The reason for fighting my way up and down the hills here in northern Iran is simple. It’s the hunt for first-time degree confluence visits. 39°N, 48°E from two days ago was easy. 39°N, 47°E today would require a little more effort.
39°N, 47°E is located approx. 15km north of the town of Kaleybar, as the crow flies, and approx. 3km east of the river Kaleybar, which also flows through the town of the same name. The area is pretty much uninhabited and not very inviting. My research has shown that there is a track along the river that I could probably use up to a little tributary which I would then follow for a while before heading into the wilderness to the degree confluence.
There is actually a road being built along the river and the first 10km are already finished. Somewhere along the way a massive rock and lots of debris had fallen from a cliff above the road and was barring it, but people were already cleaning up. I cycled another 10km to the little tributary. It was dry and I cycled a few hundred meters in its bed. Then I left the bike behind and began hiking the final 3km to the confluence.
The landscape is very hilly, with many little (now dried-up) streams having cut valleys in between the hills. I tried to follow those valleys as much as possible at first, but eventually had to climb. Vegetation consists mostly of dry grass, thistles, and little thorny shrubs, with the odd little tree thrown in. 39°N, 47°E is located on the northern slope of one of the higher hills, almost at the top. The views are just grand.
The return to the bike was easy. A peculiarly shaped hilltop served as a guide and from up there near the confluence I had a great overview and could devise the best way so that I could avoid climbing into the valleys.
After cycling back to Kaleybar I celebrated the successful confluence visit with a hearty dinner.
Why do I visit these confluences in the first place? Fame, of course! :) And also, I get to see regions I wouldn’t see otherwise. Without DCP I would have gone on a more direct route from Astara to Tabriz, missing out on all the rural loveliness.
Not everything here in Iran is good, of course. I don’t like how women are treated. Back at Araf’s in Razi, I got to see his wife only for a minute when she had to program the washing machine. The rest of my stay she was tucked away in the bedroom or at friends’ or I-dunno-where.
The other annoying thing is the dresscode for men. Having to wear long pants all the time is just crap.
And also, people here seem to have a complete misinformed view on Hitler. I’ve been told a number of times by Iranians (including one police officer) that he was “a good man”. (Disclaimer: I don’t share this view.) I can only guess where that kind of ‘education’ comes from…
Oh, and then there is the annoying habit of using the world as a big trash bin – but that’s not in any way exclusive to Iran.