Sunday is the first day of the working week for the Indian Embassy in Tehran, so our goal for today was to attend the Embassy and lodge our visa applications. Three hours after first arriving at the Embassy we departed, still without being able to submit our applications but at least now we have an appointment to meet the First Secretary (Consular) tomorrow morning to discuss our request – so cross your fingers everyone as we need some good luck.
Sunday afternoon was a lazy affair – we had been up to 02:30am this morning working on an email to alert the First Secretary to our plight, and then awake again at 07:00am to get ready to visit the Embassy.
We wandered down Valiasr Street a bit, and stopped at TFC (Tehran Fried Chicken) for the closest thing to KFC I’ve ever tasted. A bit further down Karen found a shop selling clips for scarves, so she bought a few of these, and across the road saw a mantou she liked, but the shop was closing – it appears as if shops close at 2:00pm and re-open at 7:00pm, so we just had a quiet afternoon before re-emerging about 7:30pm to go for a stroll in the cooling evening. Karen treat herself to a new mantou, and we bought some nibble mix from a shop before grabbing a cheap and cheerful dinner at the downstairs canteen we’d discovered yesterday. We had earlier picked out a Chinese Restaurant and planned to go there for dinner, but without any success with our Indian visas as yet we weren’t ready to celebrate.
In our hotel – the Tehran Grand – the walls are adorned with framed black and white photos of ‘Old Tehran’, and Karen took some photos of these. If I’m reading and converting the Farsi date on the frames correctly then the photos date back to 1951 or 1952, and the old-fashioned cars and buses in the photos look about that vintage.
I found an email from a good friend this afternoon (Craig – head honcho for a riding group back in Perth and Honda Gold Wing aficionado) – the junk mail processor on the Mac is overzealous and places valid emails into the junk folder – and he suggested that now we’re in Iran the adventure will really start, and he’s hit the nail on the head. A few days ago enroute to Kandovan I needed to refuel the bike so pulled into a servo and that proved interesting as all the fuel pumps were labelled in a fluorescent Farsi script that was colourful and eye-catching but impossible to figure out if the pump was for petrol (benzine) or diesel.
Drivers here in Iran are more courteous and switched-on than in Turkey – largely keeping within their lanes and rarely speeding excessively. I have noticed a large police presence on the side of the roads – even stopping once to chat to some police after being flagged down – on the dry desert highways they park their cars under sunshades erected over sloping mounds custom built as vantage points from which to use their speed detectors. In the cities the driving is a unique combination of cut-and-thrust and politeness – everyone charges in but no one is overly pushy, so whilst the driving can appear uncomfortably close everyone just glides past one another – at times with barely a centimetre between cars.
Most of the motorcycles here are very old 125’s of an incriminate brand – perhaps Chinese copies of old Hondas, and many of them sport a large Perspex windscreen that sits vertical on the handlebars and features a removable window at eye-level, and as an extension option to the windscreen many bikes also feature a vinyl roof that clips into the windscreen top edge and covers the rider’s head. I was looking at a new bike this afternoon – the Boxer BM 125 – and it features drum brakes back and front – more suited to the ‘Old Tehran’ era perhaps. With that said – Iranian riders have no fear – they just launch themselves into the traffic without a second glance but rather an unwavering belief that the car and bus drivers will avoid them. You do need to watch out for them on the footpaths though – at times they’ll whiz along the footpath faster than the traffic on the adjacent road. I’m not sure you could get away with that in Perth 🙂