Iranian Escapades

I’m sat in a tiny internet café, sweating as I type this, not only is it hot and humid here, but I’m also wearing a black polyester tent. We’ve entered Iran and I’ve passed muster for the strict Islamic dress code for women. I played safe by bringing my chador that I wore the last time I was here- too stingy to buy anything new. My chador hasn’t seen much action lately except for fancy dress parties.

Before we left Turkey we had a final briefing with the group about what to expect, security and procedures at the border. There were several concerns about the Yanks actually being let in – to be frank, they’re amazed to have got this far. If they’re turned back at the border then the group will have to split up and I’ll have to accompany them around the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and onto Kazakhstan via the ferry from Baku- the ferry that has earned an almost mythical status as the “stinky boat”. It’s our own personal bogeyman- if anyone does anything wrong then they’re going to have to take the stinky boat.

We had a discussion about Iranian attitudes towards Yanks – I probably didn’t help matters by describing the Stars and Stripes flags painted on the paving stones so that they can be trodden underfoot and the cheery message painted on the wall in 12 foot high letters as you depart Iran at the Pakistan border baldly stating “Death to America”. After this conversation we asked for volunteers to accompany or at least go behind the Yanks in the queue at Iranian Immigration, the room fell silent and everyone looked at the ground. Murmers of stinky boat were heard. Hmmm, this was not going to be an easy one. I agreed to go with them.

First we had to leave Turkey, and for some reason the Turkish Customs computerised system refused to release three of the vehicles, strangely enough they were the three GlobeBusters vehicles, we were held up for one and a half hours until it got sorted, not very nice for those with hangovers- several had made the most of their last night of Efes Beer and whatever else the bar was serving before reaching the land of no alcohol.

The eyes of the Ayatollahs were glaring at us from huge portraits painted on the wall of the Iranian Customs building. The women in our group had hastily donned appropriate clothing and covered their heads. We were separated into national groups, as the Yanks and Brits were pulled aside, we had to go to a separate office to be fingerprinted and palm printed, personally I think it was all a ploy, nothing to do with security but more to do with marking out the enemies of the State by completely covering their hands with blue ink that doesn’t wash off. A long wait ensued, until we were suddenly told we could now enter Iran, they’d taken only a cursory look at the bikes, so much for all the washing. We hurried from the border in case they changed their minds…We were in, no smelly boat to face after all.