Iran 8 - En route to Turkmenistan
The sacrificed chicken had worked, because not only was our car fixed, but the injured mechanic was back at his station with his wrist in a strap. (See photo below)
We got lots of advice from other Overlanders who were basically saying we would never get it fixed in Iran, so we had a nail biting few days whilst the garage sourced parts, improvised and struggled to put everything back together in double quick time. They were great.
The garage owner sent us on our way with the car, a large bill and a celebratory lunch made by his wife.
With the gear box and clutch working, Jim and I are off towards Turkmenistan from Iran and we are now in an Iranian seaside resort on the Caspian Sea overnight en route to Mashad.
We were lucky to get our transit visa in the nick of time and got it stamped into our passports in their Teheran Embassy.
Those who have been keeping up with our earlier blogs will know that Jim accidentally added 4 extra days to our Iranian trip by requesting our Turkmenistan visa 4 days late!
But thank goodness he did, otherwise we would have found it incredibly stressful waiting 4 days for our gear box to be fixed in Iran with no days in hand, when we should have been in Turkmenistan! If we missed our slot, then we would have had a massive detour.
We now have 5 days to cross the country, taking in Old Nissa which is the site of an ancient Parthian capital located within Ashgabat.
We are slightly nervous as we have read so many stories about the border crossings and the problems we could encounter. We have also spent most of our spare cash on fixing the car, so we want an uneventful few days in countries where we need cash.
We will be sure to let you know how we do.
Our final two days in Iran saw us speeding North towards the Caspian Sea.
We stopped in Babolsar which was a seaside town. Unlike Margate or most seaside towns at home, the coast was hidden from view by private estates. We did find a public park and beach and despite the chill wind in the air, we walked down to the largely deserted shore.
We had missed the section where we were due to stay in Golestan National Park and visit some waterfalls as the car had been in the garage in Teheran. So now we were on a whistle stop tour North and then East towards the Turkmenistan border at Saraks.
Once we reached the sea on a rather cold grey day, we turned East towards Mashad.
The route out of Babolsar was a bit unexpected. We spent about an hour weaving through flooded Paddy fields where people were ploughing, weeding and planting rice in rows.
Where rice was already pushing up through the water, the colour was bright green.
The route to the main road suggested by Google, took us right between these fields on unmade rough tracks.
Which way to the main road?
The tracks were raised and grassy to allow farm vehicles to pass above the flooded fields and the tracks were being grazed by shepherded flocks of sheep.
This was just so different from the parched desert South and the penetrating heat around Bam. It was quite unlike the central desert with its dominating barren high mountain ranges.
As well as rice here, we saw many other crops including corn, orchards of fruit, rape seed and other wheat like crops we could not identify. Clearly North Eastern Iran is the rice bowl of rhe whole country. Needless to say we saw water in rivers and streams which was the first we had seen in weeks.
As the day wore on away to our right were the dark green cloud shrouded hills of Golestan. Clearly come rain come shine these perpetually fog soaked hills exuded mystery. We were astonished how green the hills were, close to the Caspian Sea coast with their cloud hung skies.
Before we stopped for the night we visited an amazing tower constructed as a tomb in 1007AD, then the car needed to visit a car wash. Heavy sticky mud clung under the body and around the wheel arches from our trip through the paddy fields. Better to get it off before it dried out and stuck firm in the heat of Turkmenistan!
The little hotel we stayed at was much like the rest of the budget range. The small courtyard approach was full of parked cars and whilst weaving through these to reach our car, I managed to walk into the metal roof edge of a low lying bike porch! Luckily we had antiseptic wipes, paracetamol and savlon and although my glasses took the brunt of the force, they too survived to tell the tale. This is one hotel we will not be recommending!
The following day the N22 road to Mashad took us up into the hills of Golestan National Park.
The sun decided to emerge and the hills looked brighter illuminated. As we got closer we were astonished at the extent of forested greenery. It had echoes of parts of the UK but we felt it reminded us a bit of the high tea plantations in Sri Lanka.
We drove up through the forests and we were astonished by the road signs which warned of habitats for red deer, bears, wild goats, wild boar and leopards!
Now we could understand why we were being discouraged from hiking!
Mashad, the second largest town in Iran is now closer. We make our way to the border tomorrow morning and say goodbye to Reza who has been our travelling companion for the last month. We have filled up both fuel tanks (240litres), so that fuel will replace Reza and his rucksack in the rear of the car from tomorrow.