There’s only one bus a day which heads out through the Kavir desert toward the desert town of Khur. Unfortunately I ended up waiting for said bus for 3.5 hours by the side of the road – when it came I was the only tourist onboard but was well taken care of with offers of tea, cake and sunflower seeds along the way.
Arriving after dark in Khur a man boarded the bus claiming to be from the guesthouse I was planning to stay in. The guide warned of imposters but the guide was four years old. In the end another man offering the trip for half the price took me in his car. As we headed out of Khur a renegade Renault with some young joyriders were pulling stunts and almost trying to run us off the road!
For some strange reason the old man kept stopping the car to get out and shake his fists at them with me shouting all the time for him to drive as fast as possible to my destination of Garmeh.
Garmeh is an oasis town in the middle of the desert and there’s one main place to stay – Ateshooni. Built in mud brick style with central area of carpets and cushions it’s all very Aladdin even with goats and camel plus calf in a paddock out front.
Within minutes of arriving I met the man who boarded the bus earlier and he was indeed the ‘official’ taxi man they had sent to meet the bus without telling me – oh well!
On my first evening I met an extended family in town from the northern city of Sari who had me sitting having water pipe and snacks and had my whole story and background within minutes and we sat having pistachios and water pipe until late in the evening.
As an oasis in the desert there isn’t much to do bar wander around the mud-brick village which is something out of Aladdin.
At the back of the village are hills which rise up a few hundred metres above the town. From there I had a commanding view into the rocky barren landscape and deep absolute silence. It looks like nothing could live here but I spotted a pack of wild dogs working their way across the mountains.
In the afternoon I joined the family as we headed out to head out to visit sand dunes around an hour away.
Before sunset we headed out to a remote stretch where the herders were gathering their camels for the night. There, as the sun set and an electrical storm got going overhead, the family and I gathered assorted deadwood from the scrubby desert to build a fire.
Persians celebrate new year on March 21st each year – a custom which dates back at least to Zoroastrian times (c. 1100BC). After the Arab conquest they Abbasid caliphate tried to eliminate the celebrations without success. The Ayatollahs had another crack after the revolution with, so far, no greater success.
The last Wednesday before New Year Iranians celebrate the festival of Charshanbe Suri by jumping over a fire reciting a saying ‘my yellow is yours, your red is mine’ where yellow represents negative energy and red is new vitality.
Taking my quick hop over the fire to music and clapping I couldn’t have had a more hospitable or authentically Iranian experience whatever the colour of the burning fire.