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Turkey to Iran


With confusion over buses and the locals for a change not bothering to be helpful, I was eventually directed to the "direct" bus for the Sendere border, which though having a different destination board entirely, only went as far as Yuksekova in the end. I felt screwed around. It was at a turn off in the middle of nowhere amidst wild mountain countryside that I saw my first road sign for Iran. The last town before the crossing, Yuksekova transpired to be a surprisingly big place and the whole area lay thick with snow with the mountains now receded, very cold and icy. Yuksekova could only muster spicy kofte for brekkie, not what you really look for but I wondered if it would be my last. The smaller dolmus for the border still took time to fill up and eventually left half empty, re-entering mountains not so large but still blanketed in white. Esendere appeared as a tiny and grubby farming village, very rural nae remote and not what I had expected for what is one of only 2 border crossing points between Turkey and Iran. The border complex was very quiet and surprisingly compact and straightforward. Though I got left behind by the less than normally helpful locals again it was a simple matter to get my Turkish exit stamp, then the smart and helpful Iranian officials were only a corridor away. After filling in the entry card for me, another stamp was thumped into my passport and I was ushered through a glass door and into the Islamic Republic. With no sign of a customs check either side I was left wondering if I had missed something, but just kept on walking and found myself outside the gate the other side in perhaps 3 minutes flat. Boy, I had had trickier crossings just going on holiday in Europe! If nothing else I had fully expected a bag search by the Iranians just in case I'd tried to smuggle in a bottle of Johnny Walker or the latest edition of Razzle. The moneychangers tried their best to rip me off and though I knew the correct rate I accepted a small reduction just to get underway. Ditto the taxi fare, which I miscalculated in any case. The same problems of getting used to new money, a new language, different conventions and you got it all thrown at you in a oner. The taxi guy thought I might like some trance music on the 45K descent into Orumiyeh which he assured me was traditional Iranian stuff just with a modern bent, and in a country that floated on oil we had to queue to get petrol at a service station. I later found out that though they could get the stuff out of the ground OK, they werent that hot on distributing it and petrol stations were thin on the ground. The immediate impact was pictures of Great Uncles Khomeini and Khatami everywhere, Irans answer to ZZ Top, a strange version of the personality cult, and roads crawling with hundreds of the indiginous Paykans (Hillman Hunter copies, usually white). The women were well covered but surprisingly the Chador was not universal as I had expected. The main edict was to cover the hair but you saw quite a few in jeans, they just had to cover their bum thats all! Only their faces were visible but sometimes that was enough, try as you might to hide it, women the world over looked good. Remarkably after the Lokantasi and Kebabci eateries of Turkey, there was a singular lack of restaurants in Iran and net cafes too it seemed, I ended up settling for tiny kebab joints which were barely big enough to flip a burger in. I also tried a local quirk, guys on the pavement with big cauldrons doled out what I took to be boiled sweet potato, a bit sickly after the second bite. In negotiating this I had also had to come to terms with what must be the worst traffic I have ever encountered, they flouted every rule in the book and to cross the road you simply had to get used to stepping out in front of them and trusting them to slam on the brakes at the last possible moment. Two lanes readily became 3 or 4 when possible, zebra crossings might just as well have not been there and motorbikes thought nothing of screaming down the pavement if it would take them to their graves a moment sooner. In stark contrast with Turkey however, there was not a single car horn to be heard though, people had just been conditioned to the survival of the fittest ethos and didnt complain about it. After Turkey and Iraq, there was no shortage of lecky in Iran and Orumiyeh shone like a Christmas tree. In a day when the clocks had bizzarely gone forward an hour and a half and simultaneously the calendar went back centuries, I realised it was 9/11. September 11th 1385 that is. With freezing weather, unintelligible language and script, no beer and no women for a month, I really did have to ask myself, whose bloody idea was this?!

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Turkey

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