Maziyar and some lunchboxes. 1030- plan still unclear. 1045- Mike, the desert guy, calls to confirm the new plan, which was sort of yesterday's plan- I'm getting picked up soonish to go start my desert trek, but first he wants to square away the payment issue- we commence negotiations -
Mike- You're now on a private tour, blah, blah, blah, it will cost the same
Me- So I'm paying the same price for 1 day less in the desert? and am going to be by myself because no one else signed up to your advertised group tour?
Mike- Deep exhalation noise
, OK. We can make it $xx,
Me- Didn't you say a night in the desert costs about $80? Wouldn't it be $x?
Mike- Really loud exhalation noise
, we have been doing this tour a long time and you are the first ever to complain about payment.
you think I should be happy about paying for an extra night?
... Let me speak to the lodge.
Me- Hands phone over
Lodge - The driver's here. Mike says he agrees to your sum.
Me- Thinks to herself
- PLEASE, please, please don't let Mike be the guide...
That over, I say goodbye to everyone and off I go alone on my own private tour speeding through Khor and then on to to Farahzad, just outside the village of Mesr where I begin my trek. I am going to be trekking in the Dasht-e Kavir, also known as the Central Desert. Fun facts- it's a salt desert measuring 800 km x 320km, the 23rd biggest desert in the world. The salt marshes are called kavirs, there is one enormous kavir, with many smaller ones feeding into it. There is very little rainfall but the run off from the mountains that surround it ensure that large seasonal lakes and salt marshes form every year. Temperatures reach 50 degrees C in summer and -1.7 degrees C in winter, it's about 30 degrees max at this time of year- phew. Back to the story- I get dropped
off at Barandaz Lodge (highly recommended in the LP Pg 178) to meet up with my guide. It looks like a really nice place- it has the central open air lounge with carpets and cushions along the walls. There is a central tree and rooms around the edge of the courtyard. Tea appears - of course, yes please. This is a good brew, very fragrant. Meet the sole traveller staying here- Maggie from Amsterdam. She tells me her entire trip to Iran has been salvaged by her stay her. She had started out on a group tour that had been a disaster and was ready to return home early before arriving at Barandaz. She leaves for Amsterdam tonight and has had a great time at Barandaz. She tells me how she had gone out with a production company a couple of days ago, AND she had met Bart and Peter, the Belgians. This becomes a recurring theme on my trip- meeting people who have met others you have met, who you then re-meet out of the blue! Anyway, Maggie and I share lunch under the dead (but highly photogenic) tree. Meet my guide, Hashem, and his wife, Negar, sunscreen up
and then it's time to say goodbye to Maggie and begin- finally the desert is upon me- literally, the winds that sprang up last night have continued today and the sand is on the move- now sticking nicely to my newly applied sunscreen.
Hashem and I set off, past the lodges cows (!), past the water reservoir, past the very green crops (!) and into the sand (exciting!). We hit the big dunes almost immediately. The patterns created by the winds are really beautiful. Lots of ridges and valleys. What is truly fascinating is the way that defined edges are created at the top of the dunes. They look fantastic, they are screaming out for photos. The other thing I learn quite quickly is that these edges are the easiest part of the dunes to walk on, although it seems such a shame to mar them with footprints.
An hour later we arrive at our campsite. Hashem's wife is here, Ali, from Barandaz, and his jeep dropped her and our supplies off. We set up the tents, refill our water bottles and head off in a northerly direction towards a very big hill and behind that a very,
very big hill that looks a lot like Ayers Rock (contextually weird!). For the next 4 hours of so we walk through sand then, surprisingly, sand with small stones. I had thought desert equals sand- not so, apparently on average only 20%!o(MISSING)f desert is sand, the rest of the surfaces are highly variable depending on geographical location, weather patterns, etc. The wind is relentless throughout the walk- I can imagine ridges, valleys and edges forming on my face! The small rocks and stones give way to crunchy dirt, then to shale layers, then a crunchy salt lake, and then to a dried up quicksand lake (yes, really!, quicksand!!). In the lake's dry state your feet drop about 5cm with every step- Hashem tells me it really is quick sand when it's wet- memories of Gilligan's Island come flooding back. http://www.gilligansisle.com/scripts/script75.html https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NO0wqBCPFVs
We make it to the very big hill, not the Ayers Rock one that is still far off in the distance , and make the climb to overlook the desert. All the while the sun is going down, the huge full moon rises as a gigantic orange orb. We walk back to camp by moonlight
and miss it by about a km, Hashem's sure it was around here somewhere! The mobile phone reception must kick back in because a quick call to Ali, and his jeep magically appears off in the distance to guide us back in. This is pretty soft camping- the fire is already going and the kettle boiled for tea. We sit around the campfire drinking oregano spiced black tea and eating pomegranates. The campsite is looking a bit lived in now with the 2 tents and 3 camp tables and assorted chairs plus a big esky of food and water. Negar and Ali leave - Negar is an amateur astronomer and has a night sky tour to conduct with a tour group somewhere, so now it's just me and Hashem. Hashem is a man of few words, it's very quiet except for the wind and the crackling fire. Sit at the fire some more and end up moving the tables close to the fire to eat as the temperature continues to drop. Dinner is potato salad, cucumbers, tomatoes and flat bread. It's delicious. It's 8:50pm. It's bed time. Climb into my sleeping bag, warm up out of the wind and sleep
Ali's son, Firouzeh
pretty much all night until 0430- the full moon is still bright and full and so is my bladder (so much tea!!)!
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