Be Arami, Be Arami... A First Trip to Iran- These Boots Are Not Made for Walking

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Middle East » Iran » North » Tehran
September 24th 2014
Published: October 2nd 2014
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Spend the morning having breakfast then getting ready for the start of my trekking programme. The next 2 days are acclimatisation days and we are going to climb Mt Tochal at 4000m. My guide is going to meet me in the lobby at 1100. So, pack, unpack, repack... Seems heavy for just 1 night. Back down to the lobby to pay; USD $88, they have a room tomorrow if I need it- $31 with shared bathroom.

Amir arrives and goes through my gear- get rid of a couple of things- 1 top, 1 cardi, 1 pr Merrells- all the stuff you'd change into post trek to eat and sit around- doesn't look like this is how it's done here- no problem, less weight. He then rejects my trekking shoes- not good enough! No ankle support. I explain how many treks they've been on- in dust, mud, snow, ice...., but no, not good enough -they MUST have ankle support and they won't be warm enough, I will have to buy new ones. I then explain that, not only is it madness to trek in new boots, I haven't budgeted for this- too bad, he won't take me if I don't, a Mexican- no an Iranian standoff occurs... He wins.

Second point of contention occurs with the hotel room for tomorrow night- he doesn't have it on his itinerary, I show him my email from Mr. Soltani. I pay in advance for tomorrow and tell him he can sort it out with Mr Soltani later. Grumpily got into a boiling hot taxi and make the hour and a half sweaty journey to Darband. The icing on the cake is when Mr Soltani calls to see how I am and tells me the bank transfer of the trek balance hasn't arrived ( I sent it 8 days earlier). He says, ' don't worry, sort it out later- enjoy your first trek'. Hmm, not the best of starts.

So, we arrive in Darband and Amir goes into guide mode- guiding me through the traffic! It's so funny, he can't grab me so he kind of does this shepherding thing. First stop is a shoe shop where he finds some boots, the major trekking type that look like I could walk in them for the rest of my life and they'd never wear out, ever. I try them on, pull on the laces to tighten them and 2 of the rivet closures immediately break. So much for my theory that they'd last for the rest of my life- maybe I was meant to be taken out by a taxi crossing the road after all. Try pair 2 - exactly the same looking but no breakage; they are one million, seven hundred thousand IRR, which sounds expensive but coverts to less than $60 including a pair of long, heavy duty socks (Amir is obviously not impressed with my socks either). Transaction done we duck into a coffee shop- as in Western style one that wouldn't be out of place in Perth and make peace over coffee and chocolate cake, I offer to pay but it's all included from here on in!

Caffeinated, it's time to begin. We have to get another taxi up the road to the start point and then the climb begins; on a bitumen used road. It soon gives way to real trail where we hit the stony terrain. There's mule poo, there's shade, the mules are in good shape- many are wearing really decorative beaded headpieces. Apparently the horsemen are primarily Afghani. We climb, climb, climb in the heat and arrive at a tea house for lunch at 2 pm. There are a lot of Iranian couples and families sitting on carpeted pavilions, eating picnic style. The restaurant has watermelons and pomegranates piled up, a juice press and shish-a pipes lined up. We have lunch cross legged on a carpet with a plastic table cloth, by a stream, and a valley, it's very relaxing. They bring lots of tea with saffron coloured sugar crystal sticks and a tray of coconut sprinkled dates after lunch. I take about a hundred photos.

Time to go, we have an estimated 2 hr climb ahead of us. Already red faced and sweaty it now gets really hard. It is a really steep incline and there are ropes along the path to pull yourself up the rock face with. The walking pole gets retired- you need both hands to pull up on. It's really hard work. The compensation though is that every time you turn around the views of Tehran get more impressive. We break after an hour and have some more tea in another little teashop, then more really, really hard uphill climbing is required. I am feeling somewhat nervous about my ability to climb Damavand if this one is so hard.

Eventually we reach Shirpala Mountain Hut at 6:30pm. It's a big stone building with a roof top complete with amazing views. We hit sunset- it's really beautiful, and it's cool, a nice change from Tehran. We head into the cafeteria and get a cup of tea, there are a couple of people there that passed us enroute and a few more dribble in that WE passed! Pretty much everyone talks to each other here, they are keen to find out where I am from and why I have come? "Why you come to Iran" is a question that virtually everyone I meet asks, then they pretty much all say, "welcome to Iran, thank you for visiting our country", it's such a contrast to what happens at home. Then the various little packages of food come out to share. Four young guys we passed had detoured off the track and picked a bag full of tiny apples called tart apples- which they were!

Amir takes me up to my room, it's very Nepalesque - lurid wall colour, green carpet, but instead of beds there are thin mattresses and heavy blankets. I'm getting the room to myself because it's now the off season. There are also rooms for 4 or 6 in the building then there are dormitory rooms in another building. Our bathroom is shared for the floor with 2 squats and a hand basin. Unlike Nepal, the bathroom is immaculately clean. There is a plastic covered floor exclusion zone with plastic shoes to wear in the bathroom/toilet and you have to go sock or bare foot on the green carpet- it makes great sense. Drop my stuff and Amir asks if I want to come and sit with him and his friend Sayed in the "lounge" room- Sayed is an elderly guy who lives there most of the year. He dries his own tea and proceeded to make us mint tea and started shelling fresh walnuts- I have never had truly fresh walnuts before, they are delicious, really different to ours. He then wants to make us dinner but we decline. Some of Amir's friends arrive and I decide to skip dinner and have an early night before the early wake up at 0530. But first a wash- the bathroom sink is off limits and there's no shower-
Tea TimeTea TimeTea Time

The sugar sticks come packaged in boxes and ae everywhere. Served with dates.
amazing what you can do with a ziplock bag of hot water and some soap! Tomorrow we tackle the last part of the climb, tonight we're at 2640m.

Additional photos below
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2nd October 2014

So much tea!
Well done. Glad it's going well. Were the new boots ok?
2nd October 2014

Hi rachel
Actually they were great!

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