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Week 3 – Part 4/4 – Tochal II


Day 23, 12.2, Thursday

I did nothing and it rained nearly all day long. I only went outside once, to buy bread. It was a very productive day.

Day 24, 13.2, Friday

Since I didn’t have any idea what to do on the last day of the weekend, I decided to go on top of Tochal again. So I got up at 4.45am and chose the tour via Darband and not along the cabin.
This tour is steeper, so shorter on the map. That’s why it’s a bit more climbing than hiking and maybe more ambitious. Nevertheless the way is more beautiful than the first one. In addition it’s a really grand feeling to trudge all up through the snow and resisting strong winds (apparently 80km/h, 50mi/h), seeing the city below getting tinier and tinier and leaving other peaks below. I started to think that Norgay and Hillary may felt the same way when ascended Mount Everest. A little depressing could have been, that after each hilltop just another higher one is waiting.
The air pressure on the peak is at only 60% btw.
I didn’t stop anywhere for a long time. I arrived at the top at noon, after five hours. It’s one hour earlier than during the previous climb, whereas I started at 5.35am from the dorm, but began my initial hiking at 6.55am since I had to walk all the way to Darband via Tajrish, because there were no buses at this time.
I was shortly delayed by Mohammad, who absolutely wanted to talk to me, but was in a bad physical shape, so I was forced to stop all the time. But after some time I was alone again. Roman was away visiting a friend, that’s why he didn’t come.
I stopped at the peak to take some photos and then walked to the cabin station. It was not that easy because on the way the wind was really blowing strong and let me cool fast. The ride with the cabin was comfortable, although it was tiny. But I didn’t want to descend and the ride was only 6,50€. Having arrived at the bottom, I warmed my feet in the sun before going home to the dorm.
In the afternoon I didn’t relax but played football with my room-mate Arne and two other Germans (Thomas and Pascal). Of course soon after we started we were joined by Iranian students, so it became a fun match.

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Week 3 – Tochal – Part 1/4


Day 16, 5.2, Thursday

Roman and I got up at five in the morning to go hiking again. This time we decided to do a “real” tour. We were about to conquer Tochal (3962m/13000 ft). Of course we could have used the cabin to the top – or close to the top, but where would have been the challenge and fun then?
At six we started from the dorm in Velenjak (~1700m/5555ft) and began the actual tour from the first cabin station (1904m/6250ft) at 6.30. That’s why we could witness the sunset over Tehran. Fortunately a strong wind was blowing over the town, so we had a clear view for the first time since our arrival in Tehran.
Even at that early hour surprisingly many people were around. They were mostly over 40 years old and some even came back from their tour.
Three hours later we arrived at the third cabin station, which seems to be the destination of most hikers. It lays at2500m (8200ft) altitude and was used by us to take a breakfast break.
The hiking community in Iran is sworn in, so we were greeted friendly and offered tea, scrambled eggs and soup. As they heard our food consists of water, bread, apples and bananas their looks showed disbelief and pityness.
When I gave our two friendly meal donators some Haribo saying it’s pork-free, they smiled mischievous telling me they are of course not moslems!
Before we rushed to the summit, we put on an additional layer of clothes. Soon I wore three trousers, one T-shirt, a long-sleeve shirt, a fleece jacket, a windproof jacket with hat and gumshield plus a scarf and two pairs of gloves. So we were ready. At the summit it was -13°C (8°F) and at the 3rd station already -4°C (25°F).
We assaulted upward, overtaking everyone, defying snow drifts and strong winds. Sometimes we had to open the jackets and put off the gloves since the sun and our motion.
It was only up, up and up. Always up along steep slopes and on narrowest ridges – ok maybe not that dangerous, but it wasn’t easy either.
Fortunately the thin air didn’t affect me much and after 6.5h we reached the last station of the cabin (3700m/12140ft) at 12.30. There is also the Tochal ski resort, but the slopes aren’t very steep.
The last part (1.7km) to the summit was the last challenge. Who would have thought so, it went up again and I started to feel the altitude. It was exhausting and I only did small steps and Roman had some problems as well.
But then we did it! After seven hours we were at 13000ft (nearly 4000m). It was unbelievably great. And the view was so clear. We could see Damavand (5604m/18385ft), the highest mountain in the whole Middle East. It will be climbed as well. After some pictures we went into a small metal igloo to limber up and eat. All the other people with their clothes let us look like bloody amateurs, but as everyone know Austrians and Germans are tough guys.
However we were invited for tea again and many photos were taken. After we changed our socks for dry ones, we started descending. Due to the snow and mud created by the sun it wasn’t easier as the ascent. We weren’t faster and didn’t make any break. For the last part Roman took the cabin, but I just couldn’t. I had to finish it the old-fashioned way. After 13 hours, approx. 32km walking distance and at least 5200m (17000ft) of difference of altitude I arrived at 7pm at the dorm.
It has been the longest hiking tour, I have ever made in one day. It was great but we were unfortunate that we couldn’t celebrate with a cold beer. Though our lungs were able to be cleaned after two weeks breathing polluted air and the silence was very nice as well. Of course I got a sunburn.
Before going totally exhausted to bed, we watched Tatort.

