The plan: three friends, four camels and a 7,000 kilometer trek from Iran to Mongolia. After making the adventurous journey to their point of departure and buying their camels, Benni, Henning and Ravi were ready to go. More or less. The chaotic bureaucracy and traffic of rural Iran is not something they have factored into their plans. And suddenly, they’re being chased, too.
Benni, Henning and Ravi spent several days looking for camels that could carry the three inexperienced camel drivers on their 7,000-kilometer trip. They were itching to get going as soon as possible, but they soon found that quite a few unexpected organizational hurdles stood in the way of their departure. “We don’t really know what we need to do,” Henning wrote in his travel journal. Like in most of rural Iran, nobody spoke any English there. Their contact, Iman, helped them out once again. The camels need number plates (chips) and a mandatory veterinary examination, which the amateur caravan had to arrange.
Number plates for the camels
Henning wrote: “It’s early in the morning, and we’re at the veterinary practice in Kahnuj. There’s tea and a lot of chatter, people are taking pictures.” Hours later, the three were in the car again, armed with hypodermic needles and heading back to their three camels. But only two of their animals had arrived in the village. The search began. A call from the veterinary officer in Rudbar: He doesn’t have a car, could they pick him up? Off to Rudbar. “We’ve found Dagmar here, loaded onto a pickup truck,” Henning noted. A few selfies with the officials later, it turns out that there are not enough cannulas. Time to find a pharmacy.
Dagmar was still in town, so she was first. After a few hapless attempts, the official admitted that he had no idea where a camel’s carotid artery is. Thankfully, one of his colleagues knows how to take blood samples. Then they headed out to the village to the other two animals. In the late afternoon, the three men were back in the car, this time heading to the small town of Jiroft with blood and saliva samples from their camels. They had to submit the samples themselves – 100 kilometers away from where they took them. “We’re annoyed,” they confessed to their journals.
And when things couldn’t possibly get any worse, a car cut them off just outside Jiroft. They rear-end the other vehicle, which promptly hit the central island of a traffic circle. Thankfully, our three adventurers were unharmed. Only their car sustained some damage. The other driver said he was in pain; his fender was bent around the front wheel. An ambulance and the police were quick to arrive, and the situation was resolved – thank God! The other driver had to cover the damage. After a few pictures with the police, Benni, Henning and Ravi could finally move on. They returned late at night. “„… completely exhausted”, Henning concluded today’s journal entry.
A narrow escape
Things moved slowly. The days were long and tiring, and the nights were too short. “In the evening, we experience the full glory of Persian hospitality,” Benni excitedly noted in the journal. “We’re constantly invited to the houses of Iman’s and Yaqub’s friends. Everyone wants to hear our story, give us advice or lecture to us.” Many people alerted them to the security situation in the region, which is a hub of Iran’s illicit opium trade. The people were helpful and friendly, but they warned that the area is dangerous. “We are not sure what to think about this,” Benni wrote.
Suddenly, trouble reared its head: “We couldn’t leave the village where our camels are until after dark. A few hundred meters behind the village border, a car suddenly pursued us at high speed. It pulled up to us, and a man started shouting in Persian.” Iman stepped on the gas, and we found ourselves in the middle of a car chase along the rocky gravel road. Thankfully, our pursuers soon give up, but Iman was still panicking and drove like crazy. We didn’t realize how narrowly we had escaped a robbery until Iman translated the man’s shouts into English for us.
Back at Yaqub’s house, nobody was surprised by the incident. “What were you thinking, hanging around the village at night?” they asked. For days, Ravi, Benni and Henning went back and forth about the security situation: “Should we listen to the locals? Or should we trust our naive gut feeling and risk the journey along the opium smuggling routes?”