Week 13 – In the Desert

Directly to the photos

Day 90, 16.5, Saturday

After the weekend was used for my relaxation, I started excitedly my desert tour on Saturday morning (Route: ).
The idea was significantly influenced by Frisco who would fly back to Sardinia after this week of holidays. I wanted to meet with him in Garmeh, a little oasis village. My plan was to hitchhike on Saturday to Naein and to spend the night there.
From Tehran I did auto-stop till Qom and then Ali Reza and his son gave me a lift in their truck till Naein and invited me to participate at their lunch picnic.
I arrived in Naein before sunset, that’s why I decided trying to continue to Garmeh respectively Khoor. While waling through Naein I bought some bread and was taken to Anarak. Meanwhile it became dark, but as I was walking along the road a truck driver stopped and took me till Khoor, where I arrived at 11.30pm. First I walked for a while in direction to Garmeh under the breathtaking starry sky and eventually I got a ride with some students to Garmeh. They couldn’t believe or understand that I wanted to camp outside the village: Someone would come and kill me, camels would trample me to death or what would I do when a snake came? So they told me I had to sleep in a little praying room. After they went away of course I went out of the village and pitched my tent behind a little hill, hidden from the road.

Days 91-92, 17.5-18.5, Sunday-Monday

The next morning I met Frisco and we strolled through and around the village. We went to a water spring, that supplies the field around with water and maybe even Garmeh. In the spring were many Cleaner fishes, that soon were occupied with my feet.
For lunch I joined Frisco in his hostel although it was quite expensive, but ok. Then we went for a walk to another village in the vicinity. This village was kind of hard to find and not very beautiful. But in contrary the way to there and the landscape was amazing. During dusk we were back to Garmeh. While Frisco ate dinner, I built up my tent at the water spring and lit a bonfire. Initially we and some other guests of the hostel wanted to go to a café in, but it was closed. So we went to my place and sat around the fire talking until midnight. Two times shady people came near, but when I went sleeping they didn’t return any more – or at least I didn’t notice.
The next day started in a relaxed way. I got up late and at noon Frisco and I hitchhiked to Khoor. There we ate lunch and at 4pm I started alone towards Tabas. Again, the first vehicle, of course a truck, gave me a ride. This road is acutally the main connection between Esfahan and Mashhad that’s why there are always vehicles passing by – at every time of the day.
In Tabas I wanted to see the Shah Abbasi Dam. It was 20km from the place where I was dropped off and it started to get dark. Thus I found an old cistern a bit offside the town to be a nice place for the night.

Day 93, 19.5, Tuesday

I got up quite early and a teacher drove me to the starting point of the way to the dam. There I saw a German Volkswagen car, but it’s passengers were still asleep. To get to the dam, I had to walk for about 40 minutes along a little creek through some stunning canyons.
The water was (unfortunately) surprisingly warm and the creek not really deep. After 20 minutes I decided to get rid of my backpack – since it was Tuesday morning 8.30am, who should steal it. Later the water got deeper and I couldn’t walk around it, so I turned my trousers into shorts and hence violated the dress code of the Islamic Republic.
Then suddenly the dam appeared behind a 2 meter kind of stone wall and it was an impressive construction.
When I returned I obviously met the two Germans. They went to India and were on their way back again. They gave me a lift to Tabas, from where I wanted to go northbound and then westbound again, taking a the little road 36 along the desert and through a national park.
Unfortunately at the cross roads there was a police check point. It wouldn’t have been bad, if the few cars going in my direction had given me a ride. But maybe they were intimidated by the police presence, anyway the only thing they did was staring.
The check point was just a little area with a small building directly on the street, another in the middle of the area and a caravan. In the building on the street a young police officer and a soldier were sitting. After about one hour they whistled in my direction as I was a dog, so I waited until they came to me. They were very bored, I could see it and the police officer asked for my passport. I wanted to know why, but he just pointed his shirt with a sticker saying “POLICE”. I didn’t have any other chance than handing him my passport in, but from that time on I refused to speak Farsi, but only English.
Two and a half hours later I got it back. In the meantime he called his boss, another traffic police arrived and they randomly checked trucks confronting them with fake violations just to get bribe. The officer in charge was a disgusting dickhead, sorry but it’s the truth. In general the officers acted very arrogant and rude. At same time a Danish couple passed the crossroads and of course they were stopped and asked for their passport, too. After their passports were checked, I got mine back and could continue; but it was already very late. I needn’t pay any bribe by the way but wouldn’t have done it in any case.
I had to change my planned route and instead of the small road I had to take the highway further north. A trucked stopped by the police had to take me to the next town (Bardaskan). There the driver stopped for gas and I decided to spend the night next to the mosque of the resting area – which is allowed – and before sleeping read a bit.

