The 3 hour taxi ride to Allamut was a sweaty one which wasn’t helped by my chronic french complainers. There was a heated discussion going on for the duration of the ride about 1 euro. The taxi man ‘overcharged’ us. Jesus, if I ever turn into that person please slap me on the face. This couple are backpacking for one year so they have lots of rip off taxis rides to look forward too. I wonder will they ever survive?
When we arrive we were greeted by a friendly muleh who ‘attempted’ to help us. I thought Allamut was going to be v touristy and straight forward to navigate. Like everything else in Iran it was not…… We arrived into a gorgeous little village called Garmarud. This is where the lonely planet recommend staying but it was as if the place had never seen a tourist. There was a spectacle of attempts of communicating in a mix of french, farsi and english. We weren’t getting very far and all we could grasp was the people warning us about the dangers of bears in Allamut and that we could not go alone.
At least the frenchies were on the same buzz as me and didn’t want to take a tour so we decided to brave the valley and prayed the bears would keep their distance. I completely underestimated the Allamut and had no idea of how vast it was and that buses/taxis and hitch hiking were absolutely necessary unless you had a couple of weeks to trek.
We luckily found the one and only local bus to bring us to a village on top of the mountains called Piche Bon. Frenchies were bulling they had to pay 50c for the scenic ride (we got charged extra because our bags were so big so that went down v well!!). We arrived to snow capped mountains and the greenest fields. It was glorious and for a few minutes even frenchies appreciated the scenes.
We trekked for a couple of hours in search of a waterfall and more importantly water!! We were painfully lost but after some more heated discussions we eventually found our way.
The following day was my birthday so I was v excited to camp in one of the most remote parts of valley. I left the frenchies to navigate and fight amongst themselves. I kept a peaceful distance from them. After reaching/bathing in the waterfall we tried to find a ‘track’ to reach some kind of a campable place. What we found was so much better; a nomadic bee keeper who invited us into his tent for chai and freshly picked cherries.
This man lived in the mountains with his adorable dog Gorgy. He had bee hives, a well, chickens and was completely self sufficient, he even churned his own butter. Even though we could barely speak to one another I instantly liked him. Frenchies on the other hand were not so keen and with light closing in said they wanted to find camp elsewhere. The bee keeper was so kind and you could tell he was delighted to see people in these remote parts of the mountain. I happily pitched my tent and the frenchies begrudgingly did the same. If anyone was in danger it was me…. the grumpy pair had each other…..
I slept like a baby and woke up and spent the early hours of my birthday eating honey fresh from the comb and talking jibberish to the kind man. Frenchies inevitably warmed to him and realised he wasn’t dangerous. They requested to buy some honey off the man. It was amazing we saw him pick the honey straight from the bee hives with his bare hands!!! It was extremely awkward when the scabby French refused to pay afterwards as it was too expensive for their budget. A rule of thumb especially in Iran always ask for the price first especially before the man has to put his bare hands into a bee hive. He took it so well in fairness to him and we said our good byes. It was a memorable experience and I couldn’t have asked for a more special birthday.
We started to make our way down the valley as we wanted to check out Allamut Castle and the surrounding canyons. We once again had issues with negotiating taxi prices, with the Frenchies not willing to budge it was not the easiest gig. In fairness to the locals there are hardly any tourists here and they live in the mountains so business is v hard to come by so if they rip us off a little I think it’s totally understandable.
Once we arrived at Allamut castle after a grueling up hill climb (with backpack) I was fit to collapse and decided I wasn’t able to make it to the top. I minded Frenchie’s backpacks while they climbed. I was secretly delira to have a break from the complaining pair. I found a bar of chocolate that had burst/melted in my bag from the heat. I chilled underneath a cherry tree and ate chocolate covered cherries and drank chai from a local old woman while waiting for the duo. I washed my feet in a small waterfall and had some shut eye. It was bliss.
The Frenchies arrived back (more) pissed off because the castle was covered in scaffolding and they still had to pay the entrance fee!!! I was chuffed with my smart decision.
We hitchhiked to a nearby canyon where the drive was almost more spectacular as we witnessed it during golden hour. We were laiden down with kg’s of fresh cherries that we picked off the side of the street so that was dinner sorted (they are famous in this area). It really doesn’t get much better than that. The lake was stunning and surrounded by mountains I found the perfect spot to camp. While on the search for water I bumped into a giggling Iranian family who fed me with watermelon and chai.
