June 6, 2008

Welcome to Iran ($$)

When the Pakistani border opened there was a massive jostle to get through. Standing out as Foreigners, they pulled us out and rushed us through quickly - in hindsight probably trying to get rid of us and make us Iran's problem. We crossed over into the Iranian building and waited for their immigration guys to finish their breakfast and open the border. The minute we were spotted in the queue our passports were whipped away and we were told to sit down and wait for a police bodyguard to turn up. It's the first border we've come to where we didn't have to fill out any paperwork. After about a 30 minute wait our police body guard turned up and we were told that he had to accompany us to the next town of Zahedan 83Km away. We exited the building into Iran and were met by any country's worst ambassador - the greedy taxi driver. Share taxis (5 passengers) were leaving from outside the building every few minutes but the taxi drivers gave their spiel about how foreigners had to take their own taxi. The price for our own taxi was of course astronomical. We confirmed the situation with immigration and the taxis changed their stance and said we could go in a share taxi but no one would want to share with us because we would cause a delay at the checkpoints. Really no one wanted to share with us because the taxi driver steered them well away so we were left with no choice but to sit it out with our bodyguard and wait for the price of our own taxi to come down. At this stage we had 48 hours of solid travelling under our belt and a long day's travel ahead of us. It was definitely one of those frustrating moments of travel made all the worse by greedy taxi men holding us to ransom.

Eventually there was a break through. Marcus started inquiring about the option of us not taking a bodyguard thus fitting into a share taxi easier. The police bodyguard was forced to make a call to his superiors, the police superior said he was on his way to sort out the problem and suddenly the price of our own taxi dropped dramatically. After losing two hours we were back on the road again. Along the 83km drive to Zahedan we pulled into about four police checkpoints, our details were checked and each time our police bodyguard was changed. The taxi driver drove like a maniac, his foot to floor. At one stage we had the police superior guy in the car and he gave out to the driver for not overtaking and driving too slowly. In the city of Zahedan we lost our fourth bodyguard and picked up our own squad car. Things were starting to get ridiculous. We travelled about a km before we pulled in at another station and waited for another squad car to appear. Our new squad car seemed to be in rush to escort our taxi to the bus station and even turned the flashing lights and sirens on to clear a way through the traffic. Meanwhile we were looking out the window at a sleepy little desert town full of people going about their business, we asked the taxi driver were we in any danger and he laughed and said no. At one of the police stops a man carry flat nan like bread a foot long and came over to the taxi and offered us a handful. It sounds like an exaggeration but it's absolute fact in the city of Zahedan we changed police car escort about every 2 blocks waiting to be handed over to the new unit took an age to coordinate. After three squad car transfers we were finally escorted by two police motorbike (sirens blaring) into the bus station. When you're travelling in a new country you want to blend in not be arriving with an entourage of noise, lights and activity. The police watched us buy tickets to the city of Yazd and then disappeared. We were finally left to our own devices. We're still baffled by it all and tend to avoid the police here since.

So.... our third night in a row travelling was spent on the 14 hour overnight bus to Yazd the driver broke all speed records and we ended up getting there 4 hours early at the awkward time of 2am in the morning. We alighted the bus and were greeted by the local park bums. Anywhere else in the world these guys would be passed out drunk and under newspapers, in a country with no alcohol these guys were lucid and friendly. With hours to put in before we could check in we started walking in the direction of the centre of two. We were only walking a couple of minutes before we had two offers of a lift. A local business man and his wife dropped us off in the touristy district where we waited along with the nocturnal street cleaner and the local feline population for the city to wake up. At this stage it was a straight 63 hours of travelling and a little frayed at the edges. Nothing a hot shower and a few hours sleep wouldn't fix.

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Journey Map Up To Date...

After some technical issues with our map site - its now back online and up to date - you can check out our progress here.

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