First thing this morning Parviz took us to the Eram Botanical Gardens after which we bid him farewell. Mansour is driving us to Pasagarde. Leaving Shiraz, Parviz told us it is a city of about 1.2 million people and very ancient. However, there aren’t many buildings which reflect the age of the city due to earthquakes. Also any buildings over 100 years of age are deemed to belong to the Iranian Heritage Organisation. Private residences are purchased by negotiation. The main building in the botanic garden was built during the reign of Nasser-al-din Khan (1848-1896) and is owned by the Shiraz Uni, who won’t give it to the government.
Heading generally north we are traveling along a busy three lane highway. Even out here, the lane markings seem to be a guide only and are conveniently ignored, just as they are in Tehran. There are plenty of big trucks and blue Saipa utes. The region is hilly, stony and dry. We have driven past a number of military installations. They are always easy to pick out as they seem to have a standard pattern of wire fences and watch towers on each corner. This is the same road we went to Persepolis on yesterday. I recognize a familiar painted wall.
Now taking the branch to Isfahan and the highway is reduced to two lanes. Even though it is a main highway we have just driven through a flock of goats, but Mansour didn’t slow down enough to get a good picture of them. Mansour is driving at 110 kph, just below the limit of 120 (I think).
After 13:00, we have been to see Pasagarde and Cyrus’ tomb. Back on a two lane highway traveling through hilly countryside. The highway sometimes merges to one lane with oncoming traffic as there appears to be extensive roadworks going on in places. Passing through a small town that had a number of stone masons to the north. There seemed like 8 to 10 buildings, all of similar design with a gantry crane outside, the cranes all seem to be of the same pattern.
Some buildings bad big (about 1.5m) cubes of white stone, others had piles of cut rock like floor tile slabs. There doesn’t seem to be many people in the buildings or nearby.
Driving along a green valley floor with craggy ridges either side. Uschi is taking pictures of the scenery, Mansour is doing about 140 kph.
13:35, the valley has widened out considerably and the single lane road has just passed through a small village with a very high proportion of mud brick construction. It still has lots of unfinished buildings, like every where else in Iran. Some of the buildings are rough fired bricks but this is the first, obvious mudbrick I have seen.
One of the town transformer stations had a couple of poles attached about 2 metres up with an old cloth awning. Probably for shade for people on the side of the road trying to sell a couple of boxes of apricots to passing traffic.
13:45, approaching Aberqu, past a familiar stone mason factory and now on a wide two lane highway with a raised centre island and apparently good street lighting. We stop at the ice house for photos. It is supposed to be hotter today than yesterday, but it isn’t noticeable. We continue to where Mansour has planned our lunch under a 4000 year old Cyprus tree for lunch. We had goat fetta, cucumber, tomato (Uschi did anyway) in flatbread and watermelon. Mansour had lunch with us.
Local lads on their motor bikes were there as were a couple of young army types with a 50mm gun mounted in the back of a jeep. Mansour gave the left overs to the army boys who were very happy and drove away. We later saw them loading their jeep onto a semi trailer flat bed..
We visited the Friday Mosque of Abarqu which had very little decoration and was made of mud and straw.
15:20 and we find ourselves on a flat, wide, hot plain with mountains just discernable on the dim horizon ahead. The plain seems to be a tan dirt with grey gravel and a few shrubby bushes, not closer than about 3 metres apart. As we approach the foothills the scrubby brush is getting denser and greener.16:00, now climbing up into the mountains. The air even feels cooler and we are about 40 km from Taft. Going through a cutting in the hills, Uschi points out the red and maroon colouring as she takes more pictures. The trucks are bunched up thickly on both sides of the road and mansour overtakes them a couple at a time. One coming the other way has such a black exhaust we can’t see for a second or two.