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Turkey in my rear view mirror

February 14th, 2019
The continuing story of exploring the world fifty years ago.

It was evening when we crossed from Turkey into Iran. There were no nearby towns, but we found a bus that would head for Tabriz the next morning and for about a dollar we secured passage and were allowed to sleep on the bus overnight. A chilly night here in the middle of October…and I’m sure I dreamed about the down sleeping had I had promised myself I would have for the next trip after seeing my first one on the ill-fated ORDU.

The drive next morning provided contrast between the two countries and it was easy to notice that Iran was more modern even here in the desert than eastern Turkey. The roads were paved (always a plus in a bus!), the hills were greener and the towns cleaner. The scenery, red and brown desert and hills dotted with caves, was fascinating and I would have enjoyed exploring them. Since I was on the east side of the bus, the glare from the rising sun made picture taking futile, but I remember a river bed by the road and broad valleys. Our excitement for the morning was an army checkpoint where everyone’s luggage was checked and a Japanese boy had to argue with the soldiers who want to confiscate his camera because he had taken a picture of their jeep.

In Tabriz we boarded another bus to Teheran and that long hot trip expended whatever patience we had for bus rides and wore out the novelty of being in a new country. Hot, long, no clean water (a canteen full of soda pop for a six hour trip) and just a 20 minute break for dinner. We chatted with other hippies from Europe and picked up some more travel tips. We were learning that fellow travelers were the best source of information on making our way through the world…

Everyone was friendly in Iran.

In Teheran we found a room for only a dollar and it was clean and modern. After the long and tiring day, it was welcome.

The next morning our first order of business was to secure visas for Afghanistan. We had no idea where the embassy was, but followed along with a fellow headed that way. The three of us split a taxi ride for 28 cents total and were dropped off several blocks further than we needed. On our walk to the embassy I was fascinated by how the tree lined streets resembled those of Placerville, California, where I lived as a child. While Teheran was a modern city, it didn’t have many interesting sites, but it was a pleasant place to walk. And that’s what we did for two days awaiting our visas.

Kids are the same everywhere. Somebody’s always left out…

We had contacted the tourist bureau and a fellow, Mr. Mustadin, came by our hotel with all the bus and train information we had asked for, as well on tips on where we could get a nice omelet for less than a dime! H w asked me if I had any foreign coins I could give him and he asked Nelson if he had any pills he could have. Makes me wonder what kind of “pills” other hippies had laid on him!

As a side note, when Loretta and I came through here two years later, we met Mr. Mustadin again. Still the same friendly fellow looking for coins and “pills!”

My diary entries for the next few days are a litany of complaints, about dysentery, a sore throat, dusty train rides, ignorant taxi drivers, getting lost, getting cheated, lack of edible food, having to fill out a mountain of forms just to cash a Travelers Check at a bank and more bumpy rides in buses with no springs…ahhhh, the glamorous life of the a world traveling vagabond!

When Loretta and I went through Meshed in 1970, I was determined to buy a real Persian carpet. And although these fine fellows tried to steer me to a better quality choice, I was intent on a particular pattern. I found it and later learned it was not particularly high quality. But I got the one I wanted, paid to have it shipped home and a year later, it arrived! Not quite up to Amazon Prime standards, but I still have that carpet almost fifty years later, even if it’s a bit threadbare now.

But we did make it to Meshed and then to the border, late in the evening, where the cook in a kitchen on the Afghan side of the border station sold us some hash(ish.) So it wasn’t all bad.

Iran had been an interesting country, but I was pretty ignorant of the many places we should have visited there. This was also in the days of the Shah, and his oppressive secret police, SAVAK. His stern portrait hung in every public building and every commercial establishment, no matter how humble. I didn’t get the feeling that all of those displays of devotion were voluntary…

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