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(2010-06-21 11:50:55)









分类: MG俱乐部

Ken and urbanites


Smiling faces: girls who helped their father at the bakery


Just camp in the car park


More smiling faces


June 13, 2010
2:00 pm

#66 Another four hour crossing

Author: Ken Slater

We moved out of customs and vehicle clearance on the Iran side of the border  very quickly. The rapidity of the process may have been helped by our guide as he knew the ropes as previously worked in the unit.

Once through to the Turkey side things were going smoothly until two cars were chosen for thorough inspection and X-rays. Our car and Ian B’s car were randomly selected for intensive scrutiny. The reason for this is that this border is the major access point for drugs from Afghanistan to be smuggled into Europe.


一旦通过向土耳其一边事情进行顺利,直到两车进行彻底检查和X -射线选择。我们的汽车和伊恩B的车,随机选择了认真的审查。原因是,这一边界是来自阿富汗的毒品主要的接入点可向欧洲走私的原因。

At the first inspection point the two cases and the back pack were removed from our car and  X-rayed. Ian B followed the same process with his cases.

We then  drove our cars to the second  inspection point where everything had to be removed from the cars and placed on the ground. This included two cases, back packs and two big plastic storage tubs, all spare parts, electrics including all the items placed under the back boot cover.

Next we drove the cars into an X-ray tunnel for x-ray.  Once this was completed the car was given a thorough internal inspection which included examining the seats and roof and touching all surfaces in the interior and generally looking for concealed areas.  This was done twice to our car but not to   Ian’s car. Then the luggage and contents of the car were repacked.




The whole exercise took over an hour. The three officers were in T shirts and jeans but carried guns in their belts. They were very serious but good natured. Interestingly they didn’t x-ray the contents of the two big, black tubs which store most of our not so frequently used possessions like books and souvenirs.

 Prior to the x-ray process Denise and  Sue had walked down to see what was happening and I handed Sue the metal safe. She walked away with  it and sat with Denise back the main immigration area waiting for the cars to be cleared.


 在此之前的X -射线的过程丹尼斯和苏走了下来,看看发生了什么事,我交给苏金属安全。她走开了,并坐在丹尼斯回主要移民领域的汽车等待清理。

With the process complete the customs officers took photos of each other posing with the car. Once cleared  we drove back to the others at the immigration point and when our carnets and passports were returned we headed into Turkey. We drove out through high wire  fences and a couple of watch towers.  The drive from the border post to the hotel was flanked by snow capped, Mt Ararat at 5000 metres above sea level  with the sun setting on it.



7:13 am

#65 Iran and we didn’t see a western traveller in seven days

Author: Sue Slater

All though the trip, I have been exhilarated about   what we have seen from the little red vehicle. The magnificence of the “off the normal tourist route” in China; the pristine scenery of the glacial Lake Samilu, the pass from Horgas, China into Kazakhstan with rugged and rough unmade roads but the most utterly amazing bridge constructions and soon to be completed roads I have ever seen; the alpine magic of Kyrgyzstan; the blue mosques with domes and minarets on the Silk Road in the towns in Uzbekistan and the madness of the gold god in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.  And everywhere the friendliness of the people.  


But in Iran there have been some real contrasts. Iran, a country of 75 million people is endowed with enormous natural reserves and natural beauty but presents some  challenges  for the traveller.  It is a country of contradictions in terms of ideas and history. It is difficult to get a full picture  in a short stay of seven days, but  you really get some strong and lasting impressions.

Would you believe that we didn’t see any other Western tourists in the time we were in Iran.

The people are delightful and yet the system is sometimes  confronting. We are told that generally the system,  does not want tourists in this country. They do not need the revenue  yet the poeple are so open and generous to visitors. The traffic police  were efficient , the roads were good  and we felt safe.




We have only travelled through the Northern Iranian coast, hugging the Caspian Sea. We are informed this is the most prosperous part of Iran and the most liberal. We did not go to Tehran but visited Tabriz, a city of two million people and Iran’s fourth largest city. The discrepancy between urban and country people seems poles apart.

我们只是穿过伊朗北部海岸,拥抱里海。我们被告知这是伊朗最繁荣的地区和最自由。我们没有去参观了德黑兰,但大不里士,1 200万人民和伊朗的第四大城市的城市。城市与全国人民似乎南辕北辙的差距。

One challenge for the traveller is whether to comply or defy the dress code. The only people we talked with were libel and their view was that we should dress as we would in our country and carry or wear a scarf when outside in a public place.


 When we parked at Namak Abrood Tourist village (a bit like Arthur’s Seat to be exact) Ken and Reg, both wearing shorts were told by the parking attendants with our guide interpreting, that their dress was inappropriate. They had to change into three quarter or long pants. Later at the same location, while having a morning tea break, Mary wearing a massive sun visor was told her head covering was inappropriate. She had to wear a scarf under the sun visor because some of her hair was visible.  For the sake of our guide and the group, people have always complied when asked.


Interesting that although we have complied with the dress code  a number of us question this and  the liberal Iranians  we talked with said they  want Westerners  to present as they would in their  own country.


Many Iranians speak of the  infringements of human rights in this country and they believe   the  West has failed to support people here probably for economic reasons. The demonstrations planned for this weekend will be interesting to say the least.


Some of the young women look fabulous in their non black version of hejab. Smart head scarves frame their round beautiful, olive skinned faces with their big, brown eyes and broad smiles. They wear jeans, high heels and firm fitting, knee length coats which are nipped in at the waist, a large shoulder bag and over sized sunglasses   which gives a casual, urban chic look. In the Champs Elysees area of Tabriz many women were quite heavily made up and wore bright scarves showing lots of dyed hair with scarves casually looped around the lower head, just in case.  Even meeting the demands of hejab you can look very glamorous they seem to be saying.


At Babol, Ken sat and watched groups hiring large boats for an hour on the Caspian Sea. He was shocked when he saw the boat proprietor purposefully hand out three life jackets to three men in a group while the women, in black hejab, drew the short straw. No life jackets for them.

At the time of the last election one million women signed a petition to register their dissatisfaction with the current system and  today Iran  has more women than men in higher education.



In the hotels and eating venues portraits of the religious leaders   look down at you. They are everywhere. As you drive through the towns they stare at you from large billboards. And there are billboards of military personnel, the fallen heroes now martyrs reminding all and sundry of their ultimate sacrifice for their country in the eight year Iran/Iraq war with two million casualities. Maybe this is the same as our country towns with their memorials and memorial avenues for the fallen in world war one and two and in the days of my childhood, the portrait of the Queen prominently located in all public buildings and schools. We understand that the young, militia volunteers who make up the million strong Baseej are rewarded for their efforts in ensuring adherence to the strict moral and social codes in all aspects of daily life.


Most of the smaller towns we have driven through like Bojnurd were flying black flags to commemorate the death of the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini. Only in one town did we see green flags flying near a mosque I might add, representing the Reform Movement. The visual images are really powerful and in the hotels and restaurants the televisions blare, often with some religious person motivating a large audience.


But the people are welcoming. The people are so proud of their Perisan past and place in history but concerned about where things are heading.  Everywhere you go most people want to make eye contact and smile. The young folk want to talk and practice their very good English. “Welcome to Iran” is common refrain. They tell us of the hardship in Iran which is partly, an outcome of the sanctions against their country; high levels of unemployment, boredom, drug abuse, personal restrictions, inflation and shortages.  One guy said “my country is tired”. The ban on alcohol consumption is interesting and we noted one guy with his concealed  hip flask of vodka at the dinner table. Funny we could all see what he was doing.

