Our decision to sleep by a village last night turned out to be a good one – not because we had any problems during the night but because of the flat tire we discovered when we woke up. The flat itself wouldn’t normally take long to fix but after plenty of arm-aching work we realised our pump was broken. It doesn’t make a good seal with the tire valve so even a brief pause in pumping lets all the air back out. Thank goodness for the friendly neighbours who reinflated the tire with their pump, poured us a glass of tea and sent us off with a bagful of fresh bread. They seemed amused by the stranded tourists we were so grateful for their help. Our only other option was to hitch a lift, missing out on some of the best descents of the whole journey from Shiraz.
Once on the road we worked hard to keep up a good speed, knowing there was a long day ahead in order to reach the Persian Gulf coastal city of Bushehr. After five days without a shower there was no question we wanted to get there but we weren’t sure we’d have enough light to make the distance. All was going well until we hit Ahram just after lunch and made the mistake of asking at a police station for water.
As we filled our bottles, the chief constable decided a thorough inspection of our passports was in order. Six other men abandonned their guardposts to come look at all our pretty stamps as the boss leafed through the pages. Five minutes later they finally got around to the Iranian visa but our man still wasn’t satisified. Phone calls were made. Glances exhanged. Eventually the phone was passed to Friedel. The conversation that followed was of head-banging proportions. Imagine trying to understand let alone answer questions from someone whose English is a bare minimum with at least two other people chiming in from the background. After going through “hello” and “how are you?” several times we got to this:
“Is it Mrs Friedel?”
“Where are you going?”
“Where are you going?”
“You want hotel?”
“You go Bushehr?”
“There are no hotels.”
“We don’t need one. We are staying with a friend.”
This clearly didn’t fit with their formula. There was a long pause, rumbled chatter in the background and then someone else got to practice their English. Again we went through “hello” and “how are you?” repeatedly before the killer question: “Do you speak Persian?”
Well really. If we spoke Farsi would we be trying to find a translator?? We handed the phone back with a look of ridicule for the policeman holding us up. Maybe by this time he’d had enough as well because he handed back our passports and sent us on our way.
By now we’d used up all the mountain descents and it was a dead flat run into Bushehr, complete of course with a little headwind. There was nothing to do but get on with it and we knocked off the remaining 50km surprisingly quickly. Trouble only came when we got lost in the city near dark but after going a fair distance out of our way we finally made it to the right place to meet our host Ali. We were completely shattered but Ali was so friendly we couldn’t help but smile. We are his first guests but it didn’t take him long to guess what we needed: food. After a sandwich the world was a much brighter place and we soon arrived at his uncle’s home in the city. Both Ali and his uncle Fatallah made us feel very much at home and we chatted for a few hours before collapsing into bed. Tomorrow is for exploring Bushehr (perhaps in the rain!) and then it’s back into the mountains for our return to Shiraz.