Saturday, May 7, 2011

Week 6

Mon. May 7 Baykan to Van
Miles 188
A very eventful day. Before leaving the campsite we had a bath in the stream. All 3 of us standing stark naked in little pools, scrubbing away and singing at the top of our voices.
Got away about 9.30 on the road to Bitlis. Climbed steadily for a long time and eventually reached the town which is 4,500 ft above sea level. Our arrival caused quite a stir. A scruffy looking Turk approached us and asked where we came from, in very good English. It transpired that he had spent 4 years in Liverpool!

Figure 2.5: Bitlis

Figure 2.6: Bitlis

Figure 2.7: Bitlis
We did our shopping and then set out on the road to Van.
Just as we were leaving town a Turkish policeman stepped out and stopped us. He said we would have to go back the way we had come because we were in a military zone - a detour of about 300miles. We told him, no, we were not going to do that
After a lot of argument, most of it in sign language, a more senior officer appeared who spoke some English. He took our names and passport numbers, and told us to report to the police in Van as soon as we arrived.
When we got to Van and duly reported, they hadn’t a clue what we were talking about. The police in Bitlis obviously had not rung through.
The run between Bitlis & Van was very impressive. The lake (Van Golu) is 5,500 ft above sea level & some of the passes we have crossed must have been pushing 8,000 ft.
Wonderful scenery all the way; lake & mountain with distant views from the tops of passes. For variety of scenery it would be hard to beat Turkey. We have had arid plateaus; snow covered mountains, high passes, hot dry plains, and lush green valleys - the lot.
The people have all been very friendly, contrary to our expectations and we have had nothing stolen. Turkey is a country I would like to come back to some time.
Had some wiring trouble, which nearly resulted in our burning out the wiring harness. Now that would have been an interesting predicament.
Weather - cold & cloudy
Figure 2.8: Van
Figure 2.9: Van
Tues. May 8 Van to Dogubayazit Miles 215
Spent the first hour or so repositioning the front, offside spring on the land rover. Got away about 10.30, quite late for us, and drove to where our proposed short-cut left the main road, turned off onto a goat track that led to a small village called Muradiye.  
Against all local advice (they all said the road was impassable) we started off on what was supposed to be the good bit of road. This was so bad that we abandoned the idea and went the long way round via Ercis & Agri. We are now back on our original A.A.route.
Figure 2.10: Muradiye
Tonight we are camped just off the main road looking straight at Mt Ararat. Or we would be if it weren’t covered in cloud! We are hoping for a view tomorrow. Today we have gone from Kurdistan to Armenia. Weather - mixed, cool and cloudy

Wed. May 9 Dogubayazit to Khoy
Miles 164
Off to our customary early start. Bought bread in Dogubayazit and then to the frontier. For the last 30 miles to the frontier we were getting good views of Mt Ararat. The formalities here took far longer than usual.
The first town we came to in Persia was Maku. The town itself nestled under a huge limestone cliff and part of the old town was built inside an overhang on the cliff. 
Figure 2.11: Maku
Figure 2.12: Maku, Persia
The drive to Khoy was not like anything we have seen before. The land is very dry – everywhere there are dried up river beds – the road actually ran along one for a while.
We managed to change some money in Khoy then panic set in. We could not read the denomination of the banknotes as they were all in Cyrillic numerals and we could have been robbed blind and we would not have known.
However, a remedy was found at a petrol station. We copied the numbers from the dial on the petrol pump and, very quickly, we learned them. We had not been robbed.
Bought fuel & food. Fuel is very cheap here, the cheapest yet. We are camped tonight at the top of a pass in the hills just outside Khoy. We simply drove off the road onto the desert and camped.
Persia gives one a sense of size & grandeur - big mountains, distant views, wide-open spaces. It is good to be seeing the country of Khayam at last. I went outside at about 10p.m. and there was a new moon, a clear, starlit sky and a warm, gentle wind sighing across the desert. The Rubaiyat seemed to come alive.
Weather - fine and sunny

Thurs. May 10 Khoy to Minaeh
Miles 221
On the road early and on to Tabriz. Just outside Tabriz we got our first puncture, changed the wheel and carried on. Found the land rover agency but did not like the look of their service station so decided to push our luck and carry on to Tehran where we will be held up for a day or so anyway.
There are several jobs to do now. The brakes need re-lining and the gearbox oil seal must be attended to.
Figure 2.13: Tabriz
The road outside Tabriz, which is the capital city of Azerbaijan, was really bad: Potholes, banks of gravel, mounds of earth and hairpin bends, one after the other. Simply driving off the road and cutting the corner could avoid some of these.
We are camped tonight almost in the dried up bed of a river, and on the wrong side of it in relation to the road. We have just experienced one thunderstorm and if it rains too much we could be marooned. We did our 5000th mile today. We wrestled with the punctured wheel and, after a lot of mucking about, got the tyre off, found & removed the nail, and are now busy fixing the inner tube.
Weather - cold & showery

Fri. May 11 Minaeh to Tehran
Miles 278
On the road by 8am, and a very rough road it was, too. We bumped and crashed our way along for about 170 miles to a place called Takistan.
Lo & behold! A tarmac road, no bumps, just smooth tarmac, our first for 2000 miles.
We made full use of it upto just outside Tehran where we turned off the main road and into the foothills of the Elburz Mts to camp for the night prior to entering Tehran tomorrow morning.
This afternoon the clutch started to slip again so that means more expense here. The idiots put in a new clutch plate in Istanbul without bothering to find out where the oil was coming from that had caused the original trouble!!
We are camping in real desert country tonight: dry, dusty, and overlooking the plain where we can just see Tehran. To the south & east of us now is the Great Salt Desert.
We have a choice of 3 routes. North to the shores of the Caspian Sea, South of the Elburz Mts & just North of the desert to Meshed and Afghanistan, or to follow the edge of the desert and via Baluchistan to Quetta in Pakistan, thus missing Afghanistan completely. We will have to take the last option if the Afghanis refuse to renew our visas.
Weather - quite rainy
Figure 2.14: Camp outside Tehran
Sat. May 12 Tehran
Miles nil
Into Tehran early, and full-speed ahead to the British Embassy. I got the unprecedented total of 6 letters. We found the Rover agents and then went for a meal.
We had shish kebabs, a traditional dish, and it was very good. It cost about 10 shillings, which we thought very reasonable.
Found the Rover agency and the manager is letting us camp in his office while the work is carried out. Just as we turned in to the works, we got our second puncture of the trip. Spent the afternoon in a fruitless search for the Afghan Embassy to renew our visas. I am writing this now seated at the manager‘s desk.
Weather - hot & sunny
Figure 2.15: Tehran
Sun. May13 Tehran
Miles  nil
A weary morning spent haring around town in taxis looking for, first, the Afghan Embassy, then next, the Pakistani.
The Afghanis told us that our visas were o.k. and then added, as an afterthought, that the Afghan/ Pakistan frontier is closed! We went to the Pakistan Embassy and, after a lot of waiting, were told that it would cost us 5 pounds just to find out whether or not permission would be forthcoming!
So we said to hell with it, and will now take the southern route through Persia and direct into Pakistan. We then spent all afternoon looking for the police office that issues exit passes. I have never seen a country like this one for filling up passports. Tehran is a very modern city, clean & spaciously laid-out but with little of real interest in the city itself. It is the warmest place we have been in so far and I don’t think I would like it in summer.
Weather - hot & sunny

Figure 2.16: Tehran

No comments: