December 28, 2009 GMT
Iran - Yazd

After my first (ever) failed attempt to leave a city, and recharging my batteries in Esfahan, the next morning I took the easy way to Yazd. 7am start, no (intentional) mountains, no bravado and luckily no rain. Having said that, part of the journey was spent going over a mountain pass that was "a bit nippy"... I had to stop every 10km, dismount, take off my gloves and thaw my frozen fingers with the hot exhaust fumes. It was hard going with no serious winter equipment, but for such rare occasions I rather put up with a little discomfort than kit out the bike with heated grips and thus add weight/complexity. So I just suffered a bit. I reached Yazd in good time (around noon), pondered over another helpful SMS sent by IranCell


... pondered some more over religious/nationalistic propaganda on the roadside:


... met a CouchSurfing friend who helped me locate a simple (basic, really) hotel close to the old city of Yazd


... had a meal and a quick wander around the old city and collapsed.

Yazd has a unique collection of boutique hotels - like traditional mansions, with internal courtyards and the raised bed/sofas on which people just lie on carpets and eat/read/chat/doze off... very relaxing indeed. The only problem was that my hotel was expensive ($20) and empty. Being frustrated at my Brandt guide book (the perspective of which can be summarised by the jaw-dropping - and I quote "Most foreign visitors will wish to stay at the 5-star XYZ hotel...") I coughed up and during my stroll around the old city


... with its rather strange artifacts


... and its exquisitely colourful mausoleums


... I bought a LonelyPlanet book for Iran. Lo and behold, I immediately spotted the Silk Road Hotel and moved there - $8 a night, excellent breakfast and lots and lots of travellers creating a strange ambiance... I felt almost too comfortable, which was a strange feeling. As if I was not traveling any longer. Perhaps the amounts of high-tech electronic gizmos and the heaps of technical clothing got to me.

My efforts to change hotels were temporarily thwarted by the Vstrom's ignition switch getting stuck. The damn key would simply not turn. At that point I remembered Alaric's motto: "If it moves and it shouldn't, duct-tape it. If it doesn't move and it should, WD-40 it!" Luckily I had already spotted a fellow biker at the Silk Road Hotel so I walked over, found Ove and he gave me some of his miraculous WD-40 which fixed the issue instantly.

This allowed me to get lost in Yazd's magnificent ancient alleys with the bike, while trying to locate the entrance of the hotel Orient's parking:


Alleys continued, this time in the foot-only version:


The following days we hanged around the Silk Road, visited a traditional wrestler's training session (with lots of music and lots of skill involved), which was taking place in an underground water reservoir - here is the massive reservoir that was used to store water for the neighborhood before modern piping systems came about:


Here is the dude (couldn't possibly be more than 15) leading the chanting and the music. He was firing away for two hours on that thing...


The training commotion and an old man watching:


The training/ceremony is extremely demanding of those taking part:


We (as in, the group of foreign travelers that formed for the few days I was in Yazd) also took an organised tour to some classic sightseeing places to the north of Yazd, on the outskirts of the desert. I can't say I was very impressed.

Here is Matthias, an excellent & unusually environmentally sensitive chap who is traveling the world on his bicycle.


A girls school (all dressed in pink) visiting an old fortress in Ardakan:


An ancient air-conditioning unit (also potentially called a "wind tower") - air is trapped by the intakes and led through the looooong structure in a motion that cools it - hence it keeps the water of the reservoir underneath it also cool.



This is the water reservoir itself, for a change containing only a Canadian instead of water! This is Marco, and the credit for the picture goes to him, as he was the one to observe how light works there:


The tourist bus stopped at a very suspect sandwich place (that served spaghetti sandwich which, to Zoe's detriment, was actually that - spaghetti in a bun), where we had a uniting experience - Pink Panther came on telly, and all of us - Iranians, Canadians, the Norwegian, the Brit, the German and the Greek - roared in laughter.

(sorry I have no picture of the laughing bit, but the way I laugh it's impossible to hold a camera at the same time)


Then we went to Chak-chak (which means - in a pleading way - "drip, drip!"). Nothing much to see here, some bizarre legend about a princess who was thirsty and asked for water and suddenly the taps turned on. Suuuuure. Hardly worth the drive.


The best part of the Chak chak experience was that we were forced to wear these silly caps and remove our shoes, so at least we got a funny picture out of it:


Then we visited the loveliest of all tourist attractions of the day - an old, half-collapsed mud village. It was fascinating to walk through its dilapidated buildings and climb on roofs of suspect structural integrity. As Ove noted "We would never be allowed to do this in Europe".


If there is a Batman of goats, this is the Joker he's after:


This is what happens when one doesn't promptly answer a pissed-off Canadian:


One of the more intact buildings of the village:


Our guide, probably quizzing Zoe on the punishment a double homicide plus rape get in the UK. He was a highly entertaining chap, sharing many juicy details about Islamic law as it is implemented in Iran. (the bit that got me and Matthias rolling on the proverbial floor in a fit of laughter - otherwise known as ROFLing - was the description of the punishment for adultery: They bury the woman waist-deep in the earth and stone her to death - BUT! if she manages to dig herself out, people have to leave her alone and not touch her. For the man, he is taken on a mountain and thrown off the edge - if he survives... (*drumroll*) he is taken back up and thrown off a second time. If this doesn't demonstrate that women are favoured in this life, I don't know what does.)

We then got back to Yazd which has been significantly cleaned up from all that cabling that had been lying around and getting tourists tangled up by switching to cordless taxis.


For the rest of our days in Yazd I had plenty of fun hanging out with the other travelers, milking the town for all it had - including a completely inappropriate private party at another hotel involving booze and women (both in minuscule quantities, but still...)

This is how the "party" started, with Zoe thankfully being prudent enough to bring her own music player and a portable mini-speaker (you rooooock!) and Marc dancing (with his fingers) ON the speaker. We had to cuddle up to listen, but yep, the beat was there.


This was more like the real party... about 10 people, some almost dancing, most just taking pictures.


...and this is the SERIOUS booze that ensued.


It was a strange feeling - we were doing nothing wrong, just having a little bit of harmless fun, but it was quite evident that a potential raid by the police was on everyone's minds... Last time I felt guilty about something as silly as this must've been in highschool, when we used to sit on a ledge we weren't supposed to. Woo hoo - striking the system where it hurts. Riiiight.

The next morning we got up with a hangover from all that alcohol, but still somehow managed to do a nice day ride with Ove to visit some fascinating Towers of Silence (Zoroastrian cemeteries where human bodies were left to be picked clean by vultures, to protect Earth's purity) & the desert with the bikes.

This is Ove contemplating whether riding up right to the entrance of a Tower of Silence was really a good idea...


Well, I couldn't be stopped - running around off-road with someone to catch me in case I fell (for a change) was just too good an opportunity to pass.


After that Ove was swiftly revving the Beemer up the slope:


That's Ove with the bikes on the nice (albeit tiny) vantage point that we used to park right in front of the ancient cemetery...


Another old water storage/cooling building, with the cemetery in the background:


View from one Tower of Silence to another:


Then we rode out to a town called I-don't-remember-how (but it was due SE from Yazd for a good 100K), did some funny local shopping and then had a kick-ass picnic in a field we nearly got stuck in. It was a lovely afternoon, really.


And that was that for me and Yazd. The next day I packed my bags, greeted my fellow travelers slightly annoyed that I might never see them again and moved on. Next stop, Shiraz!

Posted by Alexandros Papadopoulos at December 28, 2009 10:49 AM GMT

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