Thursday, May 24, 2007
Trip to Chalus
It’s 0815 and I am in the kid's seat in the back of a Prado.
Today we are on the way to see the Caspian. We have been on the road for about1/2 an hour and have left Tehran. Our next major place to see will be Shemshak but we are passing through many small villages 0n a winding road. There are occasional bright red poppies by the roadside, and far above there is still a little snow on the mountain tops and in the high valleys. We are at 1630m (according to the car altimeter!).
Renate noted that in March the trees in this area were bare, but they are fully in green leaf now.
We missed the road to Shemshak and are in a larger village. Four girls in brown (school uniforms?) see us and smile and wave.
Now we are back on the main road, Uschi comments that the mountains are a bit like the Flinders Ranges due to the dryness and feel of the place. However, at 1750m in the valley where we are, we are much higher than the tops of the Flinders.
[Photo of farmers at the deserted ski resort of Shemshak, no one else around in the summer]
Climbing up through the pass we reach 2090m, then stop for a while by the roadside at 2600m to take pictures of an icy stream. A bit later we reach to top of the pass at 3000m where we get out to look at the panorama. We drive down a very steep, dirt switchback road down to Shemshak
Just arriving in Chalus as the midday call to prayer is on the speakers. The last 15 km or so has been like any part of Europe. Driving along a road at the bottom of a narrow river valley with lots of green trees.
Now suddenly we are on the flat and can increase speed. A short time later we reach the built up area proper and find ourselves turning to the west and driving along parallel to the Caspian shore.
The hotel is about 12km along from our turn off. The driver heads down a back road when we had done about 9km and we find ourselves between a number of high walled mansions. The mansions are a distinct contrast to the road which is thin and in very poor condition.
Not very much longer and we come to a barricad. We have to back track to where Renate said we shouldn’t have turned off anyway. Back on the main road with two lanes and traffic islands, but it is still in poor condition, badly patched and uneven. Eventually we arrive at the Casplan Azadi Hotel where we are waved straight in by a guard at the gatehouse. They think we are diplomats and waive the entrance fee!