Part 4 of this blog can be found here.
We are up for an 8am breakfast then it is time to pack those final items. The mules will carry our large bags down to camp 1 so we just have our day sacks. Mehti wants to take a picture of the group in front of the shelter. This is done once our bags are piled up for the muleteers to collect. This they will do after we have left. It is a lovely day – no sign of any bad weather.
Mehti produces a banner advertising Kassa Tours for us to hold in the photos . All fine until we notice that it is the wrong one and is advertising Pik Lenin rather than Damavand. Still he stands so far back from the group to take the photos that I doubt of the wording on the banner will be visible anyway.
We make our way through the camp and on to the dusty trail down. There are lots of people on it, mainly coming up. Given some of the clothing being worn, I hope that many are just going to camp 2 for the day. But Damavand is a popular peak so who knows.
We stop once for drinks before continuing our downward track. At one point we come across a muleteer ascending whose mules decide to scatter across the hillside. This results in much laughter – poor chap. It takes him a while to gather them back together. At another spot, on a rocky knoll, a group is engaged in dancing. We decline their invitation to join in.
Soon we see the golden glistening of the mosque. Looking back up, the conditions at the summit seem to be more ominous.
And we are down. Our transport is not yet there. We will spend the night at the Polour shelter (base camp) as we are a day early coming down. We shelter under a large canvas awning and have tea. It is hot again. We also wait for our bags, but there is no sign of the mules. Eventually it is decided that we will leave anyway. The bags will catch us up. So we pile into the 4WDs that have now arrived.
First we return to the restaurant in Polour that we visited on the way in. The food is as good as before. This time there is barbecued fish in addition to the lamb and chicken. The fish is reared locally. The cooler water from snow melt hereabouts enhances the taste, apparently.
Next we go to the shelter. There is no sign yet of our bags. We are allocated a room with three sets of bunks, and plugs to recharge phones! Despite a promise of some, there is no wi-fi to report success home. We generally laze about. I am feeling good, no sign of tiredness or fatigue. Mehti produces some water melon that I am happy to eat – it all helps with rehydration.
After whiling away a couple of hours it is dinner time. There are snowflakes in the air. Although the summit is not covered, it looks very dismal on Damavand. If you cannot see the steam from the fumaroles up there, you know it is windy. We cannot see steam. It also looks a little whiter up there.
Whatever. We have our summit and it does not really matter what the conditions are like.
Eventually, after dark, the bags arrive.
The next morning our transport to Tehran arrives. It is the same modern people carrier we had to bring us to Polour. We squeeze in after our bags and are off. Majid has his own car there so we say goodbye to him. Mehti stays with us.
The windows are open in the vehicle to keep us cool and curtains are pulled back to enable us to watch the countryside pass by. We stop once for Mehti to buy some soft drinks. A couple of hours later we are back in Tehran at the hotel. Whilst we have been away the road in front of it has been torn up! So we are dropped at the end of the road and lug our heavy bags to the reception.
I share rooms again with Yde. We depart at separate times in the morning. Yde will be disturbed because I (and Neil) will leave at 4.30am. Yde is staying on another day for sightseeing. Arrvind has another week and is going south to Esfahan and Shiraz. Stu, Rob and Phil have flights later in the day.
En route to the hotel we discuss what to do with the remainder of the day and agree to hire a vehicle and guide to do some quick sightseeing of our own. We leave the hotel again at 2pm. First Rob and I insist on visiting a sportswear shop so we can buy authentic Iranian national football kits (don’t ask). Once that is done we visit two sites.
The first is the Azadi Tower located at the old western entrance to the city.
It is surrounded by some nice greenery and by a busy road that we risk our lives crossing.
And a hazy view towards Mount Tochal
There is a museum under it but it is closed this day.
Then we go on to the Milad Tower, distant pictures of which are in my first Iran blog. This is the 6th highest tower in the world and sits atop a ubiquitous shopping centre and a convention centre. In fact we arrive just before a group of visiting Korean dignitaries sweep in with their black limos and motorcycle outriders.
A trip up to the viewing floor is a must. So we part with some rials and take the lift up. Smog can spoil the views. Today it is not too bad and we have views all round.
And there is one to the north that shows Mount Tochal.
In the evening we have a celebratory meal. Unfortunately Neil is still under the weather. The food is indifferent, but OK. The water is good though!
We are joined not only by Mehti but also by Ahmad, one of the owners of Kassa Tours (the in-country agents who have done very well for us). Ahmad dishes out certificates.
My thoughts on Iran? It was an interesting place to visit. The people we met were invariably friendly and, often, curious. The educated classes tend to speak English, though it seemed to be the case that other nationalities were looking to exploit the easing of tensions more so than the British. The food is interesting. The traffic is manic. The place is a lot better served infrastructure-wise than I had expected. Tehran is only worth a short visit. Arrvind had the right idea, I think, to spend more time exploring the cultural aspects of the country. That is what I would do if, as I hope may be the case, I visit the country again.
It is also a bureaucratic place, exemplified by the fact that Neil and I had to queue for an hour at the airport to show our passports just to get out of the country. Perhaps with the signing of the nuclear deal things will improve for those with British (and American, Canadian and Australian) passports. But the political situation moves fast. What with Syria/Iraq and the potential face-off between the Saudis and Iran once sanctions are relieved, perhaps things will become trickier.
So now may be the time to visit. I hope you have enjoyed reading these blogs.