Shiraz, Iran: Broken Bus & No Wine in Shiraz

Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
Trip End Feb 06, 2014

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Flag of Iran  , Fars,
Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Up and out the door by 9:30am we headed straight to the bus terminal thinking it would be as easy as it was to get the bus to Esfahan. Wrong. The first desk we approached told us their next bus was at 3:00pm. Doh. Luckily the time went down as we worked our way around the square bus terminal, eventually settling with one departing at 11:45am.

All aboard and off we go. Not as nice as the other bus, no reclining seats, no footstool and a form of fungus growing on the fold down tray table that even a qualified scientist would have trouble identifying. As is usually the case when travelling by bus, we stopped not long after we started but then we stopped again, and again, and again. Being a woman and not mechanically minded (apologies to those who are) the possibility of the bus being broken didn't even pass my mind so I blame Sam for mentioning it and jinxing us because that's exactly what happened. A burst water pipe or something, I didn't ask for details, just simply stated this was what a cheaper ticket got you.

Sam joined in the man chat around the engine where everyone was busy putting in their two cents. He met an eye specialist who was travelling to Sydney in a few months for three weeks. Another who spoke very good English and carried a briefcase so must have been important. I wonder if his password was 007 like Sam's was when he was at school. Word must have got out about our difficulty as on about the fifth stop we were met by a bus half full onto which everyone rushed on in the hope of grabbing a seat. With Sam busy seeking bags I managed to secure us two seats which was no easy feat when a whole bus load was trying to cram into half a one. No idea how long those who didn't get a seat had to wait on the side of the road for another partially empty bus to come along.

When all goes smoothly the bus journey is one of my favourite parts of travel. You're in a comfy seat with music blaring through headphones and eyes gazing out at the scenery unfolding before you. Willy-Willies (Australian term for dust whirlwind) dance across the golden desert sand , crumbling mud brick villages left to ruin by nomads, an occasional sea of light green scrub offset by a rocky outcrop forming part of the Zagros Mountain range which looks more superimposed than real. Beautiful, especially as dusk fell and the sky melted into pastels.

We arrived in Shiraz with no further incident just after 8pm. Our eye specialist friend sorted us a taxi and gave Sam his number in case we needed any help whilst here. Just one of the many examples of Iranian hospitality and helpfulness. We found a fast food joint (with quite possibly the most confusing ordering process ever) selling not very good pizza so sat on a wall eating that whilst watching a man fossick through bins. I wanted to give him my left over half a pizza but wasn't sure if that would cause offence. As it was he stumbed off before I had the chance anyway. He was probably one of the first homeless people we've seen in Iran. Beggars are few and far between too. Certainly nothing like Tbilisi.

During the day we wandered through the bazaar. Unlike the traditional feel of Tabriz, or emphasis made on handcraft in Esfahan, the bazaar here feels more manufactured. A tourist honeytrap of mass production. Didn't stop me from buying a very pretty but stupidly expensive shawl though. It was a nice walk through the alleys but there are only so many photos you can take of spices, scarves and arches of light. We ventured into the fortress and visited a few more mosques which were unfortunately photographically ruined by construction and lack of water in fountains.

Lined up to get into a restaurant for 20 min before walking away unhappy at the thought of being destined for another kebab or pizza for lunch. To put it into context the food is so dire we try and wait until at least 3pm before eating our first meal of the day in the hope it sees us through the night too. In a cruel twist of fate however I appear to be putting on weight which is unfair when not eating or indulging in my favourite past time of beer drinking. Proof that it's far better to eat, drink and be merry.

Decided not to settle for any old dodge cafe and jumped in a cab to Niayesh Restaurant & Coffee Shop located up some little old towny lane ways. Turns out it had a lovely little courtyard, great espresso and relatively nice food (albeit kebab) so we sat there for a couple of hours before calling it a day at 5:30pm and heading back to the hotel. Iran has turned us into right party people but there is absolutely nothing to do here after night fall. No nice alfresco restaurants to sit in watching the world go by which is a shame considering they have the perfect weather for it.

Today we booked a driver to take us on a day trip out to Persepolis which is a bunch of ruins located an hours drive from Shiraz. Nothing like a 2 hr stroll around a dusty archaeological site in the midday sun with no shade. Putting that aside and reading a little into it, turns out it's quite a remarkable place. Building commenced in 520 BC and continued over the next 150 years until it covered an area of 125 sq km. Somewhere down the track it was destroyed and buried in sand and dust until what we saw today was rediscovered in the 1930. Amazing huh.

After that we drove to two further places called Naqsh-e Rostam and Naqsh-e Rajab one of which contained four ginormous stone carvings out of a sheet of rock. There was also a person offering camel rides in the car park - not the most authentic of settings.

NB: The next paragraph isn't meant to cause offence, I'm simply quoting, but if you are religious it might be best you skip it.

Our driver was a nice man who gave us coffee - praise The Lord for not bringing tea. He was also very much non religious as I don't think too many Iranians would find it amusing that a previous passenger had called Mohammed a homosexual. He thought it was hilarious. He came out with a few more cracking comments, he liked being out in the wilderness so he didn't have to hear any of that "hummmm maaaa hummm ma blah" referring to the preaching echoing out from mosques and my personal favourite was when he heard some music and said to me jovially "Ha ha it's like that happy music they play in mosque haha ha but we're still all going to f**king die". Say it how it is mate. He was definitely a non practicing muslim that's for sure.

Driving into the city he was kind enough to swing by the bus terminal and sort us out some tickets for Yazd tomorrow. We thought it would be easy but turns out its an incredibly busy day with most buses already full so we were relieved when he scored us two seats on one departing at 0730. Despite the early morning arriving before nightfall will make for a nice change. He also called up and reserved us a room at the hotel we wanted to stay in so we're now all sorted and good to go.


Bus: Esfahan to Shiraz dep 12:00 arr 20:00 incl. breakdown. IRR 120,000 : US$4.
Hotel: Anvari Hotel. IRR 500,000 : US$16 per night dbl room incl. private bathroom no breakfast.
Driver: Shiraz to Persepolis, Naqsh-e Rostam and Naqsh-e Rajab dep 10:00 arr back in Shiraz 14:45. IRR 700,000 : US$23 plus we gave him a 300,000 tip for helping us sort bus, hotel etc. He was thrilled and came after us to make sure we hadn't made a mistake. As I say, he was a nice guy who spoke good English and knew Iran and its history very well.
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