December 7. Bam – Mijaveh (Balochistan)

[29°01`07.4”, 061°27´04.3”]

Km today: 398

Today it happened…. Somebody (no Crewmember) told me I can´t do that. Everybody who knows me knows my reaction when somebody tells me things like that – I have to find out if this is true….. But read all day stories from the beginning:

We leave Bam around half past six in the morning and the first 200km are like nothing! We make a great team on the road even though I am not nearly as fast as the others. We have been told we will get police escort starting in Bam so we tried to avoid this by leaving at a time when police is still sleeping – successful. Short after the police checkpoint we stop at a petrol station and take as much petrol as possible. Even the water bottles are being filled with petrol. We go down to 400m (first time below 1000 since Kappadokia) and then up again. Landscape is incredibly beautiful and soon after we have a break at 400m we climb up the mountains again. I am very slow so all the others wait for me on the top of the mountain at around 1500 m above sealevel. I pass them and next there is a very nice downhill road so I go up to 100!

Unfortunately a few kilometers later there is a police checkpoint so I have to stop. The others are far behind me now so I stop and wait until they arrive. We have to take escort here – no chance not to do it. One police car drives in front of us and so we go on. Police car is driving much faster than I can so soon I am driving lonely on the road – what to do? A few kilometers later I see them all standing on the roadside. I think they have been waiting for me again and want to pass but police guys stop me – we have to wait for the next escort. Waiting always takes a little but as we are close to Zahedan already when getting the first escort we arrive there around 12 o clock.

Today many guys carrying an AK 47 sit next to me in the car – they are all very nice but I don’t like arms inside my hippiebus. Border is only 70km to go and opened until 4 pm so we decide to take the border today. But then in the “city” of Zahedan escort changes approximately 5 times and every time we have to wait at least for half an hour. Driving at night is not recommended in Balochistan and we have been told police will stop us in the evening. Anyway we leave to the border city (Mijahve in Iran) shortly before sunset (of course with police – they took our passports at the first checkpoint) and arrive there when it is already dark. Needless to say the border is closed already.

In Zahedan we told the police guys several times we need petrol – they kept saying “yes” but obviously they don’t want to go to a petrol station – every time we hear the next escort will take us there…. So as soon as I see the first petrolstation in Mijahve I stop there. All the others appreciate my decision so we fill up with petrol. Diesel is unfortunately finished today. (Well I still have a drill machine with me for worst case….)

Next the police brings us directly to the (governmental) hotel and hands the passports to the guy at the reception. I want to have mine as I haven’t seen a room, don’t know any price and it would be a bad situation for negotiations if they already have my passport. Policeguy pretends to give it to me two times but pulls back when I want to grab it. Now I am pissed. I go outside, take my stick from the car (to protect myself – we are in Balochistan and it is not allowed to leave the hotel without police) and go to the market to buy some stuff to eat – alone.

I already told the police several times I have to go to a shop but they were ignoring me and I am hungry. No good idea to play games with me when I am hungry AND tired. I go to the market and find out people here are even more friendly than before in Iran. Probably they are little curious too because I am on my way without guard. I buy what I need and go back to the hotel where four police guys go crazy searching for me. I give them a smile and then ignore them. Minutes later one of them wants money from me for the escort. I tell him to give him money as soon as I have my passport. He tells me I get tomorrow so I reply he will get money tomorrow. Seconds later he gives up and leaves without money – mashallah.

The guy at the reception tells me it is 150.000 rial for the parking – which is 8€ for one night, even in Topkapi in Istanbul I paid less and a room costs 200.000 rial. I am ready to pay 50.000 but his lowest offer is 100.000.- so I tell him I park outside the hotel on the street and sleep there. He says this is not possible / not allowed and threatens to call police. I have to yawn not only because I am tired but because I have heard this too many times all over the world. I start suryananda and out we drive to park 5 meters next to the hotel entrance while hotel guys are walking around in the garden using their cell phones.