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Week 2 – Part 1/2


Day 9, 29.1, Thursday

It was the first weekend during the official classes. Roman, Nilufar and me went to Darakeh by bus and taxi. The quarter is barely 1km as the crow flies (what a great expression by the way), but separated by a valley and private properties.
We went along a simple hiking trail, which was lined with shops. I didn’t like that fact at all. Hiking in my opinion is walking through rough, wild nature. I could stand a paved trail, but the line of shops went on for kilometres, though of course there were not all one after another.
Anyway in the beginning was a man with an instrument being a mixture of a guitar and a violin playing. He had a little speaker and his position was wisely chosen since the surrounding mountains created a full sound supported by echo. Since Germany has a very good reputation he was effusively happy that a German listened to his music and naturally wanted a photo.
After three hours the shops almost vanished and we went into a tea house and then returned. In total we were hiking for six hours and came home in time before it began raining cats and dogs.

Day 10, 30.1, Friday

At four in the morning a heavy thunderstorm passed over Tehran.
Initially I wanted to improve my vocabulary but in the end I mostly ended watching movies and doing homework.

Day 11, 31.1, Saturday

Since my visa is only valid for 30 days, the language course is 42 days and I’m going to stay for about 50 days in Iran, my visa had to be extended.
I had to hand in my passport in the dormitory. Although it was already in their possession I was asked a couple of times to hand it in since I arrived. It mostly ended in a discussion after which they checked the safe and had to admit that I didn’t steal it in the meantime…It was strange.
When I wanted to get it for the visa extension they refused to give it back: It should be copied – again. I don’t know how many copies they already had, but apparently they were not enough.
I also used to new week to charge my mobile data plan, because the 1.5GB were finished quite fast. It costed 5 Euro.
After having done homework in the evening I ran my traditional running lap to Tochal cabin station.

Day 12, 1.2, Sunday

I could finally apply for my visa extension. It will take about three weeks. Apart from cooking, nothing else happened.

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Week One – Part 2/2


Day 5, 25.1

Together with Anahit and Roman, I went to the bazaar at Tajrish square to buy vegetables and other food for cooking. On the way we passed a shop selling the delicious Iranian sweets though, where we stopped and filled two boxes with different kinds of them. Afterwards Anahit and I visited two bookshops, having many old books and certainly some valuable among them, and drove back to the dorm by a shared taxi.
Initially I planned to build a snow (wo)man with hijab, but unfortunately this idea wasn’t covered by enough snow. Instead Roman and I invited Anahit over, taking a break from learning to drink some tea and eat the sweets. Since they make full quickly we postponed the cooking to next day.

Day 6, 26.1

This day was like the ones before: Classes, bazaar, but this time Roman and I took the bus back to the dorm. However this took nearly the same amount of time as walking back – around one hour. The time seems to run really fast here in general. Going from A to B takes so long due to the chaotic traffic. Apart from it everything else takes more time. In exchange offices but as well as in other shops always multiple people seem to work very slowly although it seems only a few customers come visiting every day.
Anyway at 5pm we arrived at the dorm, what has one big advantage: I could surf the internet with high-speed (5 MB/s). That’s why I could download the most popular German TV show (Tatort – crime scene) very fast.
After the mandatory postprocessing of the class we cooked the pasta, which we bought the day before, with many herbs that are really cheap in Iran.
Then Tatort was watched by Roman and me and for 90 minutes I forgot being 4000km away in a completely culture area. But we called it a day at 2am because we after having watched, we continued learning.

Day 7, 27.1

Finally a normal day.
After school I wanted to go home quickly. While Roman was meeting with a friend and Anahit went with another Russian to a Zoroastrian Temple, I was accompanied by Nilufar, an Afghan girl living in Dubai on the Palm and whose father is an Afghan politician. At one round-about we passed a cool bus that I had seen some days before on the way to school and I had to take pictures. The driver especially washed his face.
Before going up to my room I stopped by at the bakery and had to discover that I had been given a bread of which the baker took a piece that he was eating when I entered…Anyway the prices change a lot. The price range is from 5000 Rials to 10 000 Rials (13 Cents to 25 Cents).
In the evening at 10pm, after homework, I went running to Tochal station. There were still many people around, mostly couples and smaller groups. But I didn’t cope with the altitude yet. At least the air in this area isn’t really polluted so I’ll certainly go there more often.

Day 8, 28.1

Today was by far the worst day of school. I had the feeling that I had missed one week of classes. I couldn’t follow and fortunately Roman either. Anyway now it’s week-end so I hope I can catch up again. While some people are going to Esfahan, I’ll go hiking with Roman and Nilufar. I mean, the mountains literally start in front of the dormitory’s door. Journeys to Esfahan and Caspian Sea will be made the following week-ends. But today I’ll relax.

Background picture: Cool bus, 2015 all rights reserved

#By the way: I’m not really restricted in any kind. I mean I’m not somewhere in a village of a – well- third world country. The tap water has some chlorine in it and I guess many people would suggest not to drink it, but I’ve been fine. My monthly data plan of the dorm is finished due to Tatort, so now I can only use mobile internet of Rightel (3G). With the help of a VPN communication with the outside world is only restricted by my own lazyness. But apart from that Youtube, Facebook, in general all blocked websites, can be accessed. I think I’m being ripped off many times. On Wednesday I paid for 8 apples, 4 bananas, 2 kiwis, one orange and one avocado nearly 8 EUR. Next time I will give them all back with a grin. The dormitory is mixed, but not the rooms, which is still fair enough. Of course many things are different but became pretty fast normal, since I’m not on holidays. Though I’ll try to mention them as good as possible. E.g. I often feel like being a zoo’s animal. What reason could that probably have?#