It’s Cameron here again, writing this from the comfort of my hotel room here on Tuesday night in Tehran. The Iranian border crossing was, er, interesting – but best to ask us about it in person when we get back home. Short version: Adon finally managed to achieve a story of motoring hilarity that trumps driving into a daycare centre, and Cameron got ripped off by roadside money changers.
After we left Istanbul on Saturday, we high-tailed it towards the city of Samsun on the coast of the Black Sea. At a petrol station along the way, we ended up explaining to the people there that we were Australians on a long drive. This got a response along the lines of “Australia? Ahhh, Gallipoli!” We all looked very embarassed and apologetic about this, but the Turkish dude said “no no, it’s fine, we win!”
Eventually we got to Samsun, found a parking spot by the rocky “beach” and were ready to go for a swim. Just before we found somewhere secluded to change, a couple of employees of the nearby restaurant were curious about the odd foreigners who’d parked in their carpark and came out to chat. Soon there were maybe half a dozen people from the restaurant talking to us – us speaking English, them speaking Turkish (which we didn’t understand) and fractured English – and bringing us tea, water and delicious pide.
After they left, a few locals also wanted to chat with us and invited us to swim with them. They spoke almost no English, we spoke no Turkish, but we all laughed and splashed around and threw an AFL ball together. Adon taught the Turks the words “wanking” and “wanker”, which they found most amusing.
But after the fun times were had, it was time to press on once again. Destination: Iranian border. We drove and drove and stopped for dinner of delicious pide in a small town around the Black Sea coast and drove and drove some more. Eventually we arrived at the Iranian border on Monday afternoon. After some wrangling, we made it through, drove a few hundred kilometres to the nearest city – Tibriz – and went looking for a hotel. Iranian cities seem to be incredibly low density and a little bit tricky to find the “centre” of if it’s 2am and you don’t read Farsi. Eventually we stopped at a service station and asked/gestured at a couple of guys filling up their motorcycle. They gestured for us to follow them and we did. The bikers were wearing no leathers or helmets, riding at insane speeds along city streets, and had their lights switched off. But sure enough, they took us to a hotel a few minutes drive away. Relying on the kindness of random strangers seems to work pretty well here.
Exhausted, we collapsed into our hotel beds and slept until about 1pm. Today (Tuesday) has been pretty much all driving to reach Tehran. Driving in Iran has been interesting. The main highway to Tehran has toll booths along it, where we were charged random amounts from zero (“From Australia? No problem, go on through!”), 5000 reals (about 50 cents) through to 15000 reals (about $1.50). There are also service stations along the highway. Some of them feel a lot like Australian roadhouses. But one which we stopped at just had a fuel tanker parked by the side of the road and a guy filling up people’s tanks and taking cash off them. Next to the tanker was a shack selling refreshments, where we purchased 18x 1.5L bottles of water, 3x delicious pineapple juice and cans of Coke for about $6 Aussie dollars.
Driving through Iranian cities has also been interesting. The road rules in practice appear to be: 1. Drive approximately on the right, where possible. 2. The road is just a large expanse of tarmac which you can drive on. Markings (e.g. lanes and often traffic lights) are completely irrelevant. The only rule is to make forwards progress as rapidly as possible, while avoiding being cut off by other people attempting to achieve the same.
We encountered a minor traffic jam in the way into Tehran as we drove past Azadi Stadium, where we assume there was a football (soccer) game on. As we were stopped, the cars on either side of us attempted to engage us in conversation, while we wildly gestured and yelled things like “Salaam! Australian!” back at them.
The hotel we’re staying at right now we found by accident after following a taxi doing a left turn … the wrong way down a one-way street. Um, whoops. But it’s worked out well in the end, we have internet and a place to sleep.
Tomorrow: looking around Tehran, then onwards to Turkmenistan! Which is about 900km away, so we probably won’t get there until Thursday.
But first, time to get off the internet and sleep.