17,650 Rials = £1.00

$1.87 = £1.00

2nd OCT. 2006     JULFA TO TABRIZ

We set off the next morning to Tabriz arriving late morning to absolute madness. I, (Rose) drove into the city and the driving was a real shock- even Athens city centre was easier than this for me. If you leave a gap of half a foot it is seen as a challenge to some other road user to squeeze into it, mirrors are for decoration only and vehicles are all over the road. After several cries of  “Oh sh*t” and “brace, brace, brace”, we made it to the Tabriz International Hotel in one piece. We were having major problems with our web site so decided to treat ourselves to 24 hours of electric, comfort and to try and track down the elusive number plate office. We caught a local taxi who took us to 2 separate offices in the city and when we came back empty handed the hotel staff asked what had happened, we explained that the taxi had tried, unsuccessfully , to charge us $5 and that none of the offices had been willing to help us, she hailed another taxi with an English speaking driver and Dave set off to track down a plate. When they reached the plate office the new taxi driver mentioned to the police that the original taxi driver had tried to rip us off and before Dave knew what was happening, the police were trying to get Dave to look at the photo’s of all the Tabriz taxi drivers to identify the culprit! He could have been there for hours, so instead he claimed to have been so busy admiring the beautiful city that he never noticed the drivers face! And, he left with no plates as Tabriz had used up all of the tourist plates so we needed to get them from our next big city. Great!

To top it all off when he returned to the hotel the  taxi driver charged even more than the 1st one for the exact same trip!

The tourist guide based at the hotel invited us to stay at her apartment that night but we explained that we needed to move on and thanked her for the offer.

3rd OCT. 2006     TABRIZ TO QAZVIN

We left Tabriz a little disappointed but full of hope for our new day, we were in for a big shock. We had planned a visit to Rasht but were told the weather was awful so took the road to Qazvin instead and were happily driving along when just south of Miyaneh a police car flagged us down, we dutifully pulled over and were greeted with “ fifty dollars”,  we just looked at him in amazement and then clicked that in all our travels it took Iran for us to meet our first corrupt policeman. Dave answered that he had rials and euros only, to which the cop got mad and started to gesture handcuffing us and dragging us off to jail! We were unsure if we had skimmed the tail end of a solid white line when overtaking so were not confident about arguing our case and much to our shame we gave in and he happily accepted $10.

We swiftly moved on and an hour or so later found the perfect bush camp spot, or so we thought, it was off the road by half a km and hidden from view with olive trees edging a dried up river bed. We got down to business and as usual Dave was mid shower when a lad went by on his scooter, unusually he didn’t stop to say hello, then 3 men on scooters came along a little later and the eldest one stopped gesturing, “What are you doing?”

Dave gestured that we were here to eat and the old man seemed happy with that but when Dave went on to gesture that we intended to sleep there for  he night the old man suddenly looked concerned, he ran his finger across his throat, making it perfectly clear what would happen if we stayed  overnight. We moved on after eating and a few miles down the road, guess what? Yes, yet another nasty cop. This time he pulled us over because we had been overtaken by someone??! His colleague was sitting in the police car on the other side of the road and with great drama Dave got out of the vehicle showing empty pockets and hands in the air as if to say, “Why was I pulled over?” The cop in the car had the good grace to look embarrassed and with lots of vehicles slowing to look there were too many witnesses so we got told to go, just as well because we are prepared to create a fuss next time and will not pay out. We realise how vulnerable we are as English tourists in Iran during this political time of unrest.

We moved on and hoped to dodge the boys in blue and white and found another spot a good hour south of the last one, again it seemed perfect but  within 5 minutes of arriving we felt uneasy, it was so isolated that if anything were to happen there would be no chance of a good Samaritan passing  by. If there are two vehicles you are not such an easy target but when alone, you really are a sitting duck and a lot of Iran is unmarked military land so you have to be careful. We moved on again.

We drove all the way to Qazvin by which time it was dark and we began looking for somewhere to sleep, we found  the Mar Mar hotel and two rooms later booked out, we would rather sleep in nessie than pay $75 to share a bed with a cockroach.

