Return to Iran
25/4 The usual confusion and running around in the port, but only half as bad as the last time. The ferry co. takes another 250000 Rial (25 Euro) of me, for what I don't know, as they don't do anything for it. I get to do all the work. (Or is it only half the work this time?) They have stapled my rego to the carnet, something I'm not happy about, as this document is now irreplaceable, since I have left France. UAE customs have made a mess of my carnet again: they have stamped the bike in AND out, but removed the import voucher from the next page. Just as well I'm not short on pages! It is now stinking hot and humid, so I'm heading straight for the mountains. On the way out of the port I see the engineer from the ferry crossing again, hanging onto the back of an overloaded pickup and waving to me. The road to Kerman is very busy with lots of trucks and I have a few encounters with overtaking trucks again. Maybe I should arm myself with a stone again? Over a few passes and the temperature begins to drop. The desert gives way to some greenery and clouds appear, dark black clouds. Just before Sirjan a very strong crosswind picks up and blows sand across the road so thick, traffic has to slow right down as visibility is very bad. At the same time a little rain falls, not enough to get wet, but enough for everything to get covered in wet dust. I stop in Sirjan in a small hotel. It's a dump, but at least it has a good shower. The owner is very friendly and invites me to his home to park my bike and for tea.
26/4 I've decided to bypass Kerman and head straight for Rayen, where there is a nice mud brick fortress (arg) to see. I ask several people for the way to the Firuz fire temple, but can't find it. According to the map half the distance should be on dirt tracks, but I find tar roads all the way, some brand new. Only 10 km is dirt, the road is still under construction. It is cool, there is green everywhere. In passing it looks like tussock grass, but when I stop I find that most of it is a very strong smelling herb. There are flowers everywhere, particularly along the road verges. A very nice ride indeed, except for one incident, where some young hoons in two cars, one of them half destroyed in an accident, swerve deliberately towards me, laughing and yelling. Where is my stone? In Rayen I visit the restored Arg, nicely set against a backdrop of the snow-covered mountain.
Mausoleum in Rayen
27/4 Exploring some of the smaller roads around I make my way East towards the desert. At the edge of Golbaf the road turns into dirt and I stop to ask a man for the way. He confirms that this is the way to Sirch and indicates that he would like a lift. For two it's cramped on the bike, but it can't be that far. I take him right home into a tiny hamlet where his employers' family rolls out the Iranian hospitality. I'm invited for lunch. I'm more than a little surprised when an old man, the head of the family, openly smokes opium and nobody seems to find this the slightest bit unusual. The house is in an idyllic shady setting under trees and there are birds singing. When there is rumbling and thick clouds appear I make my getaway, not wanting to get caught in a thunderstorm. Some thick raindrops do actually fall, but it is just a nice cooling off. All this riding was at about 1700m altitude, but soon I'm on a descent towards the desert. When I get there at Shahdah it is very hot. Another 40km or so I get to the Kaluts, a bizarre chain of rock formations stretching for 145 km. Supposedly, this is the spot where to pitch a tent and watch the sunset, but at 14h in the blazing sun I'm not inclined to hang around. Back towards Shahdah and I turn off where I spotted what looks like a derelict large carvanserai. According to LP this would make a good spot to camp, but I discover that restoration work is in progress and so it doesn't look so good at the moment and I continue along a backroad.
As usual, I get lost, as some of the roads in the GPS don't even exist in the form of a dirt track. In the end a shepherd stops me and indicates that I shouldn't go this way, the track is too bad. It is getting dark soon and he invites me in for chai and dinner. Later I start pitching the tent, but he drags a sort of sleeping platform out and as it is warm I decide to stay there. We head inside and as communication is limited I get the laptop out and start showing pictures. He phones somebody and a few more people turn up to watch and "talk". One of them pulls my money pouch out of his shirt! I locked up most of my valuables, but must have left that one on the bike in the dark. Later the same man wants my head torch, indicating that he works as a miner. Well, sorry, but it's the only decent light I have. When almost everybody has left I check the contents of my money pouch and find dollars and Euros missing. Well, kind of serves me right, it's my own fault. Razul, the shepherd and another man sleep on the ground beside me. The night is balmy and there is a moon, but it's also rather disturbed, as a guy rides right past my bed on his noisy two-stroke bike, then starts talking to Razul, who is clearly not wanting to talk. Then he gets out his mobile phone and talks loudly. No protesting on our part makes him move, but eventually he leaves. Some people...
