Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 26 - August 10, 2017
Astara, Iran to Masuleh, Iran
Countries: 23 KMs/Miles: 10694/6645
Breakdowns: 9 Time @ Borders: 35h 53m
After a restful night, the boys convened in the hotel for breakfast. Some deciding to sleep later than others. But no worries. They were on vacation now. With hotels already booked for another four nights and a guide, maybe they could relax and enjoy themselves. A beautiful mountain view and pond filled with swans were just out the window. They just had to pay for the treats from the alcohol-free mini bar they had last night. Just remember that when anyone quotes a price, they will drop a zero from what on the currency. Not sure why but it's damn confusing.
Millie now seated four including their older guide. A nice enough guy who could speak English sat upfront. He was a bit of a contrast to Hussein. Probably chosen for this group because he would be a safe bet. Tow the company line so to speak. His taste in music was eclectic. One song would be a bit traditional, next would be some American bubble gum pop song, the fellas unsure if he's trying to impress or be "hip". The two car convoy cruised along the dirty highway as they passed fruits stands selling a weird bong looking fruits. Their guide didn't like using maps for some reason and would rather stop and ask for directions. This didn't impress drivers who continually had to make u-turns and double back or get a motorcycle escort to get back on track.
They were on their way to take a quick dip in the sea to cool off. Both cars almost empty, they stopped at a benzine station to fill up. "Sorry, there must be a mistake. 25USD for both cars?!" The cheapest gas they've encountered so far, by far. Once again the beach was segregated so the lads headed to their area unable to take off their flip flops as the sand was scorching. Bronzing time. Not exactly what they had expected in their time in Iran but a welcome stop on the route. Cool water on a hot day. The Kooks threw around the rugby ball and were joined by locals in no time. Sometimes travelling, you get sick of answering the same questions all the time but here, they still got a kick out of it. With so few "western" tourist coming through, you could feel Iranians excitement when they meet you. Their curiosity priceless.
Off to lunch in a small town on the way to a lagoon boat ride (which seemed like another odd thing to do here.) The small town was busy with onlookers stopping the crew to chat and take pictures. The lunch itself was massive. Way too food bunch to eat and in the extreme heat, one isn't as hungry as usual. Fish, kebabs, rice, bread, yoghurt, and vegetables. The guide taking control with the ordering but not really asking everyone what they wanted. A bit of a waste of food and over their budget, especially for a lunch.
The way to the lagoon ride was long and hot and the big meal had made them a bit sluggish. Once at the sea, the unmotivated bunch grabbed their life jackets and headed to the big wooden motor boats. A cruise through the harbour and into some reeds. Nothing crazy, just a boat ride. The fellas were unimpressed wanting to see history and culture and left with the feeling that they could just as easily do this kind of thing at home or at least somewhere with wildlife. And when the 70US price tag came, the collective sigh went through the team. This isn't what they signed up for. Disappointed, they doubled back to their hotel for the night a bit deflated.
The countryside turned to mountainous covered in trees and rice fields reminding the crew of parts of South East Asia and less of what they though Iran would look like. Shop after shop of round pasty looking items lined the streets. 30 of the exact same store in a row. How does one choose which one to go to?! Once checked in, a few of the boys arranged for some laundry to be done before heading out for dinner in a touristy mountain town again. It would be nice to have clean clothes again. On the road, you just continually wear the same things over and over.
Up the mountain they drove until trees gave way buildings that crawled up the mountainside. Rooves of one row of homes becoming the floors of the others. All interconnecting. Parking was tricky as tourists jostled for every space and clamoured around the Kook kars trying to take pictures. The boys were celebrities once again.
They explored the maze of pathways up and down through the homes and shops that made up this unique place. Lots of cushioned restaurants selling tea and shisha. Bags of fresh colourful fruit roll up style treats. Photo shops were you could dress up in traditional clothing were everywhere. And a disappointing number stores selling knock off junk. Nothing artisanal. Too bad, the fellas were in the mood to buy some hand made trinkets or souvenirs. After losing Geej a couple of times, they convened at a lookout for a photo opp. That's when the call about their laundry came in. It was going to be 70USD. For two small bags of laundry. The Kooks were quite livid. None had ever paid that amount in their lives and they would have never got it done, had they known.
Reza, tried to negotiate a better price on the phone but their clothes were in essence being held hostage. The second time they've been burned with laundry on this trip. With nothing they could do until the morning, they stayed in the town and went for dinner. This time having a small traditional soup followed by some shisha, tea, and dessert. Just the right amount. The assaulted Reza with questions about censorship, religion, sex, drugs, and music. Their guide being a bit reserved visibly uncomfortable when the topics like gay marriage came up. The Kooks, being a liberal bunch, don't think twice acceptance of anyone. But when you've grown up in a repressed culture of sorts, six guys hammering your beliefs can be a bit overwhelming I'm sure.
A few more pastries for the road and the they headed back to their cars swarmed by onlookers who crowded around them. Among them a group of attractive ladies they had seen earlier wanting more pictures. Accompanied by their dad and others, they seemed to be in awe of the group. Joel, as per usual, making sure they had Kook business cards handy and contact information. More and more people joining the frenzy, one roughly handing Geej his small child so the family could take a picture. Funny and weird at same time.
When they were finally allowed to leave, the party didn't stop as the group of girls, driven by their dad, dangerously circled the two cars all the way down the mountain at times almost getting into head on collisions. The SUV weaving between traffic and bursting ahead, then falling behind in order the give his groupie daughters another glimpse, whooping and hollering the entire time. The Kooks were in stitches, loving the attention, especially from ladies and climbing out their windows to return the girl's crazed excitement. The Kooks boy band at it's finest. The were the Beatles if not for a moment.
Back at the hotel, the lads were tired but wired. A fun ending to the day. Tomorrow they would deal have to with their laundry situation. And head to Tehran. But tonight they dream of beautiful Iranian women. They would dream about being rockstars. They would dream about Cotton Eyed Joe. End Transmission.