Five minutes later they tell Adam my windows will be broken and my petrol stolen at night while I make contact to some very nice young guys outside. All of us know this is just another story to make me drive back inside so I don´t care at all – obviously police is already tired discussing with me – they don´t come. I am glad the others are pretty neutral but share my thoughts. To be honest I have the feeling we only get the escorts here to keep foreigners (and their money) far away from balochi people. Vienna feels much more dangerous even though even boys carry AK 47 here. However the first day driving/riding in a group was really amazing. We had great fun all day and enjoyed a lot. All of us made many pictures and movies all day so I can hardly wait to see and share them. Tomorrow we will be in Pakistan and as we know how to handle the escort service now I am sure it will be a wonderful day! I can´t wait to get Samosa, Byriani and REAL chai with masala and milk there!

I love this area and I love the people here. In the evening a beggar came to us when we were smoking in front of the hotel. Looking clean and just standing there for a minute not bothering us at all. I am happy I didn’t use my last rials for parking and give him a little money and offer a cigarette. He looks up to the sky puts his hand on his heart and is happy. After we all ate (I ate in the car the others at the hotel) I meet Marianna and Roberto in front of the hotel. I offer chai and quickly go back to get some. When I am back at the hotel to bring it they all sit inside so I bring the chai there and sit down at their table.

A minute later the hotel manager comes and gives a cup to each of us (including me) and offers tea too. I take this as an offer for peace (even though I know this is my very European way of thinking about things like this) and accept I am very close to india already. People here are like this they try what is possible and once they know how far they can go they make friends without being angry about what happened. It´s part of the game and that’s why I love india so much. It is possible to argue with people and as soon as it is done it is really done and nobody thinks of it anymore.

I like Balochistan and Iran a lot! It´s one of the best countries I have ever been travelling. People, hospitality, landscape, nature and historical places are not to be described by words in this country! Later the manager comes to knock at the car and tells me to drive in – 50.000.- is accepted. Acha people here really know how to bargain – it was my pleasure! (even though I don’t like this style – neither mine in that case nor theirs)

When I came to Iran this was my first sentence online and so it will be the last: Forget all you believe to know about this country. – It´s amazing!

December 6. Bam

Km today: 0

Alarm wakes me up in the morning and I quickly prepare myself and the room for yogaclass. The Iranian couple is already waiting and the bikers come just in time to join so we are 6 people who do yoga together this morning. A great experience for me teaching people from so many countries again. They all perform great and after we all are full of energy so we fix our vehicles (I clean suryananda inside again) and after I take a walk to the castle with Tanja, Damon and Brian (the motorbikers). This time we walk up into the restricted area of the castle. We enjoy the great view until guards are coming shouting “fine! fine!” – “yes very fine – awesome in fact” we reply and go down again with the guards taking care. We don’t hurry and still take a lot pictures on the way down – no problem. We go back by taxi and I give Reiki and little massage to tanja in suryananda. We decide to leave at 6 o clock tomorrow morning. Spaghetti are best and soon I go to bed to get some sleep tonight. A very relaxing and nice day!

December 5. Bam – a day at the caravanserei

Km today: 0

I sleep long and have nice breakfast with Justin and Adam in the morning. A little later Kira arrives too, She knows the guys from Kerman and is from Canada too. A very cute girl working in a national park in Canada 6 months a year and the rest of the time she is travelling. She has all my respect for travelling Persia on her own by public transport. A little later when I sit with Justin in suryananda three motorcycles arrive. More overlanders! Yeah! Its two guys and one girl from Netherlands, Australia and newzealand (if I remember right). They want to leave tomorrow morning too so we decide to share the police escort we will be having from now on until Quetta.

