Day 28 Tabriz to Erzurum

Before we begin today’s adventure, we have to complete last night. A notice appeared on the message board that we would all be picked up at 7:45 for a dinner that would be hosted by the Vice President of Iran and the Motorcycle and Automobile Federation of Iran – would everyone please try to attend. Considering I had just finished yesterday’s blog and uploaded it at 7:15 I thought it might be a bit of a rush. Lloyd had been servicing the car and needed a shower and when I went through the lobby at 7:15 and the hosts were trying to get everyone into cars to take them where ever this reception was to be held, it was definitely a rush job.

In any event, we all managed to get squared away and presentable at the front door to be picked up – Lloyd was presentable enough to have his picture taken with the only female team – that is Suzy Harvey on the left and Rachel Vestey on the right, both from the UK (they can’t wait to remove their head covering).


Off we went to an unknown destination at breakneck speed with one of the Federation members in a Paykan (an Iranian Hillman Hunter) – there are no words to describe how these people manage to avoid horrible accidents.

Having no idea what to expect, we were led into a theater with a short slide show showing information about the Peking to Paris Rally and other selected topics about Iran. While minding my own business (and wondering what this was all about like everyone else), I was approached by this very nice Iranian woman speaking perfect English if I would accompany her to be interviewed by an Iranian radio station. Not knowing any better I went along to see what this was all about. The interviewer asked, through the Iranian woman, where I was from (don’t know if they knew I was an American), why I was on the rally and what my impressions of Iran to date had been. I was able to handle these questions thanks in part to our Iranian friends in the States who had assured me that the people in Iran would be very friendly which I hardily confirmed.

Next came a very formal presentation from the master of ceremonies (left below) first apologizing for the fact that the Vice President (who supposedly created this event) was not available and then proceeding to introduce a long litany of officials from the local areas who had ostensibly made the event possible. Next came the introduction of the Vice President of the Motorcycle and Automobile Federation of Iran (middle) who spoke of the Peking to Paris Rally and the upcoming Asian motorcycle championships to be held in the next couple of months in Iran. Next Phillip Young of ERA thanked all the dignitaries for their assistance in allowing the rally to pass through Iran. I believe the gentleman on the right in all the pictures from the Automobile Federation who was interpreting for the speakers actually did all the work to make this happen. This was an interesting experience in Iranian culture.

 

This is a terrible picture of our friend Liz and Greg Newton from Australia – very fierce competitor and a very tired couple – lovely people.

Just a quick shot of the hotel on our way to the border – the Pars Hotel in Tabriz.

A few parting pictures of Iran on our way to the border. This is a country that for the most part is caught in a time warp from the last 70’s.

 

Housing here is a real problem – some of these dwelling are just mud huts …


A little bit of fuel to get rid of all our Iranian Rial …


The last check point in Iran to make sure everyone departed …


These flags flew jointly at the top of the hill at the border – a nice touch (Turkey on the left and Iran on the right) …


Pulling away from the border on the Turkey side the line of trucks trying to cross into Iran was over 3 km. long – I have no idea how long they have been waiting.

 

That is Mount Ararat in the clouds – too bad … You probably all remember that this is the place in the Book of Genesis where Noah’s Ark came to rest after the great flood. The summit of Mt. Aararet is 5,165 meters above sea level – higher than any mountain in the continental United States except for Alaska or Europe outside the Caucasus. Aararat is a dormant volcano which last erupted on June 2, 1840. The upper third of the mountain (which you can’t see) is covered with snow all the time – the last hundred meters of snow at the top have turned to ice.


Once in to Turkey, the differences were readily apparent – the housing had windows and was colorful …

 

The roads were interesting …


Here the road on the right just went into a sink hole which they were working on – glad it wasn’t dark …


And the mountains were spectacular as they are everywhere in this region of the world …

 

And oh yes, we stopped for fuel to discover that it sells for over $12 a gallon – think we were a little shocked (and didn’t believe it) when it cost $230 to fill our tank – hope it lasts a long time. Gasoline in Turkey we later learned is the most expensive in the world – has something to do with taxes – go figure.

Our hotel for the night, the Polat Renaissance Erzurum Hotel resembled a ski resort which it may well be as we are still quite high (the GPS is still in the car but I believe we are at about 6000 feet) – very nice accommodations.


After 3 days in Iran, the bar was quite crowded in our first night in Turkey – you might recognize some of these characters from prior photos.

 

Just as a closing thought, while we were waiting to fuel at the checkpoint shown above, a gentleman appeared in the window of the car. He offered as a welcome present the little fruit plate below from a local classic car club – what a nice gesture.

Some final thoughts / notes to our recent experiences. Unfortunately, many of the cars have suffered damage and the well-being of everyone in the open cars has been threatened by young kids throwing stones at the passing cars. I have no idea if this is normal behavior, if they think they are just having fun or if they intend to seriously injure someone. This behavior began when we first entered Iran and has now carried over into Turkey. While no one has been seriously injured, many cars now have broken windshields and other damage. Some competitors have threatened to withdraw if this continues and who can blame them. The rally cannot police the streets nor apparently can the local police – we’ll have to see tomorrow.

Also, on our first evening in Iran on the way from the border, young kids on motorcycles came up on one of the cars, pulled open the back door and pulled out a case containing the passports and other valuables of the driver and navigator then sped off. What a wonderful welcome. We wish the individuals affected the best of luck in obtaining temporary documents from their Embassy in Teheran at great expense to them and rejoining us as quickly as possible.

I don’t mean to seem negative about this region but these are the things you read about and hope don’t actually happen – sad news is that they do.

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3 Responses to Day 28 Tabriz to Erzurum

  1. Spencer Merz says:

    I was in the Med between 1952 and 1954, visited Istanbul on several occasions courtesy of the US Navy. My recollections were that the Turks hated the Greeks and this was reciprocated, and there was not a parking problem anywhere. Lucky you! The stone-throwing at autos leaves me baffled. In my time the Turks loved the Americans – .

    S.

  2. I am fascinated by your experiences. A little saddened to learn of the rock throwing and of the daring theft, from a motorcycle no less. I suppose I have heard of those things happening elsewhere and to other than Americans. I prefer to believe that Americans may simply be more worthwhile targets than others, rather than think thieves have a defined political biases. On the other hand, the gift of fruit is a nice touch.
    I am also amazed by the architectural diversity and apparent quality of the hotels you visit as contrasted by their surroundings. Are there enough travelers to sustain these operation year round? Can’t wait to learn more. Peter

  3. Larry Fredette says:

    Chuck,

    The challenges you have faced during your journey both physical and mechanical in nature are minor to the challenges that some parts of the 3rd world continue to experience in cultural and religious bias. This should reinforce the absolute fortune we have in living in the most free country in the world.

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