By this time we were short of fuel, knackered and really fed up but decided that if we had a full tank we could handle anything, so the search began, almost 2 hours and eight garages later we eventually found a garage that would sell us diesel but only when no-one was around and after they had switched off the forecourt lights?! By now we were so tired that we didn’t care what the logic was behind this and asked if we could sleep in the forecourt, they actually offered us a room at the back of the garage but we wanted to stay with nessie so we set up the tent and got 5 hours sleep.

It turns out that every garage sells diesel they just don’t want to sell it to you and therefore deny having any. The best way to handle it is that after they deny having any you say, “ But I only want 20 litres” they seem happier to sell small  quantities. Anyway, Qazvin looked like a good place to stop, the streets were really busy with people window shopping and eating even at midnight plus there were a couple of nice monuments.

A fabulous khaneh hidden behind a mud and straw wall  KASHAN

One of the many beautiful bridges  ESFAHAN


We moved north toward Yazd and passed all the police check points again but today they were deserted- must be because it’s Friday. Turned off at Surmaq and stopped at Abarku to look at the ice houses and buy bread, we drove past dozens of old caravanserai and then onto the desert landscape past the salt lake. The multi coloured hills greeted us after Deh Shir and we came to Yazd by mid afternoon driving straight to the famous Silk Road Hotel. We visited the Zoroastrain fire temple (nothing special) and  the lovely Bagh-i-Dawlatabad -which is best visited in the afternoon and be sure to take a picnic to eat on the raised cushioned sitting areas. We are starting to see a Pakistan influence already with baggy trousers being a favourite with the men here. Still no sight of other overlanders!

14th OCT. 2006  YAZD TO KERMAN

We arrived in Kerman and found the Akhavan Hotel– where we camped for the night. The driving here reminded us of Tabriz just not quite as bad.

We got our gas bottle topped up: coming into town turn left for the Pars hotel and you will see a cabin on the left just before the hotel. 2,000 rials for 2.5kg’s.

15 th OCT.2006  KERMAN TO BAM

Next morning we drove into town to have a look around the bazaar and Ganj Ali Khan complex- for some odd reason everywhere was closed so we parked up and went for a wander around the complex. When we got back to nessie there was at least 6 kids hanging off her with a few more standing around- we snuck up on them and they jumped off so, with no damage found, we got in to drive away and just as we pulled off- they all jumped on the back steps and the rear wheel holder. Dave slammed on the brakes and gave them one hell of a shock it probably caused a few bruises- but they got the message and jumped off. It wasn’t ‘til we stopped to clean the windows from all the dirty hand and forehead marks that we noticed a scratch along the side. Little imps!! Just out of town on the Bam road you will find fuel, it’s the 2nd garage you come to and is just after a large tree covered roundabout. As normal they were reluctant to sell us any but with Dave’s farsi coming on a treat he soon broke the ice and they filled us up. In the end we had a good laugh with them and when we said we were off to Pakistan they tried to scare us with gestures of cut throats and gun wielding bandits. Rose lifted her fists and gestured that she would see them off, they almost fell over laughing, at 5 foot 3 and 7 stone she’s not much of a challenge!

We came across our FIRST, yes, FIRST legitimate police stop and they couldn’t have been nicer, a quick beem check ( paperwork the goes with the iran plates) and an international drivers licence check and we were waved off with a smile. Great. You will find fuel 45kms north of Bam. It’s a long boring drive again.

We arrived in Bam with a fixed stop for the night in mind. We found Akhbars guest house which following the huge earthquake in 2003 is now some 20foot containers and were met by the man himself- what a nice guy. The only problem was his African guests. Rose didn’t notice but I saw some nasty looks being thrown in our direction and the not so nice stares being directed at her, feeling uncomfortable we left and booked into the Azadi  hotel instead. We got a room with a bath and took full advantage by washing our sheets which, to our shame, had not been done since Turkey.

The town is still recovering from the earthquake and if you get to the silk road hotel, look out for the before and after photo’s of Bam’s walled city– shocking stuff!