Later Justin, Adam and I go to the festival in the center that is happening today. Hundreds of guys are beating themselves with chains and the women sit around making a sad face. We can´t decide if its more painfull to listen to the music which is broadcastet in big speaker all over the streets or to beat yourself with chains. Anyway after we are asked for your passport (we have already been searched for weapons on our way there) we decide to leave soon. Not because none of us has his passport with him but because of the “music”. On the way home we are lucky enough to find a shop that is open so we buy some (junk)food and soon are back at Akbars guesthouse.

Minutes after we come back Marianna and her friend Roberto from Italy arrive. Soon most of the guests sit together in the warm community room and as all are pretty hungry I suggest to cook. We buy some vegetables and soon four of us are cooking in and around suryananda. While the food is cooking I make little sound massage for all in the community room so the time until we can eat passes sooner. I offer Yoga lesson tomorrow morning too and many people want to come! All people really like the food I cooked. I get invited by an Iranian girl who stays here too. She lives near Esfahan and wants me to come on the way back! I will love to visit her and her husband there! Food is really great and I enjoy a lot to share with so many people. Marianna tells me they have seen suryananda in Istanbul already – probably when I was in Vienna….

In the evening I give little Reiki to Adam and after we are finished Justin joins us so the three of us sit a little together in suryananda. This evening all the 8 people who stay here and go to Pakistan decided to stay one more day so we will all go to Quetta together on December 8. 3 cars and 3 motorbikes! I miss my Bullet! But we will get Pasta tomorrow cooked by professionals so I don’t mind the delay at all! The food and the people here are really great! I only have to be careful as so much attention like I get here is feeding my ego – Yoga tomorrow will be perfect antidote for this!

December 4. Kerman – Bam

[29°05´25.9”, 058°21´44.9”]

Km today: 200

After a short visit at the internet café to put yesterdays blog entry online I try to leave to Bam. Unfortunately I get lost when searching for the way several times so it takes me about half an hour to leave town. But soon I am on the road and we climb uphill again.

A few kilometer before the highest point for today I get stopped by police – speed control (no joke). Their car is hidden so well that I want to go on in the first moment before I see it is police stopping me. They are curious about the car and want to take a short look inside – Why not..? At least this is the first real police control I think. But the guy is not at all interested in my papers they are just laughing about the colorful car and on we go.

Highest elevation is 2560m today even though it doesn’t feel or look like being so high. When I go down again I pass 30°N heading south and it is getting warmer as we go down further. The road between Kerman and Bam is supposed to be one of the more dangerous ones on my way but there are so many police controls in the other direction I hardly can believe it is dangerous here. Shortly after lunchtime I see something green in the landscape. Minutes later I see a forest of palm trees obviously on a riverside.

I cross a bridge and only a few kilometers later I arrive in Bam. The city that has been completely destroyed by an earthquake in December 2003. Again I find out the maps in lonely planet are too old to be used – street names changed. This time I take a taxi leading me to Akbar guesthouse. It still exists! YEAH! I enter a nice and comfortable garden and sit down. Tea is waiting for me in a can so I enjoy. A little later I start searching for somebody and soon find Mohamed – the son of the manager sleeping in a nice room. I wait a little but wake him up after some time. Soon he makes more tea and we start talking – he speaks brilliant English. I ask him for news about the way to Quetta in Pakistan and he replies all is well. A few days ago two people who did it on bicycles have been here and they had no problems. He also tells me I will be escorted by police from now on – at least when driving at night.

There is a big Islamic festival going on at the moment which lasts for ten days – the two days to come being most important so all will be closed he explains to me – even the border! By the time his father arrives and tells me about two people coming from Italy who are supposed to arrive either today or tomorrow. I am happy to hear this news and soon Mohamed takes me to the old castle of Bam which has been destroyed and partly rebuilt after the earthquake.

