Part 1 – A road, a mountain, a home | Part 2 – The desert, the sun and the heat | Part 3 – Tehran is a schizophrenic moloch

When we arrived to Zanjan we were welcomed by a nice couple where we stayed for 5 days. It was the first time I got in touch with the difficulties of the young generation since our hosts would not hide from us but be really open and direct with their thoughts. There is not a lot to write down about those 5 days because most of the things happening were of emotional belonging. Also we watched Germany dive out of the European tournament.

The plan to head for Damawand straight after Kuh-e Sabalan was ditched as we found out that the weather wouldn’t be so great. So we hit the road south. One goal on that journey was to hitchhike from the north of Iran to the south, possibly crossing some kind of desert to see what that’s like. So we started early morning in Zanjan and went all the way straight to Shiraz. A very important city of the Iranian culture. We arrived at night and slept at the city entrance under the Quran Gate. Others were sleeping there and we figured its fine just to put down a mat or a jacket and rest. And it was fine.
The was nothing on our mind but getting south so after a short walk through the city and a snack we hitched our next ride to get further. South and south. It was getting more warm, and more dry. Especially at noon. Near the coastal city Bander Abbas the environment started to change and during the last 10 Kilometers before the city the formations of rock and sand were mindblowingly trippy. I really enjoyed just sitting in the car staring at them.

The harbour of Bander Abbas

We arrived to the harbor early enough to catch a ferry to the island Qeshm. On the boat we talked to a woman who was all over inviting us home and stuff that made us super happy but when we exited the boat she just said “Good by”. Tarof.
The air. It was so heavy. It was around 7pm when we arrived and it still had 39 centigrade with a humidity level of 65 percent. Felt like Sauna. Not moving and still sweating. I had heard from an Austrian friend that there is a restaurant not far the harbor where a German-Iranian couple works and welcomes workaway-travellers so we figured we could head there to ask them for a place to sleep. As we walked through the nearly empty city with a freshly eaten chicken in our stomaches a stranger approached us and asked whether we were tourist or not. Since we were tourists he told us to stay put and wait for the tea. It would be for free. We should sit down. No Tarof this time so we had a chat and told him about our plan and of course he knew Ali, the guy from the restaurant. He called, we chatted and off we were in a Taxi to that place. Ali was friendly but also wanted to appoint us to some work the next morning so we decided to rather walk some meters on the shore and sleep next to the ocean.

The ocean was dark. The ocean was probably dirty. The ocean was salty. I had a bath but felt rather shitty when coming out since it didn’t dry off. To humid. The skin felt sticky. I still felt dirty. Not even sleeping was very pleasant because it was so hot so the next morning we decided to follow what literally everybody had told us: Don’t stay in the south in Summer. In our opinion it was a better idea to go to the desert. To the hottest desert in the world. In high summer. Definitely not the wisest idea but superbly adventurous.

That day we made it to Bam, the desert city with the biggest ever built human clay structure, the desert citadel Arg-e Bam. We slept in a guest house to find a proper shower and wifi, went to a pizza restaurant, I left my mobile there and luckily made it back in time before someone had stolen it. The next day we visited the citadel and headed further because there was a desert to cross. 300km on a single, nearly completely straight road. No villages, no cities, no infrastructure, no network, no water, no nothing. A desert by the book. And according to the NASA that did some satellite screening of infrared reflections in 2009 the hottest place on the earth with 70,1°C on the surface. A desert called Dasht-e Loot what translates to “Emptieness Desert”.

Arg-e Bam in Bam, Kerman, Province, Iran

Before you enter the desert there is a village, Shahdad. That’s were we stood, 2km from the city into the desert. Curious, a little bit hesitant and already discussing a plan B. We had about 3,5l of water together. It was 12am, noon. 50°C in the shade. Not a single car on the road for at least an hour. Who the fuck would drive into that desert anyway? Everyone we had met on the road before here had told us: No! No traffic, don’t go there. No cars. No trucks. Nothing. Too hot. Too dangerous. Only desert.

You know, Stefan and I both have some serious hitchhiking experience. We hitched in the mountains, we hitched in the winter, we hitched in daytime and at night, we had tried a lot regarding hitchhiking. Not the desert. But since we had managed to hitch everywhere else we were certain that we could hitch that desert.

After two and a half hours in the shadow of a road sign the only company we had were 2 neon yellow, big and incredibly fast, creepy spiders. One of them made it into my backpack but some panicking forced it out pretty quickly with nobody harmed. Still I had a feeling rising that if we wouldn’t make it that day through the desert and had to camp there it would not be a very calm night. And we did definitely not have enough water. Each hour waiting we had to drink a liter of water. We didn’t even feel the sweating that dried us out but the hot breeze hitting us from the side like the blow of a sauna attendant was super dry and so warm that I was happy to wear long clothes.

On the way to the shadow of a road sign

3 cars had passed, only one had stopped and it was going only some kilometers into the desert to a camp. Not a good idea. We knew we had to make it through the desert in one go, one ride or not, that was the arrangement with Stefan. Luckily an about 50 years old truck stopped after nearly 3 hours going to Nehbandan. The city at the other side of the desert. The universe had not failed us this time.
The truck had no air conditioning though. The wind coming through the window at our max. speed of 75km/h was so hot that I had to hold my hand in front of my face as a heat shield. All the metal parts inside the truck had a minimum temperature of 50°C so no touching anything! The driver was rather calm, not talking a lot and distant. It was a silent ride through the heat. The structures of the desert creating images of lost cities in our mind. I drifted away. It were too many impressions, it was too hot, I was too thirsty. Luckily it became darker and darker. After 3 hours night had caught us but also some wind had come up and for the last hour of the 5hour ride we had a mild sandstorm slowing us down to 30 km/h. The desert experience was nearly complete, the only thing missing was – of course a 1 hour police check at the city where we stopped finally. Somehow someone had found something interesting in Stefan’s passport and when the driver didn’t let us out of the truck the place we desired but continued driving we got strange feelings. We didn’t know that his plan was fully legit, just to bring us to a gas station where the police was waiting to interview us. Since he didn’t really speak english we started to get afraid and thus angry for him continuing to drive into a direction we really didn’t want to go. We were about 100km from the Afghan border and I had the strange feeling that something wasn’t right.

At the former mentioned gas station he dropped us introducing us to his “friend”, a civil cop as he said. Sure thing. It is in the middle of the night, a truck driver dropped despite our strong protest at a gas station somewhere at the end of the city, you are waiting there in a black leather jacket and you are a cop. Demanding our passports. Ha, no-go, not with us. We told them that we would give our passports to ‘real’ police, the one with uniform, police cars, sirens and blue lights so they actually called them. He really was a police men but we didn’t trust him a thing so when the police arrived we were cooperative and handed them the passport, very suspicious and observing. They confused the issuing date of Stefan’s visa with the actual date of entrance to Iran and thought his visa was off. Took us one hour to resolve the situation, some explaining about hitchhiking, why and where we are going and a lesson from the cops that as tourists we have to REGISTER to go through the desert because several tourists had died there already and they don’t want guest to be ‘harmed’. Whatever you say, friend, we just wanted to get further. Some miles to go before we sleep. To Birjand.