Friday, 8 October 2010

Day 46 – Iran

Day 46 – Thursday – 26th August – Iran

The Hotel Zand had secure parking. Tick.
The Hotel Zand was bad. Tick.
Running Water and Air Con had to be asked for.
Cockroaches and the smell of leaking Gas were free.

The Air Con was also turned off about 1am in the morning and we all woke up warm after a poor nights sleep. Zowi & Chesa argued for a partial discount as the Air Con had been deliberately turned off by the manager. The manager retorted that they should have got out of bed, got dressed, gone to reception and asked for it to be turned back on.  1/2 hour later and with a $5 reduction we left the Hotel Zand and headed the short 45 mile drive to Persepolis. 

The ancient city of Persepolis in modern-day Iran was one of four capitals of the sprawling Persian Empire. Built beginning around 520 B.C., the city was a showcase for the empire's staggering wealth, with grand architecture, extravagant works of silver and gold, and extensive relief sculptures, some portraying envoys with offerings for the king.

The height of Persian rule lasted from about 550 B.C. until 330 B.C., when Alexander the Great overthrew the ruling Archaemenid dynasty and burned Persepolis to the ground.

It was absolutely scorching and the ruins at Persepolis provided very little shade.  However it isnt often that you are able to admire ruins that are 2,500 years old, and soon 3 hours had passed.

Stopping for some refreshments, provided us with a chance to replenish fluids, but also gave the young guy working in the shop some time to quiz us on England, Iran, Religion, Movies and Travel in general.  He pulled up 2 comfortable desk chairs square in front of the Air Con to ensure we spent nearly an hour chatting with him.

Persepolis was a definite highlight for the both of us.  The next time that you're in Iran it definitely needs to appear in your Top 5 list of places to visit.  Absolutely Awesome. 

On the road again.
Goin' places that I've never been.
Seein' things that I may never see again.
And I can't wait to get on the road again.  (Thanks to Willie Nelson for the Lyrics)
At 8pm we arrived at Yazd and with the help of the locals, successfully navigated to the well known Silk Road Hotel (known to fellow Overlanders anyway!)

Day 45 – Iran

Day 45 – Wednesday 25th August – Iran

Late last night, whilst retrieving a few items from Barnaby in the Hotel Car park, Zowi spotted a car that is somewhat unusual to Iran – a Fiat Cinquecento!

The Fiat appeared to have been prepared as an Overland vehicle and was decorated with a list of all the countries already visited, starting with flags from Italy through to their destination, Australia. The Fiat also sported a picture of the drivers on the bonnet.

Photo borrowed from as it was too dark to snap their car in the car park!
We left a note on their windscreen to say “Hello” and gave our room number in case they wanted to compare notes over a coffee or beer.

Returning to the hotel we tried to ask the Front Desk if there was a couple from Italy staying at the Hotel, but the guy didn’t know. He told us that the car park is shared with other hotels in the vicinity. It dawned on me that I hadn't put the Hotel Name on the note, just the room number. It was too late now to go and change the note. Perhaps we had the only Room 103 on the street

At breakfast in walked the pair of travellers with the Fiat, Simon & Chesa. We knew from the car that they were heading to Pakistan next, but they had news that the roads in Pakistan were impassable due to the recent floods that had ravaged the country.  Time to put Plan B into action.  Shit, we have no Plan B.  Plan A it is then.

Planning to see the more of Esfahan today and to leave for Shiraz later in the day we thought we could compare notes for an hour so.  Simon & Chesa were also heading to Shiraz, but had planned to leave in the next 10 minutes. There was just enough time to take their mobile number from them before saying “Ciao”.

We enjoyed a morning walk around the park near the hotel. Kids were playing football on the field, other men were playing Volleyball, just a typical day which could be anywhere in the world. Within the park is Hasht Behesht, a Palace built in the 17th Century and  was once the most luxurious decorated Palace in the city.

Hasht Behesht, a Palace built in the 17th Century

The drive to Shiraz was about 300 miles. Iran was the first country that we felt that Barnaby attracted a lot more attention on the roads which may be due to the foreign number plates. It is possible to obtain Iranian Number Plates, but they are not required for stays of less than 10 days and cannot be kept as souvenirs when leaving Iran, so we avoided the extra cost and paperwork and kept N432ENB.

Curiosity on the roads is normally a 7-step process...

  1. Iranian car with 1 or more occupants overtake Barnaby.
  2. Iranian car either brakes gently or severely for a closer look at Barnaby.
  3. Barnaby then overtakes slow Iranian car with all Iranian occupants vying for a closer look.
  4. Richard & Zowi wave towards Iranians.
  5. Iranians wave back with smiles.
  6. Iranian Car slowly overtakes Barnaby so all Iranian occupants can have another look.
  7. If satisfied, Iranian car pulls away. If still curious, Iranians go to step 2 and repeat.

Almost there.

Arriving in Shiraz we set about looking for the Hotel Zand which is about the only hotel listed in the Lonely Planet with secure parking. According to the address and map, it is located just off the main road. We missed the turn off and headed for a U-turn which wasn’t to exist.  Suddenly a little Fiat Cinquecento pulled from a side street in front of us. Simon and Chesa were in Shiraz and having the same problem locating the hotel as we were. Pooling our skills, knowledge and resources together we drove around for another 20 minutes before Chesa found the Hotel after asking the locals for directions.

What a tight fit! The car park entrance to the Hotel Zand was fine for a little Fiat, but Barnaby (and Richard) both a little bigger, struggled to get in, eventually squeezing in after folding mirrors in with only millimetres to spare. Richard was not looking forward to getting out in the morning.

Not the nicest hotel choice. Only one night at least.
After settling into our very basic rooms, we knocked on the door next room to see if Simon & Chesa wanted to find some food with us.  They were about to shower and advised that they would go later.  The streets of Shiraz had a different feel to the other cities in Iran.  Zowi was attracting a little bit more attention from the men standing outside their shops than we both felt comfortable with, possibly as she was only wearing a baggy long sleeve shirt instead of a manteau coat. This was the first time Zowi felt the attention was not welcome. The restaurant that we were looking for had also closed down.  Feeling tired and frustrated, we headed back to our room and heated some soup and noodles for dinner before heading to bed to sleep.

Cataracts or Carrots. I’m not sure where to put this section, as it’s my Blog, and my rant, it is going here. A lot of Iranian drivers who drive at night can be split into 2 distinct groups; Cataracts or Carrots.

Cataract Drivers are so named due to very poor eyesight. Cataract drivers need to have their fog lights on and their full beam lights on throughout the night, blinding all drivers they pass.

Carrot Drivers are the complete opposite and can see in the dark very well. Carrot drivers don’t bother with any lights on at all. Kinder Carrot drivers replace the standard headlight bulbs with 1 blue “Christmas Tree Bulb”. “Surprise!” they shout in Iranian as they suddenly appear from nowhere.

     Sandstorm brewing on the side of the road.

He never did say which letter..hmmmm
 Only three people this time. However not  uncommon to see a family of five out for an evening cruise.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Day 44 - Iran

Day 44 – Tuesday 24th August – Iran

The weather again was over 35C and as it was midday, there was very little shade to be found. It was still Ramadan and therefore Muslims are fasting between sunrise and sunset, this includes the drinking of water. Non-Muslim tourists are able to drink discreetly, something that we became adept at in order to survive the midday heat.

The first place we visited was Imam Square, located in the centre of Esfahan, which as the name suggests, is a beautiful square with 4 sides! On the south side of the square is ‘The Shah Mosque’ and on the west side is ‘Ali Qapu Palace’. To the eastern side of the square is ‘Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque’ – (ladies Mosque), and finally to the northern side is the famous Esfahan Grand Bazaar.


The Grand Bazaar is a historical market in Esfahan, and one of the oldest and largest bazaars of the Middle East, dating back to the 17th Century. The Grand Bazaar is a vaulted 2km street linking the old city with the new.

 Outside the Grand Bazaar a man approached us, speaking very good English. He told us that his Father specialised in restoration and pottery work, and was even pictured in the latest edition of Lonely Planet! In keeping with the friendliness that nearly all the Iranians have offered, this man took us for a trip to the roof of the Bazaar for a view of its roofline and the domes which let in light.


There are many shops contained around the square itself. One particular Carpet shop owner came out and started talking with us. It transpired that his brother had emigrated many years ago to Sale, Victoria (a small town in Australia where Zowi’s Mum grew up) and now sells the luxury carpets and rugs that are exported from Esfahan!

On Armond & Lerniks recommendation, we toured the Armenian district of Jolfa, particularly enjoying the painting, carvings and artwork of the impressive Vank Cathedral.

The bridges over the Zayande river include some of the nicest architecture in Esfahan. The River starts in the Zagros Mountains and flows from west to east through the heart of Esfahan, before drying up in the Kavir desert.  The oldest bridge is the "Pol-e Shahrestan" dating back to the 12th Century!


Thursday, 16 September 2010

Day 41 to Day 43 - Iran

Day 41 to 43 - Saturday 21st August to Monday 23rd August 2010 – Iran

It was great to wake up in a proper home, no roof tent to put down, and no-one milling around outside, checking out Barnaby in the early hours of the morning.

Many Iranians wake up and head to their local bakery for fresh bread each morning, and it tastes delicious.  We enjoyed ours with Cream, Jam one day, and with Eggs on other morning & Chai (Black Tea).

After breakfast the boys went to do "secret mens business".    Armond took Richard to his uncles shop where there was a repair garage located next door.  The hose pipe was quickly replaced after a similar hose was found and altered to fit perfectly.  Unfortunately when Barnaby was being filled with coolant, he took the opportunity to point out that another hose had also split, and this too would need to be replaced!

secret mens business discussions

2 Hose pipes replaced and Barnaby was ready to go.  Or not.  Another leak appeared.  The mechanic climbed over and under Barnaby unable to locate the leak.  Coolant wasnt coming from any of the hoses, it was coming from the Radiator itself! - a Radiator that we had only purchased last month in the UK.

The mechanics recommended a Radiator specialist nearby, and Barnaby headed there.  The radiator was removed on the street, and checked... - yes the Radiator had a leak in the watery, holdery, comparmenty thingy, hey I'm no mechanic.  All I know is that I think it was welded back together, Armond was doing all the liasing with the mechanics, and finally the leaks had ceased!

Barnaby's filters and oil were changed the following morning.  Job Done!  Barnaby is now serviced and ready for more action.

Earlier I had told the story of buying the fuel cards to Armond.  I'm not sure that Armond had actually seen a Diesel card as all cars in Iran are petrol.  One evening Armond wanted to make sure that we had adequate Diesel cards to get to the Pakistan border and we set off in his car to the Petrol Station.

Unfortunately it can be hard to track down a Petrol Station within a city centre that sells Diesel.  One Petrol Station attendant explained to Armond that the Trucks often fill up on the edges of cities and therefore there is little or no demand for Diesel.

 Rooftop view at night of Tehran from Armond and Lernik's home

The following day Barnaby out to find an elusive Diesel pump, and eventually our persistence paid off.  Armond checked all 8 Diesel cards and our fears were confirmed, they were all 100 litre Cards.  The Petrol Attendant near the border had sworn to Allah that this was a genuine 1,000 Litre Card but it turned out to be a 100 litres.  I hope Allah has a word with him about this.  At least all 8 cards were valid and had not expired.

Armond also managed to fill Barnaby with Diesel without using any of the Diesel Cards.  The price was still the same, about $3, but a $5 tip was given to the attendant to say thanks!  I'm not sure how much success I would have had on my own without a Diesel Card.

Whilst Armond & I had been busy doing important man stuff, the ladies had had a leisurely morning.  Zowi & Lernik strolled around Narmak, looking at the various shops and visiting the local park.

Lernik told Zowi that many women in Iran often fill their afternoons visiting friends and family.

The girls being social butterflies later met Lerniks Mother and Brother, and also Edwards Mother for afternoon tea.  Even though Zowi is not too familiar the delights that Coffee offers, she was tempted into enjoying a Turkish Coffee, and also was introduced to the a fruit known to us as "The Flat Peach"

 On the second evening Armond & Lernik took us to the Armenian Club in the North of Tehran.  Armond took this opportunity to demonstrate his unique skills behind the wheel.  Tehran traffic is not the easy to contend with, however "Mr Armond Schumacher" did this with great speed and agility, as he weaved his way through the evening traffic.  Armond or Schumacher? - I'm not sure which would be quickest around the roads of Tehran.