The view from my tent was stunning all that was missing was a glass of bubbles to celebrate by 27th birthday. Last year I celebrated with Nils in Colombia so I definitely missed him but am excited to see what my 28th will hold.
The next morning we did a trek to try to get back onto the main road. The Frenchie’s arguing really escalated here as one wanted to walk via a river and the other via a mountain. I really didn’t give a rats which way I went as long as it meant I got back to the city.
While the frenchies were in heated discussions I managed to flag down a van transporting chemicals? he said he would take us to Qazvin for 2 dollars an absolute steal. The only hitch he would only take 2 people. He recruited a mate to take the Frenchies who refused to split up so I was forced to go alone in the chemical van. The driver had no teeth not that that’s relevant but it certainly added to my discomfort. My lad turned out to be harmless and fed me with tea and seeds for the journey until we broke down…….
After a long and tedious ride I got back to the city of Qazvin. I went back to Maryam’s luxury apartment looking significantly more violent than before. I was fed and watered with my fav saffron ice cream and watermelon while prep was fully underway for my birthday party. She informed me her husband Peyman took the afternoon off work so that he would be able to make me a birthday cake!! All of Peyman’s family came to the party and even brought me gifts!! I had only known this family for one day. Kindness beyond belief and I cannot thank them enough for the most memorable night.
It was so unique also learning about life of Iran through the perspective of teenagers and how much they hate wearing the hijab. It must make it so much harder for them as they can see through through social media what their western counterparts are entitled to do. Maryam’s children even treated to me to live traditional music which was outstanding. I was given a much needed birthday present of brand new clothes. I am now the proud new owner of a man’s shirt and a pink hijab. Feel like a new woman. The children informed me my current outfits wouldn’t be appropriate for the glam capital of Tehran.
The next morning I set off early to make my way back to Tehran where I was spending my last two days in the suburbs with Sarah and Ali my first couch surfing hosts of Iran. It was amazing meeting Sarah’s family and once again I continue to learn about the long list of rules in Iran. It is not allowed for conservative men to shake a women’s hands, a rule I have been continuously breaking. I had a hilarious encounter with her cute family especially her hilarious Uncle. They almost kidnapped me so that I would stay for dinner it seems like they are all in competition to impress you.
After our escape we made our way back to Sarah’s cousins house for Persian Party number 2. This was a special one as I was treated to a cooking lesson on how to make one of Iran’s most iconic dishes Dolme, this is labour intensive and only made for special occasions. It involves stuffing the vine leaves from grape with infused saffron rice and meat and dried fruit and wrapping them and steaming them in pomegranate juice. It is eaten with salad shiraz. A show stopper of a dish. Thank you Fatima for all of your time and effort.
The night was concluded with some perisan music, cake, red wine and even an irish dancing lesson. The next morning after a delicious breakfast spread this is where the fun commenced. I experienced an Iranian waxing treatment. It turned into a family affair with screaming children coming in/out during the horror scenes. A painful but necessary experience.
After a bowl of saffron ice cream to cool/calm me down we were en route back to Tehran for me to catch my flight back to Amsterdam. En route to the airport we made a pit stop to a house party. When I hear the words house and party in Iran I just imagine sipping on chai but this was actually a rave with electronic music. I certainly wasn’t dressed for the occasion. Incredible seeing an illegal Iranian party in full swing. Everyone who enters the door is greeted with a standing ovation. Sarah says its a sign of respect for everyone who has given up their time to come. The host also provides snacks of fresh fruit,vegetables, sweets and (non alcoholic beverages) even though I did see a little wine and whiskey floating. As I thought the party was coming to an ended I saw multiple chickens being bbq’ed for a full spread. Unbelievable hosting skills. We escaped as the Persian cake dancing with the knife was in full swing and Ali and Sarah brought me to the airport. We said our sad goodbyes.
Couldn’t have asked for a better birthday. Thanks Ali and Sarah for making it so special for me
Iran has blown me away in every possible way. It hasn’t always been the easiest country to travel in as a solo female but the kind people, the culture, the food and the insane scenery has completely compensated for that. This country 40 years ago before the revolution would have been completely different with alcohol, bars, clubs being illegal also it was not compulsory for women to wear a hijab. So Iran today for its people is completely different and more difficult for them to live in a country full of rules. That being said do not let it deter you the people will always greet you with a smile and a sense of intrigue as to why come to Iran?
I hope I have inspired at least one person to book that scary flight. Get yourself a hijab, an extra stomach, a few rials, a bit of farsi (it might save your life) and get ready for the trip of a life time.
Next Stop??? PAKISTAN