Friday, August 2, 2013

Iran

The way to Iran is long, about 400 kilometers because the roads doesn't make sense. First it goes to the east towards Karabakh. Then, it goes to the south along the turkish border. We see mount Ararat from very close. It is a very impressive sight, this 5000 meter high mountain from the city landscape.

The road isn't great and as the border approaches, fewer and fexer cars drive by. We sleep at some guys place. He's a "çoçuk-yok" but really sweet. We sleep at his place, he tells us to wake up at 9. Misunderstanding, next morning we have to be ready by 6:30. Harsh.
Hitchhiking a truck full of furniture
Hitchhiking is slow, we are continuing towards the border and the road gets worse and worse. More cows than cars really. Me and Nata are getting along well again.
Approaching the iranian border with a russian car, we got a hundred dollars: "Filip tell your mother Russians are good people!"

Our last ride is with armenian alpinists. Nata is excited; she usually is when she sees alpinists or georgia. I wonder what it does to her when she sees georgian alpinists. To be tested.

We driver on a mountain and we drink armenian cognac and eat a lot of food. Wonderful farewell with Armenia. Armenia, you were not so bad. Armenia, you are a land of stubborn psychopaths but also good people. Armenia, you are the land where strange things could happen if you let them.

Armenia, imarevnes.
Goodbye Armenia, farewell sunflowers
The road is bad, the green is fading. Georgia is green, armenia keep up a little. But here, in front of us, we see the desert. The border between Iran and Armenia is the border between yellow and green. Dust and trees. The contrast is stunning, it changes in a matter of meters.

Scary desertic mountains appear from behind the border. THey are razor sharp, they are evil. They despise us. We keave armenia. And then the night falls. We are not greeted by border guards but by regular soldiers of the iranian army. Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Iran. You can tell that the Welcome is there just as a sentence opener.

You don't feel welcome here.

Our stuff is taken through huge automatic scanners, just like those you have at airports. Our passports are checked for half an hour. We are questioned about our itineraries. We meet two amazing cyclists on their way to indonesia. Our sunshine in the night. Nata and Ilona have put on their hijab. They look like Babushkas and you can't do anything about it. I think Ilona has genuine hatered towards her scarf. It's unconfortable as hell.

But Iran is starting to reveal it's hidden side. We are approached by a girl in hijab. We are invited to an underground club in tehran. Some artmenian community organises parties here and everything is hidden from the regime.
On the desertic side, there is Iran.
Our passports are checked, we have stamps and we pass the last part of the border. We are in Iran. We actually are in Iran.

First contact, we are casually held at gunpoint. Some soldiers ask us where we are going: meeting some friends in that direction. It is a lie of course. We want to get the hell out of here. Away from this border guarded by the army.

We continue in the night, on this road with mountains on both sides. Maybe we can put a tent somewhere. Me and Nata argue over where to put a tent because Nata thinks it's not possible. Ilona agrees with her. I am a little surprised because with Ilona, we are used to building tents in crazy places. I think that maybe I am starting to contests Nata's decisions out of principle, not because they are not good. So we continue the road further but some soldiers on a motorbike see us and we are escorted to the border again. We lost them in the night and Ilona finds a great place for a tent, by the river. Nata is against camping because she things the soldiers will come back. Ilona and I outvote her.

We get to that place and start unpacking our things but Nata-is-right. The soldiers come back and point a machine gun at Ilona. Me and Nata have a talent for choosing places to argue.

"See that was a bad idea, now Ilona has a machine gun pointed at her, that's not fair"

So I put myself in the line of fire of the machine gun. "Happy now?"

"No, I don't like people getting aimed at with machine guns"

That makes some sense but what can you do.

The soldiers didn't really have a clue what was going on. Their english was very bad but so much better than Armenian english. They told us to exchange money and then take a taxi to Jolfa. No way, even with a gun pointed at me will I compromise my hitchhiking. We have made it so far without paying for a single ride if you don't count the slovak many weeks ago. It's no way to start.

We hitchhike next to the soldiers in the night. That's not how I imagined our first iranian ride. This is not good. Iranian people don't understand the concept of hitchhiking. They all expect money for rides. It's usually a long explanation for each ride. We know no farsi. And the girls can't talk to men so they all rely on me. I am used to rely on Nata a lot after our two weeks of hitchhiking through Georgia and Armenia. I have lost my independence a little and my decision making has gone soft.

Plus, this is the opium route. Opium is consumated casually in Iran and all the opium and heroin which enters the western world goes through here. Drugged people are driving here.

I can't even imagine how hard it must be to explain to an Iranian driver under influance of heroin the complicated concept of hitchhiking in a language I have never heared before. But we shouldn't be driving with a heroin junkie in the first place so I guess that's good insurance policy.

A car stops. It's a taxi. Screw him. Next.

Another one and... oh my god he speaks english! There is not enough space in his car but we jump there anyway. We were warned about tarof in Iran a complex cultural concept implying (among a lot of other things) people offering rides out of politeness. Fuck Tarof let's get out of here!

Everything is better than stupid iranian soldiers with guns.

He's a university professor and he is going to Jolfa more than 100 kilometers from here. Amazing! He is an atheist and he hates religion, muslim religion especially. He hates iran, he goes to Armenia for freedom. Hate is the word he uses. I think this guy is an exception but later on, it will become a rule.

Little did we know that we are actually entering one of the most atheistic countries in the middle east.

A country so disfigured by the media that visiting it and seeing it on TV are two completely different experiences.