28/4 In the morning Razul takes me to an abandoned fortified village nearby. Judging by the condition it is in it won't be there much longer. I tell Razul about the theft and he is clearly upset. But he remembers me taking photos of people in the dark and demands to see them and for me to point out the suspect. He is in for a shock: it's his brother. He indicates that he is going to punch his lights out, but I am at pains to indicate that I can't be sure it was him who actually took the money, although there is a very good chance. He sends his friend to question his brother and he returns shortly with a 50 Euro and a 50 Pak Rupies note. Naturally I'm happy to have almost half my money back, but what does this guy think to keep half of it? We go all together to his familiy's home. The brother, Hassan hands me another 50 Euro but claims he didn't take a 100$ note. After some arguing he takes back the 50 Euro and returns with the 100$! Now I'm getting angry. To my surprise the rest of the family, including the mother just stand there and watch. I forcibly retake the rest of my money. Mother insists that I accept tea, so we all retire inside. One thing is clear: they were all worried I might go to the police.
Razul (in the white shirt) with his herd in front of his holding pen
The direct roads to Bam I want to take don't exist, so I ride back through the mountains, which is nicer anyway. I take a brand-new road across the range and overtake a soldier on a moped plus some armed soldiers in and on a pickup painted in pastel-coloured(!) camouflage. As the road winds steeply down some spectacular valley I stop for a look and pictures, when the pickup stops and some of the soldiers come over. All very friendly and shake hands (as usual). The officer wants to know where I'm going, then says that down there they are shooting - at drug runners. When I show them on the GPS where I want to go they indicate that it's OK. I meet them twice more, once on the way down where they have stopped a car and again later, where they have turned off the dirt road I'm taking and stopped, obviously making sure I'm on the right track. They then wave goodbye. This track takes me past a very colourful hill, must have been a volcano once.
Bam is one huge construction site and a big mess. Strong steel frames stick up into the sky, the gaps being filled with bricks. These then become new buildings. Early December 2004 in the early hours of the morning an earthquake completely flattened the town and all but destroyed the world-famous Arg-e Bam, the mud brick citadel which has stood here for a long time. I find Akbar's Guest House, where just about every visitor stays. Outside in a corner sit the crumpled remains of an Indian-registered Enfield Bullet motorbike, crushed in the earthquake. Its English owner and 3 others died in the guest house. The guest house now is a collection of sheds, which is a big improvement over the previous version (tents). Inside I meet the famous Akbar himself and Muriel, a French author living in London.
29/4 Muriel and I visit the Arg, but there is so little to see now I don't even take a picture. When we get back there is a film crew setting up in the guest house to film for some documentary. Both Akbar and Muriel get interviewed. In the evening Muriel wants to see the Arg again for some better light, so we go back. Not a lot different, I'm afraid. On the way out we are accosted by some photographers, they make me move my bike under a light, some more turn up and in the end there are about 8 people filming and snapping away. We almost feel like VIPs. Back at the guest house we have the rare honour of being invited to Akbar's home, where we get to meet most of the family.
Akbar in the background, Muriel on the right
30/4 Although I get up very early it's 9h by the time I get on the road. I was thinking of visiting an ancient city North of Zahedan, but it's so hot I give it a miss. Approaching Zahedan I have to cross 3 mountain ranges and the temperature is really pleasant there. At one point it starts bucketing down, but only for a couple of minutes. What is it with me: every time I head for the desert it rains? (Could I be a professional rain man?) Amazing what a difference a few m in altitude can make. Then I bump into Svente and Ulf, two brothers from Lingen/Germany, travelling in a small house truck, who tell a horrific tale of having collided with a motorcyclist in Karnatake (S India), who died after 5 days in koma, being prosecuted and acquitted, but it took 3 1/2 months, their visas expired so they had to spend weeks in Delhi to get an exit visa. They also tell of long delays in Iran due to police escorts, especially through Zahedan.
Somehow the cops don't seem interested in me. I simply ride through most checkpoints, wave at them and they wave back. Once I hide behind a truck going through, so they can't see me. I meet two more vans, but both at checkpoints, so we can't really stop and talk much, as they have escorts. There is a German couple from Muenchen and a Swiss man from Bern. I manage to get all the way to Mirjaveh without as much as having to show my passport. There, however, I get an escort for the last 7 km. Sadly, the border is already closed. There is a trucker hotel in the compound, but they ask a lot of money for an unmade bed and no bathroom at all. Back to Mirjaveh, but the hotel there is locked up. I dine and head South, where I find a nice camp spot in a wadi. There is even cool water running there and - mosquitoes! Well, as they say, "pothing is nerfect", but I couldn't have found a nicer spot.Makkah.