Day 94, 20.5, Wednesday

I wanted to hithchike to Semnan, where I wanted to couchsurf. Initially I planed to arrive the day before, but obviously that was history. From Bardaskan I went to Sabzevar, where I was picked up by a truck driver who thought I was Turkish. At first he drove really fast, but later only 40 km/h. That’s why having a guilty conscience I told him I had to leave when I made his lunch break at 3pm. I didn’t want to arrive at the end of the day again, kind of wasting another day – of course this is hitchhiking and it happens, but I wanted at least to try to get there faster. And it was the right decision, since 2.5h later I arrived in Semnan. But 25km before I thought it would be later, since a rear wheel exploded. Fortunately the car had a spare tire, so we could continue after 15 minutes.
My couchsurfing hosts were a young Iranian couple, who was of course very nice. The husband, E., picked me up but didn’t speak English, so I spoke Farsi with him. His wife, A., spoke English and both attended some German classes. It was nice to speak English again after a few days.
Since the drivers only spoke Farsi, I didn’t have another option, but adapt. I hope it helped, because the topics were always the same.

Days 95-96, 21.5-22.5, Thursday-Friday

On Thursday E. and A. went to Tehran and took me with them. The rest of the weekend I relaxed and did nothing.

Week 12

Days 83-86, 9.5-12.5, Saturday-Tuesday

It was the last week of the second course. Apart from running and meeting friends on Monday and Tuesday for eating, it was calm.

Days 87-89, 13.5-15.5, Wednesday-Friday

I wasn’t sure, but in the end I passed the course. After the exam I went with Yang, a friend of his from North Korea, Frisco and Zhihui for lunch.
In the evening I went to a little party in Iran for the first time. We were nine people, three Iranian girls. We played a social game, drank self-brewed beer and danced in the small apartment a bit in the end. But the evening was very nice and shortly before four I went to bed.
Though on Thursday I had a little head-ache all day because of the self-brewed beer, although I nearly drank anything. For breakfast I went to my friend again and with Zhihui to a coffee shop in the after-noon. She won’t be in Tehran for the next course, but is returning to China for that time.
On Friday (now) I won’t to much. But on Saturday (tomorrow) I’ll make a five day journey to the desert – naturally by hitchhiking and with my tent.

Week 11

Day 75, 2.5, Saturday

That day was a national holiday, so I needn’t go to school. But I was lazy. With Zhihui and her room-mate Feyza I went to a coffee shop.
In addition at the moment there is an huge amount of mosquitoes in Tehran. Although the air is very dry and there aren’t really any lentic waters, these spawns of hell reproduce very fast. In contrary to Iranian people – no offence – they are very agile, fast and seem to know seconds before that one is about to try to hit them; plus their thirst for blood cannot be allayed.
Either way I can’t even hide in my sleeping bag because they still find some gap in it. So on morning I woke up with one of my arms covered with bites. Fortunately they don’t itch.

Days 76-79, 3.5-5.5, Sunday-Tuesday

It was a normal school week again and the teacher told me several times how bad my Farsi skills for a German were. What she didn’t acknowledge, 90% of the other Germans come to Iran during their study so already had Farsi in Germany. Me instead, as well as Tobias, started from zero and are as bad as other nationals.
On Monday we went to the Iranian version of the French supermarket company Carrefour (Hyperstar). Yang told of it and we needed a couple of things. The supermarket was really like normal western ones – without the alcohol section of course and at a certain time I was asked to stop taking photos.