Masjid-i Nasir al-Mulk  SHIRAZ

Nagh she Rostam          That’s me






We set off for Esfahan planning to stop at Qom, Kashan and Natanz on the way. We decided at the last moment to bypass Qom as it is a city of pilgrimage and would be very  busy during ramadam. The scenery was rather dull along the way but we did find a water stop at Setare Malare - You will come to realise that water and diesel can be hard to get. We arrived in Kashan and were delighted to find some real gems of interest chiefly - the city walls, the bazaar and the Khanehs, which are hidden behind simple walls made of mud and straw, we visited Khaneh Abbasian and the Borujerdiyeh.We began to see the Iran we had hoped for, school girls giggling with delight at the opportunity to practice their English, smiling locals and beautiful buildings.

Closer to Natanz the scenery became greener and the hills closer, the town was in a lovely setting with tree lined streets and several mosques. It was along this road that we passed some great bush camp sites but decided to carry on to Esfahan, just as well because the area became heavily guarded and further down the road we began to see tanks dug into the ground with large guns in the surrounding fields- we actually drove right past the new nuclear power site without realising it! 15km’s north of Esfahan you can get diesel at a garage on the right just jump the queues of lorries and fill up.

We arrived in Esfahan and began the usual epic of trying to find somewhere to stay. We lucky when we stopped at a knife shop and the friends of the owner offered us a room at their apartment, nowhere else in the world would you consider an offer like that but the Iranians are such genuinely hospitable people that you are tempted to accept. We were determined to find a campsite so were directed to Ghadir Gardens where you can camp in the lovely gardens– we really enjoyed staying here amongst all the locals. The only negative is the traffic noise but it does die down by 11pm.

We loved Esfahan and suspect it will be the highlight of our Persian adventure, with beautiful buildings galore and the friendliest people on earth, we had a ball and did all the sights at night and during the day to get the best photo’s. The people of Esfahan will tell you that this year has been very bad for business with scare stories of Iran being published in western papers and news flashes, it is a great shame that the people of Iran should suffer over these times but it makes them all the more determined to show you the true side of their country, of which they are very proud.

We spent 4 days in Esfahan and then moved onto Shah re Kord, which at 7,000+ feet is the highest place in Iran, to visit friends. We spent 4 glorious days being treated like royalty, getting driven around and being invited to a large family meal in honour of our visit. We returned to Esfahan to get our tourist plates armed with our friend and the application sheet which had been given to us at the border, which had been formally stamped by the police in Tabriz stating that they had no plates to give us. We have read that other overlanders have taken 4 hours to get their plates so we aimed for 2-3 hours. WRONG. It took a mammoth 6 and a half hours starting with us being told that we had to return to Tabriz to demand plates followed with several  offices in the centre of town having to be visited, a payment to the bank and then back to the police and plate offices outside of town. Everything had to be done in triplicate, everybody was as obstructive as possible and the plate office wasn’t even going to let us drive into the compound when they spotted our foreign plates! Thank goodness for our Iranian friend- if it wasn’t for him we would never have got them. The plate office even wanted Dave to rip off his uk plates and take them into the office to let them see that they were really his! Try looking at the carnet, registration documents and the Iranian border paperwork– prat! At one point I got the map out to calculate the km’s to Zahedan to see if it was possible to make a run for it before our 10 day deadline was up. After that experience we would go so far as to say that you must be mad to even consider staying longer than 10 days in Iran- it quite simply is not worth the hassle.

Camping at Ghadir Gardens   ESFAHAN



We set off for Shiraz today and stopped at a fantastic little village called Emamzade on the way. It is just south of the city and is a sleepy farming village with an old caravanserai, pigeon tower and unusual mosque, we really liked it here and spent a little time wandering around watching people drying rice on their roofs. The road from here to Kord Shul was flat and rather boring, the only point of interest was all the police check points for north bound traffic. The HGV traffic on this road is suicidal, the trucks have more dodgy axles than a mechanic could dream of so if you want to overtake one of these wobbly wheeled monsters, do it quickly, very quickly. From Kord Shul on the scenery improves and you may spot herds of camels mixed with goats and sheep and even the local farmers using the road to dry rice. 27km’s north of Shiraz we managed to get fuel.

