As we approach the police check point, Farzan opens the window and talks to the driver of the truck we are passing by. The driver, a 40-year-old man named Naser, agrees to take us with him all the way to the city of Ghazvin. We thank Farzan and her father for their help and get into the cabin of the truck. “I can’t go faster than 90 km/h, because I carry 24 tonnes of biscuits,” says Naser as we move. But we don’t really care about the speed. Naser, married and a father of two, drives his truck for several years now and have visited Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. “It’s very good in Georgia and Armenia, but in Azerbaijan people always cause troubles. I’m Azeri and I speak Turkish [Azerbaijani], but it’s very hard for me there,” says Naser complaining about his misadventures in Azerbaijan. He is now on his way to Mashhad.
While I speak with Naser, Nane uses her time to learn the numerals in Persian. The landscapes remind us of some regions of Armenia and if not the road signs in Persian, we wouldn’t even feel we are actually driving through Iran. I notice that there are few cars on the highway and ask Naser if there are other roads that people use. “At this time of the year, there aren’t many people driving between Tehran and Tabriz,” says Naser and adds that it’s the opposite picture during the summers.
At 14:40 we pass by the city of Takestan, famous for its grapes. But there is also plastic garbage all around which in its turn reminded me of the road between Martuni and Yeghagnadzor in Armenia. Ghazvin is only 40 km away. Snow-capped mountains frame the horizon. Around 15:30 Naser stops his truck on the Ghazvin by-pass. “You won’t be able to get a ride from here, it’s difficult. Stay in the car, I’ll come now,” he says and runs across the highway, hitches a ride to the city of Rasht, runs back, helps us cross the highway, introduces us to the driver of the newly bought Peugeot and then saying goodbye returns to his truck and continues his road. He is going to drive to Tehran and rest somewhere after the capital of Iran.
The remaining 170 km to the city of Rasht we cover with a talkative 32-year-old guy who speaks very loud and asks questions about doing business in Armenia. After the city of Manjil the landscapes dramatically change. We are now surrounded by the mountains of Alborz: olive trees gently wave their branches, rice paddies rest under the evening sun. At around 17:00 we get off at the turn to Fuman, a small town not far from Rasht. Here we meet our friend Nima who drives us home. His mom, Soosan, greets us with a warm smile and together we enjoy a delicious dinner. A home away from home. And it feels good to finally sit and drink tea together in Iran after knowing each other for more than 2 years and traveling together around Armenia.
Sunday, November 15, 2015. We leave Tabriz early in the morning. It’s sad to say goodbye to our host family, but the Road is calling and we need to continue our journey. A dear friend is waiting for us in the city of Rasht, about 650 kilometers away. From the city center, we take a BRT bus and get to the outskirts of Tabriz. We start hitchhiking on the highway right after the row of shared taxis, whose drivers are hunting passengers. A car stops in about 2-3 minutes, and while I talk to the driver trying to explain what we want from him, a girl named Farzan approaches Nane. Turns out, her father noticed us as they passed by, and since she speaks English, he sent her to ask if the tourists, us that is, need any help. They suggest to take us to a police check point about 10-15 kilometers down the road. “It will be easier to get a ride from there,” he says as we get into their car. “Do you like Iran?” they ask a little after. And when we answer that we do like Iran very much, they ask, surprised: “Why?” And they complain about hard life without freedom and mention that they would like to emigrate to another country for a better life.