27 June 2013 – even setting off at 07.30 in the morning doesn’t allow much escape from the heat as by this time the mercury had already reached 30 degrees. The roads out of Esfahan were prefect and the road was easy to navigate but as soon as we left the built up area we were immediately immersed back into the arid dessert.
At our first stop for petrol we were desperate for some water, as luck would have it the usual free water tap was out of order and the little shop was not yet open for business. A local lady must have seen our anguish and came over with a huge water dispenser from the boot of her car – carrying food and drinks at all times is very common in Iran, I don’t think any Iranian would ever be caught hungry or thirsty. Many times I have seen flasks of hot tea pulled out in cars and the glasses resting on the dash board. Our taxi driver during one journey pulled out his cup from under his seat – not sure where the tea came from but it wouldn’t surprise me if he’d hooked up a dispenser somewhere for his tea on tap.
There’s not much to say about this day is was a long drive through the dessert in around 42 degree heat, as we approached Shiraz the only change in the landscape was the introduction of paddy fields and a few green mountains dotting the horizon.
We’d scoped out our hotel in advance but read it was hard to find, so to eliminate the upheaval of trying to find it ourselves we followed a taxi driver direct to the hotel.
On arrival we quickly determined it was the 2nd best place we have stayed on the trip, yet it was one of the cheapest. It was the Niayesh boutique hotel in the old part of the town which was near everything that was worth seeing. The room looked out onto a central courtyard which at first was cool but then we quickly realised we had to have the curtains closed otherwise I couldn’t take my headscarf off even in the security of our own room.
A guy called Nick from Australia was also staying at the hotel. He was doing our trip but in reverse and then going onto South America too. He plans to take three years and has been going for a year so far. We spent the evening chatting away over dinner as he had lots of stories and advice for us, and was slightly trying to persuade us to still go to Pakistan, though many of the things he told us seem to make it increasingly unlikely such as the armed escort you would have through most of the country is actually one chap with a gun that sits on the back of the bike, being two up would be impossible so we would have to pay for a car for them. He added that the Police are the main targets so as soon as you are free to ride on your own you are safer, though getting a permit to travel from Quetta onwards can be lengthy and may not even be granted meaning that the journey to Lahore would have to be taken by train. He also talked about the hellish long days riding through the desert to Quetta at painfully low speeds, seeing how hard the heat had hit us here in Iran where the road conditions are decent and we can travel fast, this wasn’t sounding much fun.
From the start of the trip we had been receiving emails from home containing news stories about Pakistan and urging us not to travel through, though now when we are a lot closer they begin to get into your mind. Contemplating that we no longer had riding partners through Pakistan (German guys opted out) and the ever present dangers of kidknap plus the recent announcement of the Taliban setting up a separate faction solely to target foreign tourists, the risk just didn’t seem worthwhile any longer especially considering the difficultly of the heat and desert sandy conditions that we would have to undertake for the first half of the country. Although the Karakorum Highway on the north east side of Pakistan was one of the places we were most looking forward to riding through and the visa had been the most expensive and difficult to obtain, we sadly came to the decision that we would seek an alternative route.
The next few days we spent sleeping , doing a little bit of sight-seeing and researching. With a firm decision to head to Dubai rather than Pakistan in place we researched the boat across the Persian Gulf and made some calls to double check the procedures and sailing days. Definitely worth doing as apparently the timetable is prone to change. We hadn’t quite realised how exhausted we were and we ate at the hotel along with Nick the entire four days, too lazy to even leave the serenity of the inner hotel courtyard. It had really good Iranian food and Shiraz doesn’t have a lot to offer other than a bevy of fast food joints. I am in love with Mirza Ghassemi which is an aubergine and tomato dish and similarly Paul loved the Kabab Koobideh which is basically ground meat.
On one of the days we organised a trip to Perspolis which is an Ancient ruins site, we decided to go with a tour rather than have to walk around in our motorbike gear in 45c degree heat. Turned out our tour to Persepolis & Pasargrad was private rather than group and we had our own little guide. He was a friendly guy who didn’t like the heat much, so gave us the key history then left us to our own devices in the heat, perfect in our opinion. We meet him after and he treated us to a Faloodeh which is like a sorbet but made from frozen rice noodles and served with lemon juice. It’s so refreshing and delicious.
On the way back we comment on two girls ahead of us carrying large backpacks and how hot they must be. Persepolis is really in the middle of nowhere too. As we catch up with them our tour guide offers them a ride into town. They accept and join us on a unscheduled visit to a nomad farm. The two girls from Switzerland were only 19 and travelling alone in Iran, we hadn’t met any travellers before this apart from a couple of overlanders.
The farm only has goats and it’s a tough life for the inhabitants. We are greeted by a lady and her young son. They welcomed us with a cup of ‘Doogh’ which is the same as Ayran from Turkey – except this version was warm and even saltier. Luckily the lady only had one cup so we had to share, what a shame.
We were then passed something which looked like a white stone but told to eat it. It was similar to eating a stone except i think a stone may have tasted better. A quick google search revealed this Persian delicacy to be called ‘Qurut’ its basically drained yoghurt which salt is added to then dried out. It makes sense in this climate, fresh yoghurt would spoil quickly plus they don’t have a fridge. But my god it’s horrible. I wanted to swallow whole, but the texture only allowed for a slow chew. We were both trying hard not to be sick, even writing about it now brings back the taste.
The young boy, who was no older than 3 years old, went into the goat pen and chased around a baby goat and dragged it out by the hind leg for us to hold. The poor goat was petrified but the young boy was unfazed and accomplished his mission with only one hand as he held three Swiss chocolates in the other hand.
As we headed back we passed a heard of wild camels this was the first time we have seen wild camels on the trip so thought it was worth a mention – no pictures unfortunately.
We spent four days in Shiraz before heading to Bandar Abbas for the ferry to Dubai.