We started driving very early at 6am since my fellow traveler Andrew read in his guidebook there is an Iranian version of the Great Chinese Wall in the area at which he wanted to have a look at. In order to see the wall we needed to make a detour and therefore start driving a couple of hours earlier.
After driving for two hours we heard a strange noise and stopped the truck. Our crew Sam and Jason needed half an hour to inspect the truck and find out what the actual problem is. It turned out there is an issue with one of the cylinders of the engine. It was nothing what we could repair straight away while being on the road, also because we don’t carry the required spare parts with us.
While Sam continued to inspect the truck in more detail our local guide Mehdi was on his phone to sort out alternative transportation for us so we could continue our travel while the truck is getting repaired. He also organized another truck which will tow our truck to the next Mercedes workshop.
While waiting for a minibus to bring us out of here we had the leftovers of Chris’s birthday cake and sorted out our luggage for the next days. Some of my fellow travelers were very pessimistic and thought we will not see this truck again. They were planning to take their entire luggage including all their valuables. I was rather optimistic and therefore decided to take only my backpack with my clothes but leave my camping equipment (tent, sleeping bag, mattress and pillow) behind. I thought we will probably not be camping when we don’t have our truck with us which contains tents for all people and the complete cooking equipment. I also decided to leave the majority of my valuables in the safe of the truck and only take some money for the next 2-3 weeks and my credit cards in case of an emergency. I felt better that way than carrying a large amount of cash with me.
Jason also collected some US dollar cash to give it to Sam who will stay behind with the truck while Jason will continue with us. Getting an engine repaired can cost serveral tousands of dollars why it’s handy to have them in cash in a country like Iran where international cards aren’t excepted.
Actually whenever you plan to travel to Central Asia don’t plan to use your debit card, credit card or traveler’s checks. It’s very hard or often even impossible to withdraw money. So you better take all money you will need in US dollar cash. Euros are partially fine as well and I changed them from time to time to avoid changing twice (Euro to USD to local currency). However, I noticed the exchange rate for Euro is often less favorable than the one for Dollar, so better take more Dollars than Euros.
While waiting, some of us had a look around in the little village of Rudbar Gheshlagh where our truck broke down and got some bread for breakfast. We also took a last group picture with our guide Mehdi because we might not see him again before crossing the border into Turkmenistan the day after tomorrow. Therefore, we also collected money to give him a tip. I personally found it distressing to see some people not making any contribution to it. How mean can somebody be to not give any tip to a guide who has been with us more or less 24 hours a day for two weeks? I probably will never understand this…
At 11am another truck arrived which was supposed to tow our truck to the next Mercedes workshop. Sam immediately got busy to attach our truck to it and get ready for departure. The driver of the other truck wanted to help him, went underneath our truck and started to drain off the oil. This drove Sam crazy since he didn’t saw the need to drain off all the oil and he started a big discussion with him. In the end he could stop him and got a smile back on his face when I complimented him for his greasy manly look.
At 11:30am the minibus arrived which is supposed to bring us to today’s destination Shirvan close to the Turkmenistan border. We all hopped into the minibus and enjoyed the ride with some Iranian pop music played by the driver. After driving for a few kilometers a local women joined us who seemed to be related to the driver and was sitting next to him. Some of us had a basic conversation with her and for some reason she was very keen on getting the contact details of all of us.
At lunch time we stopped at a hotel with a restaurant attached to it. Unfortunately the waiter didn’t speak any English. After two attempts to place our orders he was calling his English teacher and my fellow traveler Andrew placed our orders over the phone to the English teacher who was translating it back to the waiter. This worked out well since we all received what we ordered without anything being lost in translation.
We arrived in Shirvan in the late afternoon. The hotel was owned by the government why they have the requirement to hold the passports of all guests overnight. The reason seemed to be security since they don’t want anybody to leave without paying their bill. Andrew had a big discussion with the staff at the reception since he wasn’t comfortable leaving his passport with them and he at least wanted to have a receipt for it. I took it easy and just went to my room while Andrew spent 20-30 min of his lifetime to get a receipt and to be on the save side.
In the evening we went for a walk around in town. Isabella and I shared a pizza topped with sausages in a small little restaurant. While placing our order we figured out the owner of the restaurant is deaf-mute but with the help of pen and paper we were able to place our order and even to have a small conversation with him. He also wanted to get his picture taken with us and we did him the favor.
Back at the hotel a wedding party was going on but there wasn’t too much to see. People were just sitting around on tables without any music or dancing going on, probably because dancing in public isn’t allowed in Iran.
We also heard the truck arrived at a Mercedes workshop and should be repaired around midnight. Sam will then drive all night to catch up with us tomorrow morning. He is also pushing to get the truck repaired as quickly as possible since his visa and the truck permit will expire in two days.