Christmas in Iran (part 1)
It was a good thing the taxi driver kept ringing the doorbell that morning. If the driver hadn’t been so persistent about finding his fare, I would have slept through the chirping bells and missed my 6.05am christmas train to Tehran for my first christmas in Iran!
Hang on…. hang on a minute – let’s pull it back a day.
Reclining on the cushioned decks inside the $5 a night hostel in Yazd, I silently captured more pokemon. Christmas day was around the corner and it was time to head back to Tehran to celebrate. A day tomorrow to run a few quick errands and then time to go north for my first christmas in Iran
Earlier in the day, I’d been using maps.me to find a petrol station and carwash, but could not for the life of me find anything. Turning around on the dusty edge of Yazd, Trumpet and I dove back into the desert city. Within minutes we found our carwash for the day (who also managed to unsuccessfully use paint stripper on my rear rim without my knowledge…. grrrr!) and got busy.
I’m sick of the passport gig!
One sad looking rear rim later, I spent twenty minutes at the railway station arguing with the window bloke there about train tickets for the next morning.
“Here you go”
“This is copy, where is your real passport?”
“It’s in the Indian embassy mate. The one in Tehran”
“Why don’t you have your passport?”
“It’s in the Indian embassy mate, getting a visa stamped inside”
“You need a passport to buy a ticket”
“No I don’t, you have the copy, you don’t need the real thing. Here, look at my drivers licence man…. oh and you know what, here’s the slip for the indian embassy too”
This went on for a while. Reluctantly I avoided resorting to my base instincts at the time.
A long silence ensued as eyes read the document. (Personally, I’m sick to death of every Tom, Dick and Harry in the country wanting to see my passport, so now I just give them a piece of paper instead)
“Ok, which train do you want”
So with that done, that brings me back to just catching the train in time. Gods of the road bless this wonderful taxi driver who woke up half the hostel at 5am just to find me. Luck is still on my side. Time to make way for christmas!
Christmas in Iran (part 2)
The grand prix of Tehran circled the roundabout, car horns barking at each other while local police watched the race. Forgetting it was friday, I walked onto the very, very closed moto street opposite Tehran central station. Hailing a taxi, the kind old gent inside drove ten blocks and suggested with his hand that this was the end of the road for him.
8 different people, a bus, and two taxis later (all of which cost me 120,000 rial – $2.50 US) Mahdi stood at his door as the smell of fried chicken wafted up my nose. Finally back in his kitchen, we caught up over tea, pickles and of course, his delicious fried chicken. Time to celebrate christmas!
Their first christmas ho ho ho
Arriving at Reza’s (read where we met) brothers home, I smoked my cigarette on the dark street outside. Somewhere close by, music sung out a window, accompanied by clapping hands, cheering and laughing. Sounds like christmas in Iran was underway. A grinning head of hair poked itself out another window –
“Stay there, I am coming”
Inside Behrouz’s home, I caught David (read where we met) spinning in makeshift pirouettes, dancing with the gathered family. Numerous handshakes and hellos later, I only managed to have a few sips of my hot chai tea before I was literally dragged to the makeshift dance floor to join the party. The only experience I had dancing was at clubs across Europe and Australia, years ago now… Here goes nothing!
A christmas tree sparkled in the corner, covered with tinsel and decorations, a golden star being ridden by a tiny Santa Claus on top. Colourfully wrapped presents lay waiting to be unwrapped under the christmas tree…
“Holy cow, this is awesome!”
After a final Iranian dance off with a family friend, it was time for christmas dinner! Christmas in Iran was officially underway!
Wait, what… there’s more?! Christmas in Iran (part 3)
David and Evelyn had spent the last two days preparing an epic beef goulash, much to mine, and everyone elses delight. Accompanied by chunky bread dumplings, it was a christmas more then I could have asked for in a country where 99% of people don’t celebrate the occasion.
After our satisfying meal (which included of course, chicken kebabs, rice and an eggplant and garlic dish cooked by Rezas wife. May I note there may have been spoons clashing over the eggplant, namely Evelyn and I) I leant back against the wall and let the food coma wash over me. Before the goulash and kebab goodness had time to settle, a round bellied Santa Claus walked into the room with his red sack of goodies. Handing out the surprise presents to Evelyn, David and I, once again we became the centre of attention.
