One of Iran's natural thermal springs.
flickr View my photo journal
I had been invited for what I believed was a day-out to see the natural sights of Iran. I was accompanied by a group of mountain-climbers, the average age of which topping 55-years young. They were a merry band of men, presenting a healthy repertoire of traditional songs, anecdotes, jokes, stories as well as healthy bulbous bellies. Like many activities for me in Iran I get very little notice and even less information about how one should be prepared, and, in this specific case, the day-trip turned into an over-night trip. I had only the clothes on my back (already worn for one day from an unexpected stay in Karaj the night before) and the usual list of phone-that doesn't-work, phone-that-does-work and digital audio-recorder, but thankfully I was to be well provided for by the lads.
Whilst descending for what was nearly a 45-degree decline on the dubious rocky ground of the Iranian mountains, our 4WDs bounced around, adhering to my wishes for this not-so-reassuring lump of human achievement to avoid the cliff edges. We weaved down, struggling to meet the turning circle needed for the tight corners and me itching to grab the steering wheel every other minute. The scenery was breath-taking and reminded me a little of the Grand Canyon, yet a little less jagged. We occasionally stopped to pick and eat wild fruit from the trees, not that my stomach needed this.
Arriving after a torturous hour-and-a-half descend, we made our way to a semi-adapted valley, fashioned with layers of open huts overlooking a thin stream, caked with half-consumed fruit and much litter - it always upsets how the Iranian folk take so little care of their country, carelesly dropping all manner of packaging wherever they stand. We unpacked and took care of important matters such as praying before making preparations for dinner. Prior to dinner we made our way to the synthetically enclosed thermal-spring/pool to edge our way into the piping-hot water.
The thermal-spring/pool was what I imagined the old Roman Baths to be like. It was roughly 15m x 5m and 1.5m deep - bubbling in part from the sandy floor. The water was very clear and had an odd carbonated taste. The experience was extremely pleasant - sitting in a near-uncomfortable heat of water with traditional Persian songs echoing around a candle-lit room.
Following this we ate an impressive meal while I discussed international politics with a former Iranian representative to the UN. I was locked into his stories of meeting Fidel Castro, working with the former Shah of Iran as well as his thoughts on current Middle East political struggles. I was enlightened of his perspective on current tussles between the US and Iran - suggesting that it's as much of a tussle between US and UK, what with the Iranian "politics" being so heavily influenced by the UK.
We rounded off the evening battling with bugs while a Tar (Iranian guitar/sitar) and flute-like instrument blended with the bending tones of traditional Iranian songs. We clicked our fingers in time between helpings of mellon (the name of which translates to donkey-goat) and much tea.
The following day we did the tortourous journey in reverse before making our way back through a small village where we had left a car that would not make the mountain-scape. I was equally as fascinated as the villagers there who seemed to have never seen cars like ours let alone city folk. For some reason their lifestyle seemed so appealing; so humble. I imagine how my life might be should I be left here, maybe they thought the opposite as both parties glared on without trying to appearing too rude. My uncle gifted some money to a young girl which resulted in a huge smile before she burst out in joy as he walked away. We drove off, staring at each other as our lives parted - reestablishing the distance and returning to our respective lives.