Into the Iranian Desert in Yazd, wrapping things up, and preparing for Pakistan

Travel Journal Overview: A desert loop trip outside of Yazd with mud citadels, mosques and wild dogs. More towers of silence climbing and saying goodbye to Christine. It was nearly time for me to leave …

Kharanaq  a Mud Citidel in Yazd
Kharanaq a Mud Citidel in Yazd

With a full group of four, Christine, Mark, Dmitri and myself decided to head off on LP’s recommended Desert Loop Trip. Asrobat was first on the list. It’s basically and abandoned town. A ghost town for lack of a better term. Mud brick houses are lined up like any other in a city plan. Some with cellars, others with stables. All empty and eerily desolate. Well preserved wind towers jut out at several points around the town, usually with groups of 4 -5 towers.

At their base were cellars where water could be stored, or food kept. We wandered thorough this deserted town. It was silent but for the wind blowing down the empty streets. I climbed into some of the houses through door less frames and broken walls. There was no furniture, no evidence of ever being inhabited bar one or two blackened patches on at the center of larger buildings. A sign that that fires had been lit a some stage by people seeking shelter. No rubbish, or refuse was left behind. No trace of anyone at all.A ghost town in Iran

The village of Chak Chak was next after another hour on the desert road. This place held the promise of a shrine perched beneath a towering cliff face in the desert the most sacred of all Zoroastrian mountain shrines. Chak Chak actually means Drip Drip derived from the ever dripping spring located at the mountain. Legend has it that these drops are tears of grief that the mountain sheds in remembrance of Nikbanou an ancient woman who prayed to a Zoroastrian God to protect her from attacking enemies, the mountain opened up and took her inside to protect her. At the top where the temple is located in a grotto entered through by two large bronze doors. The shrine itself is floored with marble and its walls are dark wet walls are illuminated by fires kept eternally burning within the sanctuary. There is another legend here that states that the Nikbanou drove a sword deep into the mountain, and so the mountain has been crying ever since.

Main road through the Desert in mid Iran
Main road through the Desert in mid Iran

Our final destination was Kharanaq, a huge Mud Citadel in the desert that has also been abandoned. The difference here is that Kharanaq is served by a giant aqueduct that irrigates the surrounding fields of vegetables and vines. They’ve also restored the Qajar-era mosque, have a 17th-century shaking minaret and caravansary. But beyond all that the most enjoyable thing is the giant dark mud citadel itself. Getting lost in its labyrinth of corridors, rooms, and entrance ways is very Indiana Jones.

On the rooftops or from hidden windows you can stare out at the beautiful scene of a a lush green field in the desert, next to a single colorful mosque all flanked by a mountain backdrop. A tourist is said to have fallen through one of the roof’s, and its easy to see how. The whole place is crumbling apart. It’s here we witnessed an archway that resembled a skull, and inside the mosque we saw a shrine that had the appearance of housing a body. Along our high top Aqueduct walk we were accompanied beneath by a man on a motorbike tearing through the desert landscape with a boy on the back brandishing a long rifle.

During the day’s activities we stopped to eat a ready prepared meal by our driver of flat bread, and an aubergine stew along with chai of course. It was here we realized that Dimitri’s youthful age refused to let him quit, and leave his constant arguing with Christine about the most frugal of things alone. Christine was far from the type of person one tries to get a verbal win over, but Dmitri just would not stop. It took a strange confession from Christine to bring silence at last. Apparently she was no longer in contact with her brother in law, a loan of money had not been repaid leading to Christine having to sell her house in Italy. It was here, out of the blue, that she confessed to telling this story once before on a train ride. An Italian man had seen her upset, and asked why. She told him the full story. He apologized and told her that he had lied about his name. But, for good reason. He was a hitman. And a semi retired one at that. But her story evoked him, and if she wanted too he could be of free service to her. Dmitri was silent after that.

