INTO THE IRANIAN DESERT – SWIMMING IN THE DESERT! 1976

THURSDAY 11TH NOVEMEBER, 1976

“In the daylight we could see quite dramatic cliffs behind us and a little village close to tents.  The usual crowd of spectators gathered (some on bicycles) to watch the morning ritual.

First stop was at a fabulous swimming pool, made from a fresh spring – beautifully blue and clear with trees round it.  Six of us decided to brave the cold water – me, Nikki, Chris, Mark, Rob and Diane.  Cold at first, but stayed in quite a bit because so refreshing.  Then sat around in the sun.  Talked about Rose Street [in Edinburgh, famous for its pubs]  Diane had worked for 6 months at the Tankard Lounge (Paddie’s Bar).
Next stop was in a little town – kids swarmed around bus – could hardly get away.  Mary [a very independent New Zealander] got left behind!  Apparently there’s always hassle there.  Had sandwiches (butties) outside town.
Saw Qanats

-outer signs of underground irrigation systems –
mounds of earth with deep shaft in the middle.

[Iranians have been digging these ingenious water tunnels for over 2000 years and this traditional method of water supply is still very important in these desert regions.  They also feature in my novel  THE VANISHING OF RUTH]

Scenery becoming more and more barren and dry.  Tried to shop in Neyriz but couldn’t even find any bread – must close down for siesta time.

Climbed up terrible mountain road, bit like Suardal [family home on Isle of Skye – see my memoir BEATLES & CHIEFS for tales of a 60s childhood] track in places  (except the hairpin bend variety!)
Great view over a lake; mountains spectacular too – sheer rock faces and jagged peaks.  On other side, road riddled with channels and some under pools of water.  Got stuck in one channel!  Back of bus wedged into bank – all got out and pushed.

Came across group of people sitting by side of the road – women swathed in black – obviously a bus stop!

Camped on rocky ground again – inside of tent like a series of mole hills – so many bushes under tent!”

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DUSTY ROAD TO PERSEPOLIS & SHOPPING AFTER DARK – Iran, 1976

TUESDAY 9TH NOVEMBER, 1976

After a cold shower and sweeping out of dusty bus, went into Esfahan for couple of hours.  Went to bank in Bazaar again – no cay this time!  Wandered round a bit.  Took Jan up to little workshop of printers again and took photo – think they thought we were mad.

Went and had banana milkshake in square again.  Walked down side street and bought biscuits and yoghurt.  Back to milk stall where lots had gathered and sat till bus came.

Scenery – plains with small scrub and mountains in background; rather like cowboy country.  Stopped at cay shop along wayside

– little boy demanded his photo be taken.

Lovely noise of goats bells as huge herd of black goats made their way along cliff path behind the cay shop.

Stopped for shopping after dark and were shown around by an Iranian on a bicycle.

Drove on quite late and camped by a bridge.”

LANTERNS MADE OUT OF MELONS FOR GUY FAWKES! IRAN 1976

Iran is often portrayed negatively in the news these days, so it is strange to re-read the first impressions of my 18 year-old self, this time 36 year ago –  curious, excited, naive and glad to be there.

“Breakfast outside customs house, to amusement of lorry drivers.  Iran!
Small villages below hills – the hills and plains are very light in colour.  Dress is different – men with jumpsuits and boots and striking turbans.  Women with veils down to the ground, very light floaty material, often with jeans on underneath!
Rezaiyeh – first stop for money.  All banks closed because of festival of burning of prophets.  Lots of flags etc.  Towns seem to have ornamental rounds in middle of them, with statues and plastic animals etc.  Fountains not working.  Nice town, found money changer in bazaar.  Had a cay and first Iranian sticky cake! (Thurs – Neva’s gutsy day!)

People curious not pressing like Turks.  Lunch was flat waffery bread and tomato – bread a bit like cardboard.

Stopped later in smaller town for few minutes – nice biscuits and cakes and lots of nuts.  More picturesque costumes – people friendly.  Little boy saluted me as I got into bus!

Camped by river as sun going down – lovely orange sky, and pink in east.  Herds of sheep and goats.
Iranians came and looked round bus – perhaps looking for drugs.  Stood around while we ate.
Cut up melons and hollowed out faces for Guy Fawkes Night.  Didn’t have fire.”

WILD CAMPING, WILD SWIMS & WILD ANIMALS – EASTERN TURKEY 1976

Extract from my overland diary from 36 years ago. Can’t believe I was so wimpy as to not join the wild Turkish swimmers …

WEDNESDAY 3RD NOVEMBER, 1976

“Camped by Lake Van – deserted hotel right on shore.  Very cold – ice on flysheet again.
Beautiful situation, clear cold morning.  Lake and mountains divided by a light mist, brilliant sunshine on Lake.  Behind were snow capped mountains.

Turks swimming and hunting near us – very noisy as usual.  Geoff [driver] told us as we left that often wolves and bears here in Nov in the area!  Lovely view along Lake, climbed higher – 7000 ft up.  Above snow line later in day.

Stopped to spend last lire in little town – great curiosity.  Booze shope discovered – but I’d spent mine by then!  Veiled woman fell in river – couldn’t see where she was going.

Road blocked because of blasting – one blast, then we gathered to take pictures of 2nd go.  Made us all move back – general chaos.  Little man climbing about on rocks, no one seemed to take much notice.  Had to wait after blast for bulldozers to move in; then followed sheep trucks etc over rickety new road.

Last stop in Turkey for cay – after dark, men appeared from nowhere, pressing all around, especially in cay shop.  [Geoff ordered back on bus.]  On way out, all got touched up, really horrible.

Drove late to get over border because of what happened to other trips on that road.  Dossed down in customs hall for night!  Had some lovely cherry liqueur!  Vicious looking sheep dog – in fact not aggressive.  (Can hold own vs wolves).”