Travel Journal Overview: The actual border crossing into Iran was no hassle. Travel was easy it seemed. I met two Syrians at the exit gates from Turkey, exchanged the usual how? why? and where? questions and they moved on. I then crossed into Iran alone …
A tanned hand reached into the throng as I was about to ask for the nearest local bus to Maku. It was taller of the two Syrians.
“You go Tehran?”
“No,” I replied. “I go to Maku and then Tabriz.”
The Syrian smiled. “We go to Tabriz as well. If you want we can take shared taxi. It will be faster.”
“How much?” I asked as various numbers were shouted at me from the throng of taxi men.
The Syrian pointed to a car. “We have already go one. 7,000 Toman.”
I was about to confirm my understanding of the cost when I realized I had no idea what a ‘Toman’ was. Iranian Currency was Rial, I had some in my pocket that said this. According to the guide-book this was sometimes referred to as the Kommenni, nothing about a ‘Toman’. I was buggered. If they knew I didn’t know what the currency was they could have a field day with me. I listened carefully to what the other taxi men were shouting as I delayed by shuffling with my bags. It was true. Some were saying Toman, others Rial. There were even a few Kommeni’s, Dollars and Euros mentioned as well. I went for the safe route and stuck with what I knew.
“I thought it was about forty thousand Rial for a taxi.” It had been a figure I had read somewhere.
A group of taxi men laughed. The Syrian pulled me close. “This man he offer seven thousand Toman each. He start at ten thousand. But they cheat you here in this country. All the time.”
Still not knowing what a Toman was worth I tried again. “So how much last, in Rial does he need?”
The Syrian saw my confusion but seemed to put me down as either being culturally unaware or stupid before uttering the magic words. “Seventy Thousand Rial.”
With that it made sense. Toman was the equivalent to the rial divided by one hundred. It was easier to write than lots or zero’s for one thing. We agreed with the driver and bargained him down by another one thousand Toman, or ten thousand Rial. Then I packed my bags into the back and headed for the front seat which no one was in. No one else was getting in. Something was up. I looked at the Syrian and shrugged.
He pointed at the taxi man and shrugged back. “He say he need one more. Then we can go.”
As we waited for one more unsuspecting passenger to pounced upon by our grubby taxi man I was offered lunch with the Syrians. Noodles and lamb. Not quite Iranian, but definitely border town. The wait continued for another hour, which developed into another two. Few people were coming through the border gates. It was already 1pm and I was worried about getting into Tabriz too late. I was planning on heading straight to the infamous tabriz tourist office to get help with accommodation. The office was run by two brothers that had become very popular through online forums. It was Thursday and I was sure they would be closed on the Islamic holiday of Friday which meant I would miss the opportunity.
Some local people wandered through the gate. A mass of scruff taxi men descended upon them. Our taxi man was busy smoking under the shade of a poplar tree. The tall Syrian did not take this too well and neither did I. We stormed over. I was at a disadvantage immediately. The two men began gruff conversation in Farsi, or possibly Arabic for all I knew. I cut in every now and then with offers of paying for the extra seat. It was only the equivalent of four euros and it would speed the whole day up. Unbeknown to me it seemed they might have been discussing something else. The Syrians fat counterpart walked over and words were exchanged. I thought my offer to pay for the extra seat had worked. I was wrong.
The Syrian looked at me and took out a cigarette. “These people you cannot trust.”
Not trusting anyone I looked over as the Syrians squat counterpart opened up the boot of the car.
“You don’t trust them here OK?.”
I nodded as made my way over to the taxi. The squat man had disappeared over to another car further down the road. I counted the passengers in the car. Three. Turning I caught a glimpse of the Syrian that had befriended me as he looked the other way and made his way to the other Taxi. Without a wave or a goodbye the two men who had asked me to join them made off with two other passengers.
My scruffy Taxi man moved over beside me looking quite stunned.
“Arab Bastards!” He muttered.
I looked at him nodded in agreement.
“Forty US dollar and I drive you to Tabriz.”
I laughed. “My Friend, I am going to Maku like I should have done. From there I will pay two thousand Toman for a Bus to Tabriz.”
The taxi man looked at me in mild amusement at my knowledge. “Arab Bastards.” He repeated, before taking me to a local taxi mad that for five hundred Rial would drive me to Maku.
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