We arrived at Shiraz and checked out all the parks in the hope of another camping opportunity but to no avail so we decided to book into a hotel. We thought we had struck gold with the PARS HOTEL, book price is $112 for a double but we were told it was $77, business must be slow we thought. They tried to get us to park in the underground car park but of course we were too high, so they set us in a corner under some trees. One good nights sleep, a great kebab and an apparent successful web page publish later, we got down to nessie to discover we had a parking ticket from the police and a bill of $95 for our room. Bl**dy night manager had fibbed to us and parked us in the wrong place- they agreed to pay the ticket but would not budge on the room price. Shiraz was good but after the pleasures of Esfahan it was a slight let down. You start to see women in traditional tribal dresses but the people are not as friendly, we visited a handful of good buildings so came away happy enough.


We drove to Persepolis today and stopped at Nagh she rostam on the way, it was great, very quiet with beautiful tombs to look at. We then drove the short distance to the Persepolis and asked to set up for the night beside the police station within the grounds, so we parked under the trees and settled in for the day. We waited til 4pm before looking around the site which, of course, was excellent- then cooked our meal, watched the local wildlife, ( we spotted a coyote type animal) and had a great sleep. An excellent day all round, the police were really friendly and the nomad camp behind the fence was silent and safe.

A beautiful old pigeon tower   EMAMZADE


Drying rice on the dual carriage way. Glad we were north bound!



We are on the final stretch of our trip now and this is the start of the dangerous section. Our book states that all thoughts of travelling overland from Zahedan to Pakistan should be abandoned as it is far too dangerous. So we left Bam early to ensure getting across the Pakistan border before closing time. Leaving the date palms of Bam behind we headed toward the desert of Kavir-E-Lut with the only camels in sight being either road kill or tethered in the back of a pickup. We came to the beautiful multi coloured hills on the far side of the desert and stopped near the Afghanistan border at Nosrat Abad to try our luck at getting fuel. We went through the usual process of, “But we have no gas oil” and as normal Dave worked his charms but the guy wanted to see a passport so Dave, with a grip like steel, held his passport open to show the man to which with a sly smile the man asked for a photocopy, “AH HA got you there” he thought but with great flourish, Dave produced a black and white photocopy ( keeping the coloured version as an ace up his sleeve.) We drove away with full tanks and arrived in Zahedan with plenty of time to hand in our plates, or so we thought. You come to a large police check point near a jelly mould topped mosque and it was here that the games began. We only asked the policeman where the plate office was and before we knew it we were being given an armed escort to take us there. We wouldn’t mind so much but even they took us to the wrong place and we ended up having to wait for another escort to take over. We found the plate office and whilst Dave was getting his index finger print taken and signing bits of paper I was guarding nessie. Picture the scene; a foreign vehicle turns up under armed escort with Iranian and foreign  plates on it and the driver is led into the office. You have never seen so many pairs of pantaloons move so quickly in your life. In a flurry of white nessie was surrounded and I swear if it hadn’t been Ramadan they would have cracked out the tea and picnic mats all ready for an afternoons entertainment! When Dave reappeared shortly afterwards, much to the crowds disappointment, we were too busy congratulating ourselves on how easy that had been to notice we were being led into town rather than onto the bypass. I won’t bore you with the whole story but let’s just say it took 2 hours and 5 separate escorts, ranging from undercover cops on mopeds to armed guards in pickups, to get across town. By the time we reached the outskirts of town tempers were getting frayed and whilst Dave was led into the office to yet again show his passport, I had some little 18 yr old hanging in nessies door asking me if I had a photo to give him as he thinks I’m very beautiful. Let’s just say he was saved from a good Scottish tongue lashing by his boss spotting him and shouting at him to leave the foreigner alone. After waiting 40 minutes for another escort Dave lost it, stormed into the office to say that we had had enough and were leaving- to which the guy said ok. We drove away furious that we had been delayed by over 2 hours and puzzled at why the guy had suddenly become easy going about our needs, when for the past 2 hours we had been telling them that we didn’t want an escort. The penny dropped a couple of miles down the road, the last post had been deliberately delaying us so that we would miss the border. Sure enough we looked at our clock, added on the time change and realised that when Dave had stormed the office the bloke had looked at the time and knew we didn’t have a hope in hell of making it. No wonder he was so relaxed about Dave’s anger. We arrived 20 minutes late but managed to get through the first customs checkpoint thus ensuring that we were locked in for the night with the soldiers, we had a good meal, a great sleep under a sky bursting with stars and woke the next morning delighted at being the first in the queue. There’s always an upside! We made it through the usual customs and passport checks which are scattered all over the place with building work ongoing and after 2 final checks less than 20 foot apart where they scribble down your details on a scrap of paper, we crossed into Pakistan. It took one hour to get through the whole process of leaving Iran. What happened with the plates?

They never even asked about them.. All that hassle and they never even asked if we had got any. It was the ultimate Iranian kick in the teeth.

Iran has been a huge learning curve for us as it is our first non European country that we have driven nessie through. We have made lots of mistakes but blame some of them on our wariness of being British in Iran, after all if we get into trouble who are we going to call? The British embassy is hardly in a position to pull strings for us at the minute. We know that there are far worse situations awaiting us and have been very lucky so far to not been hauled through the, “empty your vehicle please” routine. We’ve got all the way here without one custom officer looking in the back and only 2 corrupt cops. Not bad going at all.


Look at the top tips page for the total budget details but we have added this to clarify some points. We stayed at 3 expensive hotels on a full board basis and spent a lot on web cafes trying to sort out our page. If you add these extra expenses together they come to: $319. So when you look at our budget sheet it wouldn’t be unreasonable to deduct these costs to get a more average total.

STOP PRESS***********STOP PRESS**************STOP PRESS*****************STOP PRESS****************STOP PRESS

We have since met other overlanders who have had dreadful problems with the Iranian police varying from bribes of $200 to 8 hours of illegal interrogation because they were sharing a taxi with Iranian citizens. These incidents all occurred between Miyaneh and Zanjan so be warned. Our advice is to enter via the Gangachin crossing further to the south.

IRAN THOUGHTS: With tooth edged mountains, deserts, stunning architecture and history galore Iran is a great place to visit. But the clear winners are some of the people, who are so hospitable and welcoming that at times you are truly humbled. They toot their horns and hang out of car windows to wave and shout hello so much so that they inevitably swerve across the carriageway!  If you pull over anywhere to check your map someone will stop to ask if you need help and then lead you there pleased just to have helped.

Be prepared for a lot of attention, if you drive a foreign vehicle you will draw curious looks but if the driver happens to be female and blonde then it’s a lethal combination, be ready to make emergency evasive manoeuvres whilst they stare so hard they drive straight for you.

The roads are very good, the spice markets superb and if you are lucky enough to get invited into some ones home you will sample some great Persian food and hospitality.

Iranians are acutely aware of the negative press their country receives from the west and are keen to show you the real Iran, you will constantly be asked, “What do you think of Iran?”

RAMADAN: It’s a bit of a mine field, we witnessed people openly eating, drinking and smoking during ramadan and wondered what was going on. Turns out that if you are ill, pregnant, under 10, elderly or on a long trip, it’s ok to break the rules with nuts, fruit, bread and a drink, but because we were foreign we still were VERY subtle and either jumped in the back of nessie or ducked down a deserted alley.

DISAPPOINTMENTS: Lack of bush camping opportunities and crazy officialdom. They want tourists but make it really hard for visa’s and plates. Why on earth don’t they sell plates to  tourists at the border? A very simple solution.  Let’s not forget the long boring drives between some places and Shiraz, not worth the long trip unless you are passing that way.

HIGHLIGHTS: Esfahan and Kashan.

FUEL: Every garage has diesel it’s just a case of negotiating for it. Costs 160 Rials per litre.

SHOPPING: Supermarkets are hard to find and not well stocked so it’s best to stick with the corner shops.

WATER: Again not so easy to find but read our diary for tips on where to top up.

ROADS: Excellent with regularly spaced ambulance stations.                                                                                                          

POLICE: On the whole, really nice but there are some nasty ones.

Three years ago this was a stunning walled city complete with a mosque,  inner citadel and countless other intact buildings.

Over 10,000 people died and the city collapsed.

