We had been back on the road soon after a few relaxing Gilan days. My humongous Iran road trip had just been half way and it had started sapping my enthusiasm badly. My initial plan had included a visit to Badab-e-Sourt hot springs in Mazandaran province and a beautiful natural phenomenon, it had been similar to spectacular Pammukale in Turkey. The distance between the two cities however had been nearly 400 kilometers and Tiam had ominously warned me to expect worse hotel standards there.

The terrible Gilan hotel experience had left me shaken me badly and the food had made me violently sick. I had reached a point when I had wanted a cozy bed at the end of the day and road rage had started rearing its ugly head. So I had changed the itinerary and we driven towards the popular ski resort of Dizin. It had turned out to be a terrible idea and the drive to beautiful Dizin had seemed like a never ending journey. Summer holidays had spilled the whole of Iran on the road and they had all seemed to be heading that way. The roads from Gilan had been choc a block crowded and rain had created huge puddles on pot holes. Surprisingly the roads in that area, unlike rest of Iran had been pretty bad and rain, sludge and serpentine traffic.

The route however had been very pretty and we had skirted along the beautiful Caspian Sea. Pretty places like Ramsar had popped up now and then and softly curving green mountains had bordered one side of the road. Orchards, blooming gardens and fragrant pine forests had dotted the rolling landscape and a breathtaking cable car had zipped from the mountains to the sea. It had been late evening by the time, we had crossed Ramsar and the rain had made the traffic move at snail’s pace. By the time the little hill station of Chaloos had appeared the wet evening had deepened into dusk and the blinding rain had obscured visibility. Chaloos had stood at a slightly lower altitude than Dizin and although, only a few hours away, the deadlocked traffic had made our destination an impossible dream.

Hunger and exhaustion had made us give up on our Dizin dream too and we had stopped over at Chaloos for the night. Finding a hotel at Chaloos had also been quite a task and we had driven around in the rain, until we had found one. It had come with a restaurant, some rooms to let and they had been enough to make me overlook the mouldy carpet, a tiny closet bathroom, squat toilet and squashed mosquitoes on the wall. We had needed a place to rest for the night and on that cold, rainy Iranian night it had been perfect. Travel is a hard taskmaster at times and one of the biggest lessons, it teaches is being able to adjust. So I had adjusted that night in a stinky mosquito filled obscure Iranian hotel with exhausted Ashkan snoring thunderously on the couch and had spent the night listening to rain, which had reminded me of wet evenings back home in Calcutta. Needless to say, I had spent a sleepless night and it had been at the first flush of dawn, when I had dragged a sleepy Ashkan back on the road. Tehran had been on my mind and I had hoped to miss the holiday traffic with our early start. I had also been looking forward to the stretch between Chaloos and Tehran and according to Tiam, it had been one of the most beautiful drives in the country.

It had indeed been spectacularly beautiful and the sheer amount of natural diversity had been very mind boggling. Immediately upon leaving Chaloos, our little beat up car had bravely plowed through lush misty cloud forests and ancient, empty and dripping with mist, they had resembled a lost world. The road also had been hauntingly empty and we had stopped there for tea to watch a pale sunrise. The peaceful beauty of the place had been very moving and for some time, the sleeping planet had seemed achingly innocent. And it had belonged to us, the entire vista of dripping ferns, clouds and a silver sun and we had gratefully basked in those silent blessed hours. The world had magically come alive with the restless sun and quickly sounds had filled the space. Broken from our spell, we too had resumed our drive and soon had left behind the beautiful fern filled dew dripping tunnel to head towards the capital. Bored morning fish sellers had looked at us with gummy eyes as we had slowly passed by them and their fresh catch had glistened from colourful wooden boxes. The cloud forest had disappeared just as suddenly as it had started and immediately in its place, brown stony mountains had taken over the landscape.

The mountains had been as harsh as the forests had been soft and along with them had appeared series of endless tunnels. They had been bored through the heart of the ancient rock structures and sometimes had cut beautiful artificial gaps, through which ribbons of traffic had snaked past. Beautiful green rivers had tumbled along with the way and heavily fruiting pomegranate forests had dotted the brown in clumps. It had been the pear and chinar tree (similar to maple) region and young ruby red leaves had crowned the branches like fire. It had been the fruiting season and ripe golden orbs of pears had scented the mountain air slightly sickly sweet.

It had been a lovely day, befitting the beautiful region and for once we had relaxed, shopped and cruised along at a leisurely place. The whole route had been one huge fruit market and we had munched on pears, peaches and grapes bought from a farmer on the highway. Hours had flown pleasantly past and we had driven until our lunch break at Kharaj. It had been at a traditional Iranian restaurant by the river and we had rested, gorged on  the delicious fried fish, a Kharaj specialty and enjoyed the crisp noon sunshine. It had been too lovely for words, almost like a poetry with a gurgling river, blooming roses and sun that had felt perfectly mellow. The noise and bustle of Chaloos had seemed like another planet and we had rested there until late noon. It had been one of our rare leisurely moments, when Ashkan and I had bonded wordless during our entire road trip and for both of us, it had been much deserved break from the constant road weariness.

We had left for Tehran with late noon sun and the huge city had appeared quickly. It had brought along with it, noise, traffic and lots of dust and I had watched Tehran shimmer in pollution haze in the sunlight. Reputed to be one of the world’s most polluted cities, the picturesque Iranian capital had been last on my favorite places list and bad memories from my previous visits had flashed through my mind. Street art, Azadi Tower and beautiful people had blazed past my awe struck eyes, as Imam Khomeini had stared at us from every  where. Contrast, extremes and magnificence had been overwhelming as Tehran had welcomed us with half open arms. It had been time to do a full circle and revive the place from where it all had started, the first journey of Maverickbird.

Some photos used here have been taken from internet.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE

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We had left

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Rasht early

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And headed towards

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Small town of Chaloos

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Rain, mist and

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Crazy traffic had left us

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Badly delayed

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And we had stopped at Chaloos

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For the night

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Tehran however had been

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On our minds

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So we had continued

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Towards beautiful Kharaj

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It had been a lovely drive

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Past orchards

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Flowers and rivers

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Tehran had appeared soon

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Bringing with it magnificence

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And bitter sweet Iranian memories