No river came to wash us away last night but we did have another exciting evening, this time with entertainment from some locals. We’d just settled into our sleeping bags and started to relax when we heard voices approaching with the inevitable call of “Hello Mister” coming towards us at top volume. Groan. At the risk of sounding seriously grumpy, socialising is the last thing we want to do once we’ve crawled into our tent, particularly when we know the person heading our way speaks next to no English and really just wants to gawk at the tourists. In theory, you can avoid this situation by sneaking off to camp when no one is looking but in Iran people seem to pop up everywhere and it’s a rare night indeed when someone doesn’t notice us rolling off into a corner. We’d just spent the afternoon teaching the local English student his lessons, followed by six people who watched us set up camp and one who supervised our evening meal. Now we were ready for some quiet time to ourselves but it wasn’t to be.
As Andrew stuck his head out to fend off our unwanted guests he was greeted by a large video camera and a startlingly bright light. “Hello Mister!” our two visitors cried again in unison, in case we hadn’t heard them the first time. That must have been the hundredth time we’d heard that phrase in the past eight hours or so. They then stuck the camera in our tent, trying to get a good look around while Friedel was struggling to pull on her hijab, surprised by the unexpected visit. Much laughter followed from the two men but we were on the other end of the scale, feeling like caged animals that people come to poke a stick at every so often for their own amusement. A few choice words from us seemed to get the message across and they backed off quickly, laughing all the way back home no doubt. We had a chuckle ourselves afterwards at these crazy Iranians who are so desperate to get a look at some foreigners but at the time we were more than a little annoyed.
We did manage to doze off later in the evening and woke up feeling surprisingly fresh. Any sleep in our eyes was quickly washed away by a cold splash in the river and then we were on our way, past the rock reliefs of Bishapur and into the town of Kazeroon. Here we cycled around relatively unnoticed. Only when Friedel went to do emails and Andrew was left with the bikes did a few people start to take notice of us, including one man who kept rambling on about poems and of course several dozen who wanted to know where Mister was from.
In case we give the wrong impression, let there be no doubt that the Iranians are lovely people. When you want to ask directions, anyone will stop in their tracks to help you find your way and their honesty and sincerity is beyond reproach. Unfortunately, their friendliness and determination to talk to a foreigner also means it is completely impossible to have a few quiet minutes to yourself to make a shopping list or read a map without being surrounded by a dozen onlookers, all speaking to you in Farsi even though you have no hope of understanding each other. Add into this the favourite questions of “Where are you from?” and “Are you a tourist?” (repeated everytime someone new joins the group) and by the end of the day you can feel like your brain is about to explode.
It was with more than a little relief that we left the bustle of Kazeroon behind in the afternoon – stopping only to buy petrol but being given some instead by a mechanic who refused all payment – and headed through some quiet farming villages on the edge of a lake. We stopped early to let the last of the sun warm our backs before we set up our tent in a little valley overlooking the water. A few farmers working until dusk came by to see if we needed anything and check we weren’t cold before they went home for the night. So far, our evening has been a quiet one with no more video cameras in sight. Thank goodness for that!
In the morning, before we left for the day, we had a surprise visitor in our tent. Check out the video: