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The First Seventy Years: Chapter 55 - Iran

...Tehran was a nightmare. Driving was an experience I was anxious to forego as soon as we could find a campsite. Traffic light signals were ignored; green meant it was your right of way; red meant you had better accelerate across a junction to reduce the chance of being hit by those exercising a right of passage...

Eric Biddulph and his family continue their long land journey home to Britain.

To read earlier chapters of Eric's engaging autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_first_seventy_years/

A week was the maximum time I was permitted to stay in Afghanistan. The seventh day saw us at the border with Iran. No waving through upon a quick show of passports here. One emptied the complete contents of one's car for inspection. Whilst our possessions were being laid out I observed the contents of another car laid out whilst the customs officers were busy stripping the interior of the vehicle. "My God" I muttered "Are we going to be subjected to this level of inspection?"

It was with some relief when the officer allowed us to put our possessions back into the car. I guess having young children reduced the degree of suspicion. Oh! The dismembered car and its contents belonged to a young western couple; drugs then as now was the cause of the suspicion.

Once in Iran I drove one hundred and fifty kilometres to the holy city of Mashad. So holy that it is forbidden to photograph its revered buildings. I was fortunate when a young English speaking Iranian took me under his wing, instructing me where to position myself to take photographs without causing offence.

A journey along the Caspian Sea coast provided an opportunity to sleep under canvas. A welcome dip in the sea for Jane and Paul provided a welcome interlude to long periods confined to the car although plenty of breaks were always scheduled. Leaving the Caspian behind we headed southwards towards Tehran, through the mountain range which separated the capital from the inland sea. Mount Damavand at 5604 metres above sea level, dominating the area. Tehran was a nightmare. Driving was an experience I was anxious to forego as soon as we could find a campsite. Traffic light signals were ignored; green meant it was your right of way; red meant you had better accelerate across a junction to reduce the chance of being hit by those exercising a right of passage. Absolute mayhem; horns constantly blaring; drivers gesticulating; the worst city in which I have travelled in my entire life.

Travelling around by bus or taxi did provide the opportunity to experience the many delights this city had to offer without the hassle. The main bazaar was a jewel of a place to visit. Together with its many attractive buildings the city provided a pleasant few days sightseeing. The fast pace of life however, soon brought about a desire to escape and enter the slower, more peaceful environment of the countryside. Thankfully I was able to extricate all of us out of the city without mishap and take the road to Tabriz near the Turkish border.

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