What can I say about Iran apart from "wow". This is an amazing place, not a pretty place or a modern place, but so overwhelmingly friendly that it blows your mind. We have camped on two beaches (behind one of which lay a story which I will post at a later date), been brought cakes by farmers, invited into the home of a fine gentleman called Mustafa for dinner, bed and breakfast, and smiled and waved at everywhere we've been as if we are some kind of celebrities.
The message the people have mostly had is this: do not confuse the Iranian government with the Iranian people. I feel that I owe it to Iran to repeat that message to everyone I meet. What you see on News 24 isn't the whole story, it isn't even 10% of the story. The vast majority of Iranians are polite, friendly, servile, and incredibly well educated. We could learn a lot from them. In short, Iranians all act as if they are ambassadors for their country - if I had a pound for every time I have been told "Welcome to Iran" in the past week, I would be a rich man.
I feel like I am a rich man anyway - a tank of fuel is setting us back 100,000 Iranian Rials, which equates to just over $10. My supposedly stealthy shoulder-wallet has looked like some kind of breast under my tshirt for the past week. We've still got most of the damn stuff left, too: I reckon a week in Iran has cost me and Pepe no more than $50 each.
Iranian drivers are worthy of a blog all to themselves, so I'll save that rant for another time. Suffice to say, the first two paragraphs go flying out of the window the minute you put an Iranian behind the wheel of a car. I have never experienced such collective lunacy: they absolutely positively cannot queue for anything, and there is no priority at either junction or roundabout, save for the basic "survival of the loudest horn". Here at Team Young Offenders, though, we are all for adopting local customs, and have been leaving towns dazed and confused with liberal use of our rooster/police siren PA system.
Turkmenistan tomorrow with our legendary convoyers Tom and James. They're with us all the way to Samarkand and are subbing us for our Turkmen visas as neither Pepe nor I realised you couldn't withdraw cash in Iran with your Visa card. Note to self: buy Lonely Planet next time.
This is the last update until Uzbekistan as Turkmenistan isn't too hot on the old Net Cafe scene.Hopefully the next blog should be something along the lines of "Woohoo!!! We've got our sensor and can now do the Pamir Highway!"
Kind regards from Mashad,