7. You drive like an Iranian
Our first impressions of Iran are dominated by the 3p’s. People people and people. Upfront, we heard many positive stories about the Iranian citizens, and that’s what we’ve experienced from the first moment on. At our first night in Tabriz, people start random chats with us on the street. Being / feeling like tourists, we tend to get suspicious first. What do they want from us, what do they want to sell? But nothing happens. It’ s just a real, genuine chat and a warm welcome to their country. When we ask directions, a young couple not only points us where to go, but walks with us the entire way. And after 10 min they come back to give us their phone number- in case we have any more questions.
In Rasht a tourist guide starts a chat with us. Again, we’re kind of suspicious. He probably wants to sell us a tour. Again, our first thought is wrong. He helps us arranging an Iranian SIM card, we have a tea at his friends bar and when he finds out we sleep in our car on a parking lot, he offers a room in his house. We kindly refuse (we enjoy sleeping in our own bed), but this type of kindness is what we continuously encounter. Without any exception. When crossing toll gates on the road, our money is refused: you are guests! When buying mobile data in a shop, we cannot leave before we eat together with the staff and make (many!) pictures, even the local photographer is called and stops by with an enormous lens.
The first week in Iran we explore the nature in the North of Iran; the Gilan province and the Salambar mountain pass. We wild camp at 3200 m high, on top of snowy mountains and never had a more beautiful wild camp spot. Surrounded by mountains, stunning views and a beautiful sunset. We eat at 5 PM because it’s already freezing and dive into bed at 7PM to keep each other warm. We wake up with the sun shining on the mountain tops.
On our way back driving in he valley an old man invites us to his home. He lives on top of the hill, alone, in an old cottage with a stunning view. He does not speak English, but with books, hands and feet he learns us about the Iranian history; he appears to have been a pilot in the Iranian army. At one point he get his gun- in any other situation this might be the moment to start running. But we know it’s safe, he’s just very proud 🙂
Another not to miss topic when driving through Iran with our own car, is the traffic. Actually the word traffic implies a kind of structured way of moving together on the therefore appointed lanes. That is not what happens in Iran. 2 lanes used by 3 or 4 rows of cars, lanes that are suddenly used as parking lot, people driving at the upper right lane and then suddenly decide they need to go left- and really cannot wait, roundabouts where there seems to be no logic other then pushing yourself through. And that accompanied by many many horns.
But this is Merle’s perspective. There is someone with a continuous smile on his face while driving in this hectic; Max. After a few days he knows for sure that in his previous live he must have been an Iranian cab driver. And it must be said; he meanders super smooth among all locals, in the meanwhile waving and thumbs up to fellow drivers. At one point driving in Qazvin a cab driver opens his window and shouts; you drive like an Iranian! The smile on Max’ face is not to describe. The biggest compliment ever!
At the moment of writing we are in Maymand. An off the track Flinstone- kind- off- village where people live in caves. And so do we. After 5 days of exploring Esfahan (with Max’ mother and her husband, nice to see them there!) and a few days city life in Yazd it’s nice to unwind here. We have dinners in caves, enjoy cave- hikes, sunsets and help bringing home sheeps from the land; we’re part of the local community for a few days. A good spot to unwind before our next adventure: a 5 day tour in the Lut desert with an off road guide!