但是,人们的欢迎。人民是如此的佩里尚过去和历史上的地位,但有关骄傲的东西在哪里的标题。你到处去大多数人想使眼神接触和微笑。这位年轻的民间想说话,练习英语非常好。 “欢迎来到伊朗”是不常见的。他们告诉伊朗的困难是原因之一,是对他们国家的制裁,结果我们,失业,无聊,药物滥用,限制个人高的水平,通货膨胀和短缺。一个家伙说:“我的国家是累了。”关于饮酒的禁令,我们注意到一个有趣的与他的髋部隐伏伏特加瓶在餐桌上的家伙。滑稽的,我们都可以看到他在做什么。

The fact that we drive along with the iPod playing  is also a possible  infringement here. No expression of affection in public is acceptable and when our convoy stopped out in the country, we all hopped out of the cars and  Ken gave me and extended hug as you do when you have been married forever. The driver came up to me and said you know that is this something that has not been permitted  in Iran for thirty years and it is so nice to see but so sad for our country that we are so restricted.


Our  impression when we crossed the border on the first day, was the number of people enjoying the holiday weekend, out and about camping on the side of the rivers and in the countryside. It seems OK to pitch a tent and camp anywhere. We have seen small tents pitched on pavements in car parks and on the median strips in Tabriz. A walk into Babol at night we saw lots of groups sitting on carpets, Persian of course, on the pavement with tea and nibbles just socialising.


We have witnessed the custom of ta’arof in practice where people demonstrate their generosity and sensitivity. Basically it seems when you ask a price the answer is” it is nothing”. The interaction may go through three stages before an agreed amount is settled on. Mary was purchasing material and when Reg came to pay for it the shop keeper said take it. Reg worked through the system and for the princely sum of $2.50 Mary has a metre of material. I went to buy a bottle of water at the hotel and handed  the receptionist one dollar US and  when she didn’t have the change I indicated she should not worry but  she remonstrated and  insisted  I keep the dollar and the water. Unheard of!


Half the country of Iran is mountainous and again we saw snow capped peaks. Once across the border from Turkmenistan the terrain was rugged and the style of mud brick housing changed and the urban landscape looked like something from biblical times. Square or rectangular mud brick buildings with flat roofs and high walls was the norm.


 When we hit what would be considered the tourist area along the Caspian Sea with the Alborz Mountains running parallel with the inland sea, towards Rasht, we saw three and five storey concrete buildings everywhere. They were drab, unpainted and uninspiring, such a contrast to the colour and movement of the architecture of some  parts of  the Stans. In Tabriz there were a lot of buildings which were still under construction and it looked as though this was an extended process which was taking years to complete. Maybe the sanctions mean some of the construction materials are not available.


 The surprise in Iran is the diversity of  the land, from desert to the cotton fields and rice paddies running parallel with the Caspian Sea. Lush, tropical terrain in some parts and wind swept, barren ranges in other areas.


Petrol in Iran is 40 centres a litre and gas next to nothing we are told.  Many cars run on gas and the queues at gas stations sometimes stretch for a 100 metres.  Forty percent of cars are Hillman Hunters (called Paykans) in various stages of decay.  Petrol stations are hard to find as the profit margin in selling petrol is low.  It seems an irony that you have to drive around one of the oil rich countries of the world trying to find petrol.  Still $15 to fill your car softens the blow.

在伊朗的汽油每公升40和天然气中心旁边有人告诉我们什么。许多汽车运行于天然气和加油站排队的时候,我和100米延伸。 40车占百分之希尔曼猎人(称为Paykans)在腐烂的不同阶段。油站很难找到作为汽油销售利润率低。这似乎是讽刺,你要驾驶围绕石油之一试图寻找汽油世界富国。不过15美元,以填补你的车柔软的打击。

A final contradiction was noted when our last tourist stop   just near the Turkish border, was a visit  to a church. I couldn’t fathom how it was that a  Christian church had continuously    functioned.  The church was the Qara Church, black church because it was constructed from black granite. History apparently records that this was the place where Tateous, a minor disciple established a church which  has  operated for thousands of years. Our guide told us it was primarily the Armenians who worshipped here. When we entered this simple cathedral, the priest was singing a mass and preparing a communion for about eight middle age men. The acoustics in this church were wonderful and the simplicity of the place very moving.


I am pleased to be free of the head scarf and to have briefly visited this country where the people make you so welcome and appear so passionate about their country.  One can feel nothing but admiration for the Iranians who continue to question   the system and  with the support of the five million Iranians who live abroad  work towards  creating  a more open country. 



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