The defeat of a stereotype
Time and again, the stereotype of the eastern world has been heavily defeated. This was a whitewash if you will. A most memorable christmas in 2016, one that will be immensly difficult to top, and a really special time for me. The effort that Reza and his family made for us was out of this world.
People are, generally speaking, very good, but I think that Iranian hospitality is in a class of its own. The sentiment and warmth of these kind and special characters is undeniably surreal. Reza and his family could not have shown a better time to three riders who just wanted to celebrate a tradition in a foreign country. Christmas in Iran was a smash hit!
Time to hit the road
Time to hit the road. One of my most favourite things to say. Three nights Trumpet and I had been separated, and by the third day, I was already suffering from separation anxiety. My hairy bum wanted to be planted back in the pilots chair of my faithful, army green chariot.
A cheap snapp taxi (the Iranian version of Uber) and a farewell hug from Mahdi later, I was back at the Godfathers place of business one last time. Being my last minute unorganised self, Reza rode like Jorge Lorenzo to get my last bits and pieces – while giving me a personal tour of Tehran on his 125cc motorcycle. Brake pads, check. Battery, check. Custom made tie down straps, check. We’re good to go!
With yet another fine example of Iranian hospitality, Reza walked me all the way to entry gates of Tehrans central station, not without handing me a family sized bag of nuts and fruit on the way out. While we waited for my train, he delivered a fatherly lecture on Pakistan, worry shining out of his eyes as he gave me all his advice for the road ahead.
“No worries Reza, it’ll be fine man. Worst case if I get kidnapped by terrorists, they’ll probably think I’m a God or one of them or something with this beard. Relax, it’s all good.”
I suppose that’s the end of this part then. I always get a bit awkward with these kind of farewells, but the happy memories that now live inside are an awesome reminder of the fun times we shared! People truly are amazing creatures!
A train and a hitch
Six and a half hours on the train took me south to Yazd. There wasn’t a whole lot of scenery to miss due to the falling darkness, the way up had been 90% desert. With not much to do but play pokemon and sleep, a fluctuation between the two was accompanied by hot cups of chai. Finally, Yazd loomed and I had disembarked. Almost time to lovingly caress my steel green horse.
Trying to communicate with the taxi drivers was proving difficult. One would think after spending a month in a place, some local language would have been learnt. But no, not me, Captain ‘I-can’t-be-bothered’… It would have prevailed over english that’s for sure. A small group of people gathered around me (which is completely normal for me now) while I tried to get my point across.
“Where are you going dude?” Chimed in a heavily built young bloke.
“Near to Oasis man…”
“Ok, I’m the manager there, don’t worry about these taxi drivers they will rip you off. Come with me and I’ll find you a trustworthy one”
Five minutes later, I was sitting next to Mike in his Peugeot 206. From Tehran, based in Yazd for his MBA, we chatted in clear English.
“Holy shit it’s nice to speak english fluently for a little while” was my permeating thought.
Within twenty minutes, Mike had dropped me off at my hostel where I flicked the chirpy bell to wake up the evening shift. And then I flicked it again. Climbed up the wall to look through the decorated steel grate to see if anyone was awake. Just as I went for my third flick, a dozy eyed bloke opened the door, looked at me and said
The end of the line looms – Kerman
This now takes us to where I am now – Kerman. A 350km ride from Yazd, and not a particularly exciting one. One straight road and trucks were my only company – but they were good fun, blaring horns and flicking lights everytime I rode past. I remember a time when police used to do that for me back home but they’d use their sirens instead. The desert lingered around like a bad smell – I was praying for something exciting to come up like a mountain, a dog, a flying snake, a banana doing wheelies… but no, just lots of straight road and sand.
This is the first hotel room I’ve stayed in for months, and it feels strangely empty and quiet. Used to sharing rooms, beds, floors, it’s all a bit too tame and dull for me. The people are quiet, and they all look about as interesting as a piece of dried poo. There’s not even any stray waggy tailed dogs wanting a cuddle and pat – and I’m not sure where all the cats have gone but they aren’t here.
We are closing in on the end of line for Iran – a few more days will take Trumpet and I into Balochistan, Pakistan. From what I’ve information I’ve gleaned, the electricity is crap to non exisitent at night in parts, military levies sleep at your door, escorts and checkpoints litter the road to Quetta and the north. Don’t even think about internet. Time to start teaching Durak!
As long as I have some sand to poo in, and some ground to sleep on, that’ll be enough for me to reach the Karakorum – the one place I’ve been looking forward to most over this entire adventure.