Two highlights in Iran
Hamadan (Iran) to Qazvin (Iran), Jul-02-07 / Jul-16-07
The last two weeks were absolute highlights during the first weeks of our visit to Iran. First of all, we met the family that we also met 9 years ago during our first visit to Iran (in 1998). Besides that, we did an attempt to climb the 5671 metres high Mount Damavand, the highest mountain in Iran.

The visit to the family was as expected: terrific! Like in 1998 we were welcomed warmly. It is great to have the opportunity to experience Iranian family life a couple of days. We also used the days to talk about the things that happened since our previous visit in 1998. There changed a lot. The daughter of the family is married and has by now a 6-year old son. The two boys of the family are grown to young men. The man of the house (teacher English) is retired but is busy at the moment with some agricultural activities. The family has a couple of hectares of ground just outside the village, which they use to grow grapes. Also the technology has changed in the family. Everybody has a mobile phone; there is an internet connection (slow dial-up connection) and even satellite TV. Those were not available (forbidden) 9 years ago.

It is incredible how nice it is to spend some days with an Iranian family. You become part of the family and everybody does the maximum to make your stay a pleasant stay. Compared to 1998 there are more family members that speak English, which makes it possible to really talk with the different family members. There are still a lot of people that speak no English. With these people we can only exchange some Farsi words we learned last weeks. We are in the middle of the attention the whole day and especially the Iranian wedding was absolute fun (see column: Pop star for one night). Whoever you meet, they are all very friendly.

Busy shopping street in the centre of Hamadan.
After the visit to the family, we travelled by bus to Tehran. But not before we made the appointment to visit them again after our visit to Mount Damavand. The family was a little bit disappointed that we only stayed for two days. The asked us to stay for at least a month! As a compromise we agreed to come back for three more days after our visit to Mt. Damavand. Like in 1998 it was a real traffic culture shock to arrive in Tehran. All traffic rules we have learned before are useless in Tehran. In Tehran only one rule is valid; right of the strongest. Many people think that the traffic in Paris, Rome or London is chaotic. Forget it! In Tehran you must be very careful while walking on the streets to prevent that you will run over by a bus, car or motor cycle. Especially the motor cycles are a pain in the ass. You can come across them everywhere and from all directions. They drive in the wrong direction and make use of the sidewalks and the bazaar to get around the busy traffic crossings. Besides that, there is no respect for red lights and pedestrians crossings, making every cross over a life threatening experience.

An additional annoyance is the nuisance of the exhaust from the traffic. The heavy smog comes from the old-fashioned Paykan cars (use 12-15 litres for 100 kilometres) and the aggressive style of driving of the Iranian people. It does not matter how short the distance is till the next traffic congestion, the will accelerate as much as possible. Result: red eyes, irritated throat and a light headache during the first days in Tehran. We stayed in total for three days in Tehran. First of all to arrange our trip to the summit of Mt. Damavand and on the other hand to visit some highlights in the city (like Golestan Palace and National Museum of Iran).

A motorcycle in Tehran is multifunctional .
On Tuesday July 10th we took the bus to the small village of Pooloor, near Mt. Damavand. In this village we met Hamid, our guide for the next 4 days. It is his job to help us reaching the summit of Mt. Damavand. From Pooloor we have already a nice view on the 5671 metres high mountain. We can’t believe that we will be on the summit in three days. That we finally reached the top was thanks to our persistence. The last hundreds of metres were a real hell. Our mind wanted to proceed, but our legs blocked. After a lot of effort we reached the top (see article: Mount Damavand, climbing a heavy smoker). Our guide Hamid (member of Iranian mountaineering team) routed us a little bit to much, because we did the final ascend in 5 hours, while 6 to 7 hours are normal. Unfortunately we could only stay for 5 minutes on the summit, due to an abrupt change in the weather. It started to snow and the wind direction was suddenly changing, making sulphur poisoning possible. Mount Damavand is still a heavy (sulphur) smoker.

Travelling in Iran is quite easy. Most cities and towns are reachable by a good bus system and the roads are in a good condition. Buying a bus ticket t one of the bus companies is not so easy. Most people speak no English and because we can not read the Farsi language, it is impossible to read the bus timetables. Besides that, the Iranian calendar is different from the western calendar making it difficult to point out the day you want to travel. But fortunately, there is always somebody around who speaks a little bit of English and is glad to help you. On long distance busses it is nowadays also possible to sit together as man and woman. That is a nice change in comparison with 1998. At that time it was an exception that we could sit together as man and wife. Sitting together make the long bus rides more pleasant.

We are at this moment again at the family. After this visit of 3 days it is unlikely that we will see them again soon. Again, they do everything to make our visit as enjoyable as possible. Yesterday we went to Zanjan for some shopping, and this afternoon we will bring a visit to some mountains in the neighbourhood. Tomorrow is our last full day with the family, so that day will be used to say goodbye to many family members. The day after tomorrow we will take the bus to Esfahan. From that moment on we will travel southwards in the direction of the Pakistani border. The next couple of days are quite exciting. First of all we have to extent our visa in Esfahan (our present visa expires ate July 22nd). We expect no problems, but you never know. In case we do not get the visa, we have to leave the country as soon as possible (which means the bus to the Pakistani border). Somewhere last days we (or our computer) were also infected with a computer virus (Trojan horse). We hope to find somebody in Esfahan who can help us to get rid of this ‘thing’. So, a lot of things to do next couple of days!


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