One of the things I had wanted to do whilst here in Iran was to head south to the Gulf. Firstly because it's a part of the country I have not really seen, and secondly because winter is the best time of year to visit, when the temperature and humidity are bearable. Normally I would travel by public transport, but as my father has also come over and wants to travel with me I thought that it would be more interesting to make it into a road trip by taking my mum's dinky little Kia Pride, the workhorse of Iranian passenger vehicles, on an epic tour of Iran.
An extraordinary Martian landscape just off the road in the middle of the kavir.
I'm generally not a fan of driving around by car, but I have to admit it has distinct advantages, namely the ability to head off to remote places that are not serviced by public transport and to stop wherever you fancy, if only for a few minutes. Both of these assets became evident within the first two days of leaving Tehran. The main highway leads southeast via Qom, Kashan, Na'in, Yazd and on to Kerman, but, as ever, I took the road less travelled and skirted the Alborz mountains for a few hundred kilometres before cutting straight south through the kavir. On this occasion I took my time (which you have to in a Pride, which barely manages to get over 100km/h), stopping off at curious rock formations and landscapes along the way, as well as popping into the occasional little village. The highlight was the hamlet of Abbasabad, some 6km down a dirt track off of a forgotten strip of asphalt. We went there because the map said there was a "historical ruin". Not at all sure what to expect, we turned the corner to the cluster of mud houses and stopped, because the track went no further. Upon getting out and looking around we were amazed to see an abandoned old caravanserai at the foot of a craggy mountain. The wizened patriarch tending his goats in Abbasabad (I'm loathe to call it a village as only three families live there) told us that it was open and were free to wander around. He wasn't sure when it was built and said that it had always been there as far back as anyone could remember. So we clambered around it for a bit, although it had certainly seen better days - it's most recent incarnation was as a goat pen. Upon returning the man greeted us with some homemade bread and date"milk" (made by boiling the hell out of dates until they reduce down to a liquid) for dipping. Whilst we ate, on a quilt laid out by the edge of the qanat, he regaled us with recitals of poems by Sa'adi, Khayyam and Quranic suras. As surreal as it was unexpected.
The beautifully haunting caravanserai at Abbasabad.
A further advantage to travelling in a Pride is that, should anything go wrong, you are certain that you can get it fixed. So when the brakes got stuck just before entering Yazd we had little difficulty in finding a repair garage, and within 45mins we were off again with a new set of brake pads for the front wheels and the brake fluid level reset, all for £10. Brakes or not, Yazd was still a necessary stop as I have to renew my visa, and this morning I headed over to the foreign affairs bureau to fill out the necessary paperwork and pay the fee for another 30 days' stay. Hopefully I shall be able to pick up my passport tomorrow, although even if it isn't ready I won't mind too much as Yazd has to be one of my favourite cities in the world (top 10 for sure) due to the wonderful desert architecture of the old town, which is a living museum, and delightful warren of alleyways where you can spend hours winkling out hidden, sunken courtyards and simple, little doorways that open out into elegant mosques. And so I enjoyed myself showing my dad some of the hidden quirks of this delightful town and rediscovering it again after almost 5 years.
A quiet passageway in Yazd's labyrinthine bazaar.