The Armenina Club was fantastic and sported many facilities.  It had a large leafy courtyard with restaurant, huge outdoor swimming pool, another pool for good measure, basket ball court, running track, football pitch, snooker hall and so much more. 

We were there in the evening to indulge in fantastic food, along with great company.  After arriving we were soon joined by Lerniks older brother, Sevan, and his wife Angeline who both seemed really nice.

There was a jug of water on the table and Zowi was the only one to have taken a glass.  Sevan suddenly pulled out a couple of bottles of water from his bag, and Zowi wondered why no-one had told her not to drink the water from the jug.

Armond explained that the water in the jug was fine to drink, Sevan had brought some "special water" for us to drink.  Alcohol is not allowed in Iran and of course we didnt have any Alcohol, but the special water went down very well.

The evening was just what we needed after many weeks on the road.  Even though there were a few language barriers, the 6 of us were laughing so much all night.  Humour is a Universal language!

the boys had no idea

The next stop of the evening was to be the Water & Fire Park, in the middle of Tehran.  Armonds choice of parking space appeared snug.  After some international mocking that we would never fit into such a small space, Schumacher accepted the challenge.  In one swift manoeuvre, the car was parked.  Perfect. Perfect, except for the fact that Schumacher was unable to open his door to leave the car and had to clamber over to the passenger seat to exit the car, much to all our amusement.

The Water & Fire Park wasnt what we expected.  It was about 11pm at night and it was packed with people.  People who were playing Badminton, Roller Blading, Walking, Talking, Picnicking, and enjoying the cooler end to the day outside.  The main attraction of the park for young and old alikeare the water fountains that sporadically shoot water out from the ground, catching out people who attempt to make it from one side to another without getting soaked.  The water fountains are surrounding by towers that erupt flames, and light the night sky brightly.

A wonderful night was had by all. 

Armond and Lernik had made us feel so welcome in their home.  Lernik has insisted that there was to be no Tarouf here, we should treat their home as our own.  This enabled us to relax and unwind so much that we considered moving in permanently!

On the final evening a wonderful BBQ with all of Lerniks family was planned.  The food was yet again out of this world, more special water appeared which was most appreciated.  It was really great to feel welcome and be apart of this family evening.  Our travels had meant that we often only dined together, to enjoy this family meal was something special to us.




Sadly, our final morning with Armond & Lernik was upon us.  Armond drew us a map that would guarantee we wouldnt get lost when trying to navigate our way out of Tehran. 

Our bags packed, it was time to leave, we joked that we could have stayed for a year with them, Lernik replied "Okay".  Tempting.  Very Tempting.

The most wonderful host family.
Lernik, Armond & Selia

 Armond came with us to the main road before jumping out of the car.  It was time for us to go.  We waved goodbye and we were back on the road, this time towards Esfahan.

An hour later and Barnaby overheated. Arrgggh! We pulled over on the side of the road and let him cool down a little.  These issues should have been left behind in Tehran!

20 minutes later and we were moving again.  42mph mean that Barnaby cruises into "Overdrive".  At this speed the engine just ticks over and doesnt need to work hard, and therefore should not overheat.  5 minutes later and Barnaby overheated again! Arrgggh!
Removing the Radiator Cap with caution we filled the Radiator in case some Coolant had escaped.  2 Litres of water in and Barnaby was still thirsty for more.  Another 2 Litres of water, and Barnaby still wants more.  It was at the start of the 3rd bottle that Barnaby announced he was full with a gargle at the top of Radiator.  Did this mean that we had another leak, or was the coolant level not topped up after the Radiator repair?
As always in Iran, a truck driver who had seen us earlier at the roadside stopped to assist.  It looked like we were OK now, but he wanted to ensure that we were OK and followed us for about 30km's to see that we were fine.  After an exchange of friendly beeps to confirm we were OK, we slowly pulled away and his Blue Truck disappeared into the distance behind us.

It was late when we finally made it into Esfahan.  The Hostel that we had marked in the Lonely Planet was full, the Hostel next door wasnt great and not cheap.  We decided to check the Hotel Totia across the road, and were pleasantly surprised to find that the price was the same as the Hostel.  The room was great, it included Breakfast and, most importantly, had secure parking.  Perfect.