The lovely Maydam Mir Chaqmaq façade YAZD

Bagh-i Dawlatabad  wind tower  YAZD

We arrived at the Ankara embassy 9 weeks and 3 days after first applying for our visa armed with our passports and visa reference number- I was dressed like a marquee and Dave had long sleeves and trousers on. We were handed double forms to fill out and asked for two passport photo’s each-it was after we handed all of that over they then said that they did not have a computer to check our reference number. It should have been a simple process of here is our number and passports and they put our visa’s in but no. Instead, when Dave tried to get them to talk to Lisa at Magic Carpet, they refused and effectively threw us out! We made another call to Lisa explaining the situation and she told us to go back again. She called the London Iranian embassy and asked them what was going on in Ankara- with 40 minutes left before the embassy shut for the next 36 hours we returned to be  told to go to the bank across the road, pay for our visa's there, collect a receipt and return to the embassy. Only problem was that the bank didn’t open ‘til 1.30pm and the embassy shuts at 1pm. They must have had a serious talking to from London because they let us in the back door of the embassy, out of hours, to collect our visa’s after paying at the bank.


What really annoyed us was that at the same time we were getting the brush off, a group of Japanese tourists walked in with shorts, low cut tops and no headscarves they asked for a visa and were given one within the hour. Cheers Bush and Blair!

Welcome to Iran.

After the chaos of the Turkish crossing this was a pleasant surprise. You have to wait for the gates to be opened and then you drive in, park your vehicle just after them, lock it up and head into the office/ waiting area. Everybody is polite, in uniform and efficient. You are met by an official tourist guide who takes you around the various desks and explains the process  to you  At this point you are asked to show your passports then your tourist guide appears and takes you to the carnet desk where you get your book stamped  and are given a green slip of paper, then you are taken to the official bank desk to change money and finally she gives you a tourist booklet on Western Azerbaijan. (Our wheels had been disinfected whilst this was going on.) You then get in your vehicle and drive down a hill towards a long queue of lorries, don’t stop behind them, instead drive to the left on what looks like the wrong side of the road but make sure you park up and hand in the green slip of paper and your carnet at the building on your right. They will check your carnet, stamp the back of the green slip, give it back to you and you drive onto the last check point where they will ask for your green slip. That’s it, you are now in Iran, the land of dodgem cars. Be prepared to fasten your seatbelt, have a hand constantly on your horn and lights and if you leave more than a 6 inch gap get ready for a lorry to try and squeeze in. It’s like the wacky races!

We bought our insurance at the border- it cost $65 for one month and after seeing the driving, you would be nuts not to get it.

We had read that you can stay in Iran for a maximum of 15 days before you have to buy a plate for your car. WRONG. It is now 10 days.

Next wrong piece of information: the reason you find it hard to buy diesel is that you need a government slip to legally buy any within 100km’s of the border. That is not true. We drove approx. 10km’s from the border and at the 3rd garage on your right they will sell you diesel at the price of 160 rials per litre. At an exchange rate of 9,200 rials to the dollar, that meant we got 65 litres of diesel for just over a $1. Fantastic. We even spotted a huge group of wild camels wandering in the desert. Brilliant.

We pushed on with full tanks to the Armenian border and St Stephanos. After Julfa the valley narrows and has a river running along it, on one side is Armenia and on the other Western Azerbaijan, we arrived an hour before sunset and the cliffs were blood red in colour. It was a beautiful time of day  o arrive. The monastery had closed but they opened it for us and after a quick visit we drove less than 1km down the road and pulled over to set up,  it was a good but unhidden spot at the side of the road. As usual Dave was half way through a shower, using the awning thank goodness, when a car  full of men appeared and offered us tea and sweet pastries. Very hospitable. We fell asleep with a full moon lighting the mountains around us and the lights of the monastery reflecting up the valley  but were woken at 2.30 am to the sound of a large pack of ? wolves howling around the tent. We began  to think  it was going to be a remake of American werewolf in London! Thank goodness we were in a roof tent.

The fiction and the facts of getting in and finding fuel



part 2





SAFETY: If you are the only vehicle you may be at risk. See above diary entry 3rd OCT.

LANDY: Excellent selection of oils, filters and good servicing parts.




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