Days 80-82, 6.5-8.5, Wednesday-Friday

The weekend came near and initially I. wanted to come to Tehran for the book fair. But it didn’t happen. I had to flee out of Tehran and with the help of the satellite view of Google Maps I chose a valley in the north-east of Tehran. After class I went to Kalugan by metro, bus, on foot and 25km by hitchhiking. Having arrived in the village I hiked until dusk until I found a kind of appropriate place for my tent. But since I was in the mountains I couldn’t pitch it probably and was lucky that it didn’t rain that night. Apart from some different inconveniences I enjoyed being in a safety distance from the 14 million people hell.

On Thursday morning I packed everything again and went back to Tehran. A bit sad I spent the evening with Frisco, Yang and another student of Dehkhoda in a coffee shop. Later an Iranian girl and Zhihui joined.

On Friday on 10am I went to worship in the German Protestant Church of Tehran (). It was my first time and I liked it a lot. About 12 other people were there and after the worshop I stayed there for tea and talking until noon.
When I came back to Enghelab, Iranians just gathered at the entrance of the University of Tehran for Friday praying. The main street was closed and you could see some “Death to Israel/USA” again.

Week 10

Days 68-72, 25.4-29.4

This week was as normal as the one before. Nothing happened during the school days. The only thing is, that I finally have internet, that is pretty fast. The second SIM card is from Irans most popular mobile company MTN-Irancell. My flatmates Frisco and Yang use it and have excellent speed when downloading – up to 1 Mbit/s (DSL 8000). 50 Gigabyte valid for 3 month cost around the same (~22EUR) as six months 9GB with 128kbit/s (DSL 1000) with my old company Rightel, so I bought this package.
On Wednesday (29.4) Frisco and me were invited for dinner at Joo Yang, our cool classmate from Korea. He’s in Iran for Samsung, but he only seem to have to learn Farsi and getting the normal salary plus bonus. So he has the most relaxed life. His apartment is twice as big as ours and situated in a very good good (but also boring) neighbourhood. In addition he rented a car as well, but it hasn’t been available yet.
However he made great food and later we drank together with one of his Korean friends and ate sweets. Since both of them wanted to go to Esfahan the next day, we went literally went back home at half past midnight. Since being a little drunk and not tired, I didn’t want to take a taxi. To our dorm the distance was about 11km and I wanted to see Tehran on a Friday – Iranian Friday, European Wednesday – night. Frisco was more drunk and not really into that idea, but didn’t want to take a taxi or bus alone.
But it was very sad. We walked along the longest street in the Middle East (Vali-e Asr) southbound, but apart from some families in a park at the beginning and people cleaning the pavement, we only met on other pedestrian: In conclusion Tehran went wild!
Welcome to Iran, where people needn’t party at their homes, but can happily enjoy life the night before weekend celebrating on the streets!
Otherwise the parks, even during the week, are well-filled until 1am with people, having a picnic or playing volleyball respectively badminton.

Day 73, 30.4, Thursday

On Thursday I was invited at an event at the German Residence which is home for the ambassador and some employees of the German embassy. It was an event of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), although this Service has nothing to do with my stay. Fortunately Tobias joined me, so I didn’t feel completely lost. I had been to other official events but they have been bigger; there the ambassador welcomed everyone in person by handshake.
After two short introduction speeches, snacks and drinks were served and then we talked in small groups (group photo). At 7pm the event was finished and we went home.
Since Saturday (2.5) was a national holiday, I thought about going to Esfahan. But I was tired and exhausted and I wanted to make my decision depending on Joo Yang. If he had a free place in the car when they went back on Friday, I would have taken the night bus. But they didn’t have a place, so I stayed in Tehran and enjoyed the evening on the roof top.

Day 74, 1.5, Friday

Because I didn’t go to Esfahan, I went to the western part of Tehran, to Ekbatan to Eram Park. There’s the zoo of Tehran and an amusement park. The entrance fee was 10.000 Rials and the park was full of families having barbecue. The amusement park on the other hand was kind of abandoned and empty. Every thing was out of service although the owners were around chatting with each other.
I didn’t spend much time in Eram Park. Basically I just walked around the fenced lake and then went back to the dorm again.