Monday, April 17, 2006


Notice! to read the full story, have a look at my book “Vagabonding in the Axis of Evil – By thumb in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan”. Clic here to learn more. Order a copy and keep me on the road!

After making Persepolis a rather musical experience, with Pink Floyd in the discman. By night we were already in Yazd, the world capital and last stronghold of Zoroastrianism, a religion that one stretched from India to the Mediterranean, the first monotheist religion. Hasan, our Hospitality Club contact, had guests at home so he arranged a room in the Silk Road Hotel. The courtyard of the hotel worked as a restaurant where high class Iranians mixed with classic tourists from France or Britain and the occasional penniless backpacker.
The menu, which abounds in camel receipts, the lateral perception of some London accented conversation two carpets to the right, and the architecture, conspired to create an aesthetic illusion. Alba laughs and confesses that she feels as a 19th century explorer. So as not to let her alone, I ask Steven with an accent that is not mine: "Sir Weijs, shall we tend a railway line along the Nile?" Many are the travelers doomed by the echoes of the long since gone caravans bringing silk from China to Europe, in the search of ancient times. "Ancient times that didn't exist" –points Alba. We agree we cannot figure out how their interest in the old trade routes doesn't lead them to become involved with contemporary movement. Isn't the truck stop the direct heir of the caravanserai? Isn't the Volvo the new camel? And the oil, the pistachio, or the illegal immigrants, aren't the new silk? Why do they prefer to step aside of the real world and just repeat postcards with their cameras? We don't know. Suddenly we are high with the idea of also trading something into Afghanistan, just to connect more vitally with the road we step, maybe tuna or saffron, scarce in the neighboring country.

In the short term, we expected to cross the Dasht-e-Kavir desert that lied ahead. So we couldn’t but smile when our host decided to take a day off from work and travel with us in his car into the desert. By the road side, signals warn: "Beware of camels". An hour later we cross a bunch of them, munching quietly all the roots they can find. Can a camel run fast? In the attempt of finding an answer I resulted humiliated by the camels that, indeed, run fast.

On the first night we camped in the oasis the surrounds Bayaziyeh village. While we spot crossing stars we listen to the radio that has tuned Deutsche Welle. A grave voice says the US is afraid about the uranium that lies exactly under or foot. (The mines are 100 km away). And here it is so calm and windless.

The second night we decide to camp straight in middle of nowhere, so we ask our truck driver to let us go. He cannot understand our demand, he feels responsible for letting us go in that harsh scenery. At last he stops and gives us water and fruits before saying goodbye. One kilometer from the road, with the background of blue mountains in the horizon, we set camp. Shortly after we spotted all those wolf footprints, also we find out we don't have anything to defend ourselves.

So Steven and I trekked around to see what we could find. The idea was to use road pole as cricket stick to hit the hypothetic wolves, but they were buried in concrete. What returned to the campground was the First Brigade of Armored Naives. Our weapons were, namely, 10 stones, a wooden stack, and a piece of car tire which we could set fire to keep the cannis ferocis away. Alba laughs: an engineer, a writer and a film maker cannot do better than the Stone Age man about such matters. We should blame academic specialization for the massacre. Then it's our turn to laugh at Alba, when she sates, trying to calm herself: "If the wolves get close, it may be just out of curiosity". (Alba Sotorra, 1981-2006, film maker but never biologist).

However, the wolves had different plans for the night, and after the most stunning sunrise I can remember we carried on to Damghan, on the other side of the desert, in the truck of a Zoroastrian driver from Yazd, who is happy that we know his god, Aura Mazda.

The bakery queue at Damghan, more than its ruins, is a history lessons, with all types of faces, Turkmen, Persian, mongoloids, etc. It's quite obvious this was in the middle of the trade routes. Damghan is home to Iran’s first mosque, called Tarikhaneh. For us it's rather a fork in the road, since Alba head back to Teheran.

Before, as arranged, in a mosque yard, she cuts one of her 6 years old blonde dreadlocks and sews it in my hair. It may be first dreadlock transplant in Iran, witnessed by half a dozen boys and girls that soon abandoned their playing ground to stare cheerfully at the loonies that smoked pipe and shared their hair. They may soon be taught to disapprove us as well. But for the moment being they smiled. And they smiled.

After saying goodbye to Alba, Steven and I headed on to the Caspian Sea…

No comments: