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Iran - Bam - Zahedan PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Smith   
Thursday, 09 April 2009 10:04
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Day 27: Bam to Zahedan Friday 19th October


Since leaving Troy the weather has slowly got warmer and warmer until now it is well into the top 80s but not a serious problem as yet thanks to the bus's air conditioning. This is the start of our last full day in this fascinating country and I shall miss it but not its drinking laws. I think the food has been poor compared with Turkey but would be more palatable if washed down by a good bottle of wine. I gather from Vali that Iran did make wine before the fall of the Shah and we have only been a few hundred miles from Shiraz which I presume, but can't verify, is the home of the grape so central to the wines of the New World.

After another standard breakfast of fruit and boiled eggs I carried my bags out to the bus through a group of young soldiers some carrying machine guns. All replied to my Salem and smiled. We all expected to be escorted from the Pakistan border to Quetta not from Bam to Zehaden. However, it seems this stretch of road is one of the most dangerous roads in the world because it's one of the main routes for coke etc to enter Europe. Vali told us that while he was in Bam, working on the relief operation, he was offered hard drugs every day and saw their effects on many in the area. The once great Silk Road is now a highway for drug smugglers and killers and bandits of all kind and if anyone finds this hard to believe then look at the young soldier lads with their Kalashnikov A47s and truck mounted machine guns. Most have their faces covered with Arab type scarves and I can't decide if it is for anonymity or protection from the blowing sand. Whatever it is, it is very hard to distinguish them from Hamas fighters in Palestine. Strangely there's a kind of attractiveness about these young warriors with their smart uniforms and and head scarves. I could see Fidel Castro, at their head, leading them in to the struggle for freedom from the Mullahs.

The drive so far has been pleasant and memorable not for any events but the scenery which is totally foreign to anything before. We have travelled along a winding road with desert on both sides stretching to the horizon and sand dunes at one point and camels sitting around a circular area of mounds of what must be food for them. After miles of the same, the armed guard changed from a car with five soldiers to a pick up truck with two inside and two on the back with a fixed machine, the road began to wind and climb through a narrow pass into a new mountain range. If we were to be attacked I think this would be the place as vehicles, heavy loaded in low gear struggled up the road.

Once through the mountain pass and back down on a flat plain the guard was reduced to one soldier who's joined us on the bus. We are now less than 100 kilometres from Zehedan and presumably out of danger for a while. It will be interesting to see if the Pakistani soldiers are as polite and courteous as their Iranian counterparts.

Zehaden from what I can see is a reasonably new city with few interesting features although we did see a statute of a St George figure slicing the head off a dragon as we left. We were warned not to leave the hotel under any circumstances and with soldiers and police on every corner this appears to be a very nervous settlement. As we have crossed from West to East of this large and interesting country the military have gradually increased in presense until here in Zahedan they're on every corner as though in wait for invasion from one of its many eastern neighbours.

The hotel looked quite modern from the outside and the back area was an interesting use of space with fountains, a play area, with swings etc for children and a series of wooden gazebos on decking with carpets and cushions for lounging about on. The first sign that not all was modern came as we entered the rickety lift for floor four, the second was stained carpets on our landing, the third was the heat and noise of the inefficient air condition system and the fourth and fifth were etc etc etc. It had all the hallmarks of a communist hotel past its best.
Within minutes of getting everyone booked in Leighton was in negotiations trying to get the price of an evening buffet down from the extortionate price of 112,000 rial to something nearer the normal 70,000. Eventually an a la carte menu in English was produced which consisted of the usual boring selection. It was not so much that people objected to paying the higher price but didn't want to change money on their last night in Iran. I have 60,000 left and I can't imagine being able to change them anywhere outside of Iran.

On arriving at the diningroom I was surprised to hear we could help ourselves to a buffet for only 43,000. This was to be our last meal in Iran and I can't say I have enjoyed my first experience of this country's culinary delights but the buffet was excellent with, of course, lentil soup, a fine array of salads with grated carrot, cabbage, tomato, cucumber, a pepper salad in a vinagrette and risoles and a beautiful chicken dish in a spicey sauce and a sweet to finish off of caramel.
After dinner sat outside on the carpets with Sue, Mary and Claire talking about who is doing what in the next two weeks: Mark flying from Quetta to Lahore, Barry setting off with others to Bangkok, Mac and Emmett flying into Laos and China and there may be others we don't know of yet. The temperature was perfect and amazingly there were no insects of any kind not even moths round the lights above our heads. We made our way back to our room and another early night before the long and tedious journey in the morning.

 


Last Updated on Thursday, 09 April 2009 10:26