Gliding into Iran

Zanjan (Iran), 17.05.2013
Right at 09:00 we picked up our car at the transit station of the Iranian customs to complete the formalities and go. It wasn’t as easy, since Iran is the first of several countries that require a Carnet de Passage for the car, that we had organized at the RACE (spanish motor club) before leaving. We were presented to Shahin, a very friendly agent that took care of navigating us through the bureaucratic process that took 2,5h overall and shrank our budget by 245 USD in customs fees plus something for the agent. We had eaten a healthy breakfast, very similar to the fare in all countries since Turkey (cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, honey, egg, bread, tea) plus a sort of ratatouille with egg (also this we had tasted in a similar style on our first camping night in Anatolia). But the lack of coffee really made us dizzy. As we waited for Shahin on a parking space full of trucks, the air filled with dust and diesel, we prepared a Nescafé with too much sugar.
At the last stop on the border calvarium I found myself in an office with 5 guys joking about Spain, Madrid, Real Madrid, flamenco and bull fighting. These guys knew more about the Liga then me! And it seems everybody in Iran does, since the second question after “where are you from?” is “Barcelona or Real Madrid?” We had this conversation at least twenty times with all kinds of people. We get stopped all the time, on the road, at gas stations, on the street, while driving, at toll stations. Everybody welcomes us to the country and has a huge smile on the face. We start understanding LPs comments on the Iranian’s overwhelming friendliness.

Out of the border into the mountains! The first hour we spent studying Iranian driving habits on small country roads and testing road conditions. Roads are good. Driving habits worse then Naples, Baku or Istanbul. You overtake whenever you feel like it, on any of the sides, but during traffic preferably on the right side. Keeping distance to other cars is for amateurs, we almost rammed several cars that suddenly appeared at few cm from us. In a way it makes sense, on the “no overtaking” road sign the black car is on the right… The only thing where rules get respected is speed limits.

Roughly 5h later we arrived at Tabriz, where we wanted to see the UNESCO listed bazaar. While entering the town several cars stopped for the dialogue mentioned above. A car with five smiling young guys in it told us to stop, and we did. “Where do you want to go? Can we help?” “We want to see the Bazaar.” “Today it is closed, it’s Friday!” Shoot, we had lost track of the weekdays, not for the first time. Since we travel every day there are no weekends, no weekdays. All the way up here for nothing? No way. We briefly parked the car and took a walk to the area close to the bazaar. Indeed almost all shops were closed. We passed by a monument dedicated to the martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war of the eighties. In every town you have them or at least pictures on the streets of the young boys that died. As only souvenir we bought some cookies and drove back south, towards Tehran.

Tabriz is connected to Tehran by an impeccable three lane motorway. Speed limit is 120, we set the tempomat and started a 3h flight as the Range Rover glided silently through a fantastic landscape of mountain ranges, with colors varying from grey to brown to red and green. Several times we thought of the mountains in Cappadocia in Turkey or of Aragon in Spain. As the sun started its descent a rainbow formed over the mountains and hills and lasted for over an hour. In the west the sky was still light blue, while in the east a full dark blue contrasted with the red earth bathed in the last golden sunlight of the day. Beautiful colors! We got three free tolls, courtesy of the very friendly toll station staff, once we mentioned we’re from Madrid, Spain. Again friendly people, we can’t remember a country where you leave toll stations in such a good mood.

Once the sun had disappeared we left the motorway to find a hotel in Zanjan shortly after. We found Dinner at a food shack nearby. Minced meat skewers on a grill, tomatoes on a grill, small dices of liver cooked with onions and tomatoes, and sweet bubble lemonade to close this marvellous day.

Trip data (Day/Total)

– Km driven: 619/12.427

– Hrs driving: approx 9h/-

– Diesel l/100km: 8,3/9,3 (1l diesel approx. 3500 Rials / approx 0,08 EUR)

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