Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Yazd and crossing the desert to Mashhad (02.09.2014 - 07.09.2014)

Next was Yazd, city at the edge of the desert. Much of the old town is unchanged as the inhabitants just moved to the outskirts into new(er) buildings. Quite distinctive are the many wind catchers used to ventilate and cool the buildings. A visit to the water museum was great to get to know more about the extensive network of qanat of the old days. You can still see the mole-like hills in a line but nowadays the water gets to the cities by means of water pumps.
Lastly we visited a former sky burial grounds, called Dakhma. In Zoroastrianism it was believed that dead bodies are polluted and to avoid contamination of the earth they where put a top so called towers of silence and offered to the sun and birds.

To reach the the Turkmen border and get our visa we had to cross the desert to Mashhad. To split up the more than 700km journey we camped next to one of these abandoned buildings in the middle of nowhere.
The next day we reached Mashhad and were in for a surprise. Our lousy preparations had us not ready for this city at all. As it turns out it is one of the most holy place for Shia Islam and of course one of the holiest persons, Imam Reza which is buried here, had its anniversary during our stay. So the city was super crowded and traffic next to impossible. We finally found (an expensive) place to stay after driving around for quite a while and just crashed exhausted on our beds.

An early start had us at the Turkmen embassy where we got our transit visa, yeah! No more guessing how to reach Uzbekistan (Afgahnistan? ^^) or how to drive home (Russia?).
After this was done we switched accommodation and stayed at Wali's guest house. The place was rather shabby and dirty but way cheaper and there where some fellow travelers to chit chat.
Mission of the day was to find a car wash. As absurd it may sound: you get a 25$ fine if you enter Ashgabat with a dirty car...

To reach the border in time we were up again early the next day and headed north into the mountains. Traffic diminished more and more until there was nobody else on the street.
At Bagjiran, the Iranian border, we got our passport stamped, paid some dude 30$ (bribe, fine or toll? Still cheaper than the expected 100$ for the car, we didn't complain) and the locked gate was opened for us. Not many cars seem to come through here...