The view there, a little before sunset, is amazing. I love this place, amazing buildings and green! After thousands of kilometers in the (mountain) dessert there is finally an oasis. When we go back to the car Mohamed gets a phone call and tells me two more people have arrived. “The Italians” I think and we go back to the guesthouse. When we come there Justin and Adam are sitting in the garden drinking tea – two guys from Canada on their overland trip from Great Britain to Pakistan and Australia. No need to say we make friends immediately. In the evening we sit together in the guesthouse living room reading old guestbook entries. One from Austria from 1986 telling that the guy who wrote it was a little afraid to come here because of what he heard and read on TV, radio and newspaper. Then he is so happy to be here. So am I!

As the border is probably closed and I will be heading rather north (until Amritsar) from now on I decide to have a little break here and stay in the warmth for tomorrow before I go up north and mountains again. Day after tomorrow I will go to Mirjaveh at the Pakistan border to cross it on Dec. 7 early in the morning. At least this is my plan at the moment.

December 3. Yazd – Kerman [30°16´57.7”, 057°04´23.6”]

Km today: 356

The muezzin in the mosque on the other side of the street wakes me up today. I don’t mind I want to take an early morning city walk in Yazd anyway. Its still freezing at bight so the morning is chilly. Yazd is a city like I imagine when reading stories from 1001 nights. Its an amazing mud brick buildt city forming a real maze! Many houses have a hundred years póld aircondition – towers on the rooftop catching the wind. Even though its cold when I am here I can see in the architecture there must be incredible heat in summer. I get lost in the maze find the way and get lost again.

Suddenly an old woman gives me handsigns to come with her. Maybe invitation for chai or breakfast I think so I follow her. Two minutes later we arrive at the mosque and she shows me the men praying room. I am glad she disappears in the women praying room a second later so she doesn’t see me walking away. Slowly I go back to suryananda.

I see some Internet cafes on the way but all are closed as it is still not even 9 am yet. Little past nine I come back to the car to pick up the computer and search for internet by walk. Asking locals I walk about 2 kilometers but without finding a place to update the blog. Nevermind, I think, and leave to Kerman a little before 10 o clock. I go to the petrolstation and find out we need “only” around 14 liters per 100km now. Yeah!

Engine is still weak but this slowly changes too today. In the afternoon when going slightly uphill we go 85!! The days before it was 65 then! I am happy! On the road in the opposite direction there are some police controls now. Probably they check for smugglers as my direction remains free. But suddenly I see flags and all the cars stopping. There are people on the street offering free chai to the traffic on the motorway so everybody stops for a moment even in the middle of the street. Nice! Again people sound horn and form peace signs with their fingers when they see me. I really have to get a new horn for suryananda!

The road is awesome again. All day I drive through a dessert – long straight roads and the surrounding being extremely meditative. Road signs make me now deer, camels and asian cheetahs live here. As there are nearly no villages and obviously only few people living in this area I can believe this. Still it gives me a warm feeling when I remember the coyotes sound at Farzad and Saras place.
I arrive in Kerman an hour before sunset and get completely lost when searching for the hotel. Soon two young guys offer help. Searching for the overlander meeting point hotel we find out it does not exist anymore. Note: for some countries a NEW travel guide is obligatory. Even the street names seem to change every four years (or whatever) here! I ask the guys for internet café and ten minutes later they show me one that is opened! YEAH! Update including pictures!

But first they want to show me another hotel. I try to explain I don’t need a hotel as I can sleep in the car. Just around the corner from internet cafe in a quiet nice lane they show me the hotel. I explain again I don’t need a hotel and this time they understand. But the street where the hotel is seems to be perfect for me to spend the night. I find a nice place around the corner from internet café and go there. I quickly update the blog and find out in this part of Iran not even skype possible…. What to do…

Tomorrow I will go only 200km to Bam. The border to Pakistan is nearly 600km to go, so two or three more days in Persia and soon I will be in Pakistan. From the border to the next city (Quetta) in Pakistan it will be another 600km (no Internet?). I hope to find internet before leaving Persia but if not – don’t worry I´ll be great! (And I will not hurry if the area is nice and hospitality is like here – I already heard it will be so)