After eight days on trains, visa issues, a camel shopping trip, trouble with the veterinarian office and narrowly avoiding a robbery, Benni, Henning and Ravi have finally made it to the point where their Silk Road adventure on camelback is set to start.
The railway journey from Augsburg to Kahnuj in southern Iran, the starting point of the actual trip, took eight days. They had dealt with visa issues, a camel shopping trip, issues with the veterinarian office and a narrowly avoided robbery, and Benni, Henning and Ravi were finally ready. Their caravan could set off on its 7,000-kilometer journey from Iran to Mongolia.
But their initial enthusiasm had faded. So far, nothing had been as smooth as they had hoped. And the attempted robbery, which their Iranian friend had foiled, had given them food for thought. Their planned tour through remote landscapes, following the Opium Silk Road far from civilization, seemed increasingly unrealistic. In eastern Iran, Afghan drug smugglers are an unpredictable risk.
On the road with camels and a police escort
“We have decided to ride our camels from one safe place to the next in broad daylight, following the busy main road,” Henning sourly wrote in his travel journal. Having spent some time drinking tea, chatting and taking selfies with the staff at the tourist office in Kahnuj, they finally decided to take the warnings seriously.
At least the formalities were out of the way. Their first destination was a police and rescue station 40 kilometers away. They hoped to pitch their tent just outside the building. The villagers helped them load their camels. “I wonder if we will manage without their help,” Henning noted, full of worry.
A concerned tourism officer organized a police escort for the three Germans, even though they were far from happy about the idea. “We are crossing fascinating landscapes, going past villages and farms. The camels are walking well and seem happy,” Henning wrote euphorically.
Suddenly, their Iranian friend Iman pulled up to them in his car and told them about two armed farmers who ran away when they saw the police vehicle. Their mood changed abruptly. Suddenly, they were “very glad to have the police escort,” their journal reads. “They were probably waiting for us.”
Camel troubles and warm hospitality
The next day presented them with a different host of problems. During a break, one of the camels, Gabi, fell into a dry riverbed and couldn’t get out again by herself. They unloaded the camel, helped her out of the riverbed and loaded her again. As soon as one problem was under control, the next one reared its head: Bianca, camel number two, had broken away and was stubbornly walking homeward. She refused to rejoin the caravan. She balked, threw herself to the ground. One of the expensive collapsible water containers started leaking. And the police escort was impatient, too, as night was falling.
At sunset, the group stood in front of the rescue station in despair. Their animals could barely find enough to eat in the area. But pitching the tent further away would be too dangerous. Friendly paramedics came to the rescue. They invited the three travelers to spend the night inside, in the prayer room. “We were welcome to use the kitchen and help ourselves to food, and they organized something for the camels to eat. Once again, we are overwhelmed by Iranian hospitality,” Henning wrote. They decided to stay for a day or two and do some basic training with the camels. Bibi, the youngest animal, was their greatest concern. She was extremely nervous about everything unfamiliar to her. “We are not sure whether we’ve bought the right camel,” Benni, Henning and Ravi concluded in the evening as they looked back on their first days as camel drivers.