Doors to Chak Chak
Doors to Chak Chak

Mark had left the next morning and I spent the day with Christine helping her find a few places and meeting up with some of the guests. But a bit later she annoyed me greatly with her as she started to call people stupid for not speaking English. I needed a break and made my excuses to leave as she headed off to the Gardens, not my kind of place anyway. It was by coincidence that the bikers traveling from India to Europe arrived today. I met up with Mike from Ireland and Jean from France with Paul from the hotel and spent time talking about their travels. We decided to have dinner together along with some of the other guests. Christine appeared but sat alone. I felt guilty for not inviting her over, but then she did know most of us there. Later I went up to her to chat and found out she was leaving tomorrow. We agreed to meet for breakfast.

Christine was in better form today. Insisting on helping me with where to go in India once I got there, I hadn’t the heart to tell her I was not that interested in the place. But she talked on about it anyway and it made her happy. She was heading to Tehran, and I was sad to see her go, also anxious that she would be aright. For all her bluntness, sharp words and verbal onslaughts she was a good person and had made me laugh more than once. We wished each other well, and I waited with her until the taxi arrived.

I spent the rest of the day with Dali roaming around the old part of the city before meeting up with the bikers to head for a sunset at the Towers of Silence. We headed to Hotel Mehir for a lavish, and cheap dinner cooked by an Iranian with a handle bar moustache the size of some peoples forearms.

The two bikers Mike and Jean headed off in the morning and I spent the rest of the day with Dali. She was intelligent and quick witted, a former ITN reporter. We spent most of the time wandering the streets, talking of my travel into Emergency Rule Pakistan and her travels in India. This I figured would be my last few hours of relaxation. In the evenings we all huddled around an outdoor heater that resembled a nuclear reactor in the courtyard.

Yazd was very enjoyable, Paul had extended his time there, as had I. And for good reason, though Yazd did suffer from a 2-5pm siesta everyday it was the best place I had been in Iran. The sights were excellent, the locals were friendly and there were god travelers passing through. I had met everyone from a German Opera Singer to a Reuters report on a sabbatical there. I had met Paul who was heading in the same direction as me, albeit on a bike. And we met several others who had either been refused entry or decided against going through Pakistan due to the continued Emergency rule. It gave us time to laugh about it, and ponder about it. Either way, I was about to go there.

My last day in Yazd, and indeed Iran. I spent the morning on the internet and getting my bus ticket to Zahedan. A group formed at 3pm to see me off. I big lunch of spaghetti and ordered sandwiches for the journey. My nerves were up. I was apprehensive about the bus journey, tales had been filtering in for months about bandits on the road through Bam to Zahedan and on towards the border. Just in the last month a Belgian couple had been taken, and later released as had a French couple, but a Japanese tourist had been taken by drug gangs and nothing had been heard of him. Emergency Rule in Pakistan was all over the news. I was surely on edge.

I gave Dali a big hug goodbye and left for my bus, forgetting to pay for the sandwiches as I left. I had already given Ali a tip for the discounted room, so it didn’t bother me too much. I climbed on board my fateful bus and sat next to a Pakistani man who had an obsession with playing games on his mobile phone. Every time the bus stopped he would make a run for the door quite literally. Not much help to me when we would arrive at Zahedan.

Evening fell and with it we passed by the earthquake flattened town of Bam. I would have like to have seen it. But from travellers reports and my own instinct it would not have been worth it. passing through it now, I believe I was right.

The bus was hot, and it made me sweat. I tried to doze, but all that passed through my mind was ‘when will the bandits come’. We stopped periodically at police check points, and it became clear how bandits could dress like the police. Scruffily dressed soldiers marched on board. Checking random identification. Bar mine. The bus continued on through the hot night towards the border.

Some related links from this website that  you might like: (including a lot more photographs from Iran)

Stories: Feeling Low on the Road, in Iran

Stories: Iranian women, and the others I met in Iran

My Iran country guide

Resources: How to Guide – Iran to Pakistan overland

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