Mashhad, Iran: Doomsday

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

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Flag of Iran  , Khorasan Razavi,
Tuesday, October 22, 2013

To the douschbag in Tehran's Turkmenistan Embassy - when a VISA application is given to you please ensure it is submitted for process and not left to rot on a pile somewhere.

Had I known a series of frustrating events would unfold the moment we stepped off the bus at 8:30am I might have chosen to stay on and go back from whence we came. Having not the benefit of a looking glass, however, we stepped off non the wiser.

0830: Pouring with rain we get off bus and into beat up dump of a car somehow doubling as a taxi. If a dog is meant to look like its owner then same must go for a taxi as the driver was a fat grease ball of a man smoking a cigarette. He drove at a ridiculously slow speed and appeared to not have a clue where he was going.

0900: Eventually find hotel and check in to less than average room. The plus side was it was run by some very nice men, we were treated to a free coffee and were told it had wifi in the lobby.

0930: Walk to Turkmenistan Embassy in the pouring rain to collect VISA. Man calls someone then tells Sam our VISA's aren't ready and we should come back in a week. We explain it was submitted in Tehran some 8 days ago and we were told we could pick it up today. He simply replies, sorry but computer says no (or something of the like). We offered more money to have it expedited but he said even that wouldn't speed up the process.

1000: Continue to walk in the pouring rain to where the guy from Finland is staying so we can see if he managed to get his VISA (he went there straight from the bus). Turns out he had no problem and his 5 day transit VISA was issued there and then. (We've spotted him in each city since arriving in Tabriz and he was on the bus from Yadz).

1030: Back to Turkmen Embassy to say hey buddy, this guy got his, why can't we get ours. Sorry son, computer says no.

1100: Walk back to hotel via travel agent. With Iran sitting where it is we figure we have four options:

1) Cross through Afghanistan and into Tajikistan. Two problems - VISA application time and simple fact if we weren't killed there we would be when we saw our parents.

2) Backtrack through Iraq and change route altogether. Same problems as above.

3) Bus up to Caspian Sea and catch a boat to Kazakhstan. Problem in that we don't know if there are any boats and it would put our VISA's for Uzbekistan and Tajikistan out of sync.

4) Give up on Turkmenistan altogether and fly over the country into Uzbekistan.

Discussing flights with travel agent we're told there is one flight on Thursday Mashhad - Istanbul - Tashkent for US$750 each (you've got to be kidding) and another on Friday Tehran - Tashkent for US$210 but we would need to fly Mashhad - Tehran on the Thursday in order to get it. We ask "Is there nothing earlier.... like now?!?". "No, I'm afraid they are your only options". Bugger.

1130: Back to the hotel to investigate flight options, curse, swear and brainstorm in the hope of coming up with a marvellous plan.

1200: Thinking there is another carrier besides Iran Air it's back in the rain to Iran Air's office to get a quote, around the corner to another travel agent to compare and discuss alternative airline (Turkish - expensive), return to Iran Air's office to agree and purchase ticket. Low and behold we don't have enough cash so need to venture out to find money exchanger. By the time we return the guys at the security desk are like old friends.

1230: Decision made, tickets in hand, job done. Time for lunch. Can't get a taxi so end up walking. Rain has turned into monumental downpour and we're drenched and freezing.

1300: Can't find restaurant we're looking for so opt for an expensive one mentioned in the Shitty Planet for serving steak and chips. Our order is met with "no steak, no chips, no fanta, no espresso" at which stage I simply put my head on the table and say I'm going to cry whilst Sam tells the waiter to come back in 5 min. I manage to laugh rather than cry and order my nemesis - kebab minus the rice.

1400: After shelling out a stupid amount for a crappy kebab we venture back into the rain and decide to hail a cab rather than get soaked walking back to the hotel. Cab moves about 10m before getting stuck in traffic. We say we're going to get out a few times which is met with grunts from the cabbie and him telling us we got him into the mess. So we stay, for about 15 min before finally bailing, but not without price as he charged us IRR 200,000 for the privilege of sitting in traffic listening to his shite music. Using my immense guns I slammed that damn door as hard as I could whilst Sam threw the money at him. Out of spite I think the prick actually drove us away from our hotel rather than closer as we seemed to walk for ages. Perhaps time simply adjusted to match the pace of us dragging our deflated selves through puddles of despair.

1500: The best part of the day was getting back to the hotel and having a nice warm shower. Had there been no hot water I most definitely would have cried.

Fed up and not wanting to step out into the rain we spent the rest of the day watching Boardwalk Empire and sleeping. Around 7:30pm Sam mentioned the tea house downstairs that had a tandoori oven, daybed lounges and qalyans (water pipes). Thinking it would be nice to get out of the room but not into the elements we got ready and walked down..... only to discover it was closed. Why am I not surprised.

All dressed and ready to go we seized the moment, took to the cold night air and went in search of the Hezardestan Traditional Teahouse. Thankfully our luck had a change of heart and allowed this one to be open. Would have been nice for the price to be reduced too. At least it was warm, served decent food and hot tea. Peace at last.

Next day was slightly more productive and smooth flowing. Posted 7.5kg to Australia lightening my load considerably but not without cost (US$119) as the only way it could go was by DHL. At least I know it's definitely going to arrive. Went in search of an Iran army jacket for Sam but they're either midgets or he's a giant as they were all too small with sleeves coming up to his elbows. Visited the Haram-e Razavi Shine, Mashhad being the holiest city in Iran. I didn't have a sheet to cover myself so couldn't go in but Sam went for a browse. Like other shines I thought you would be able to borrow a sheet on entry but unfortunately not. Once passed the gates quite a lot of the buildings are blocked off to non Muslims and you're not allowed cameras which is a shame as the buildings are beautiful. I did enjoy the sweets being given out by people though.

Back at the hotel we packed our bags ready for the next leg of our adventure. Shame that it involves catching a flight as we were hoping to get from Norway to Kazakhstan overland but at least we made it this far.
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