Day 4 | Tehran to Astara – A beautiful long drive

It was a fresh and bright morning in Tehran today when we jumped off our beds to get into the car. After a quick but full breakfast at Ibis Tehran where we stayed overnight, we hit the Persian Gulf Highway at 8:30 am. The goal was to reach Astara border (Iran – Azerbaijan border) via Qazvin and Rasht enroute. (If you want to know how to merge on the main highway right in front of the hotel, please excuse me as you will need a ‘crash course’ to learn that 🙂 )

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On the way, we pulled over at a gas station to refuel. There, we met someone curious to talk to us about our trip and experiences. He introduced himself as Shahryar, an engineer. We were delighted to share a moment with him, talking about him, our group and the trip. Before wishing him “Khoda hafez” (good bye), we presented him a little souvenir from Dubai, and a book to promote the “UAE Reading Year 2016”.

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Shahryar showing his Dubai souvenir and book from Let’s Drive

Within the first few minutes of starting, we were caught in traffic jam no. 1, which chipped off a good 30 minutes from the driving time. Moving ahead, we were greeted by traffic jam no. 2 in an hour’s time. This was worse – it took us almost 2 hours to get out. Amidst this ordeal, we kept the humor going with solo and chorus sing-along to the car stereo. It also served up some time to update friends and family on Whats App. All this brought us only to Qazvin, with 70% of the route still remaining. Concern started growing about the border gate closing at 6:30 pm. Yet, it wasn’t possible to push the gas too hard due to speed limits between 50 and 80 kmph mostly, which we adhered to strictly. [Tip: When driving in foreign land, do NOT follow the phrase: “When in Rome, do as Romans do.” Instead, stick to rules!]

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Traffic is good for this innovative salesman!

Cops stopped us at some places, street salesmen at others. We didn’t mind both. It was fun to be introduced to them and to see them smile when we conversed in broken English/ Farsi. The cops typically checked our documents briskly, and let us pass. [Important Tip: Even on the slightest intent of cops to stop you – even if they are just curiously looking at you without waving to stop – do pull over. First, it helps to respect their authority. Secondly, it waives-off the risk of them transmitting a message to the next station to stop/check us, which could be some hassle and a big time waster, especially if you are running short of time as we were.]

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The road from Risht to Astara was a meandering delight. Surrounded by scenic mountains, green fields, views of Caspian Sea and a variety of trees on the sides, it made for an awesome drive.

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“It would be a great joy if it rains now”, exclaimed Shamim a.k.a. DJ Sham. And, lo and behold…. as if the rain gods were just waiting for us to make a wish… in a few minutes we were blessed with showers! It was luck, it was thrill, it was excitement, and it was a moment to cherish!

Showers of blessings 🙂

Finally, after 8 hours of driving and over 11 hours on the road, we managed to cover 550 km. This meant we took minimal breaks, and didn’t have lunch at all. And then we arrived at the borders. You can guess the obvious: Gates closed! A policeman soon appeared, and delivered his instructions – “Come yesterday.” All we could say in response was “OK Officer, we will come yesterday!” He was happy that we obeyed 🙂

So, with our plans of crossing into Azerbaijan hopelessly deferred to the next morning, we needed to find a shelter for the  night. Strolling around the place, we found a small hotel. With some difficulty, we were able to request the hotel owner to call someone who could converse with us in English. So, he called his son, who helped us close the deal in his “workable English“.

The final challenge for the evening was to ease off the hunger pangs. We were told that this place being close to the border, the nearby restaurants and groceries did not stay open until late. It was already past 10:00 pm and people were pulling the shutters down. We put on our biggest smiles and scrambled to request the owner of a restaurant with half its shutter down, “Agha Salam! Man naduri farsi. We are hungry… Food… Chicken…. please give us one chicken”. The man smiled back and showed us a thumbs up. We were soooooo relieved! He placed fresh coal in his dying grill, and lighted up a flame. For all his efforts, and his over-the-top opening hours, we were stumped to see the bill – Just 500,000! Yes, half a million! Oh, we forgot to mention Iranian Rials. Don’t be baffled, this equates to only 16 US Dollars 🙂

Having eaten to our belly’s delight, we returned to our hotel. It was shisha time! A 2′ x 2′ ft balcony was now bustling with endless chatter of three men who merrily puffed-off several rounds of the hubbly, as a gentle zephyr sporadically sprayed the mist from the rain into their faces.

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Part time DJ and full time shisha-lover 🙂

Although not exactly as per schedule, it was still a day well spent. Past midnight, it was already late, so we squiggled into our blankets. Also, we had to get up early tomorrow, I mean “yesterday” :).

I think I heard the faint snores of my two friends.  10 minutes later, a lovely Sleep Fairy took my hand, and I was soon flying among the stars!

Day 3 – Getting to the Caspian Sea side of Iran

As we reached Esfahan late last night, the first thing to do obviously was to sleep flat and heavy and start late the next morning. The drive from Bandar Abbas to Esfahan in a single day was a bit of stretch yesterday based on our Marshal Sham’s idea and it helped us relax today, plenty breaks on the way changing drivers, taking pictures and going around places in Esfahan. Hoor Square, Honar Bazar, Razai Park and Khaju Bridge were some of the attractions visited today in Esfahan.

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Crossing a country as giant as Iran with both ends approx. 2000 kms apart takes a serious driving acumen coupled with not so interesting scenery along side the highway.  Starting from Bandar Abbas on one side of the country facing UAE and Tehran towards the Caspian sea side is one long stretch approx. 1700 kms completed today. Dont count 3 days, Day 1 was eaten up by customs clearances…

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On the way we missed our team members back in dubai and missed Dubai a lot. Hence a small tribute… Burj Khalifa held high in Iran Skies>>>>

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Upon reaching Tehran today evening which is a major historical city of Iran, we went for a drive around the city, which was very crowded of course with a very unfamiliar and surprisingly dangerous driving styles around. Next timers please take care while driving inside cities here, if you wanna bring your car back scratchless. Many road signals were not functioning due to unknown reasons..

Jammer took the challenge to prove his driving skills that he learnt in northern India.

The onward plan is going to be more exciting as our Trio Partner, Haris has joined us tonight in Tehran. And our route is going to be a beautiful road along the sea side via Qazvin and Rasht to Astara Border to enter Azerbaijan. The route is via and is close to another 500 kms.

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We look forward to reaching Baku tomorrow.

Keep following……the best is yet to come….

Day 2 – Hitting the Road

And finally the men and the machine started off for Shiraz today morning, a renowned city of Iran, known for its mystical nights. Shiraz is around 600 kms from Bandar Abbas by Route 94 via Lar and Jahrom. Road was pretty good to drive 100+. We had a break mid way at 300kms.

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With some cool refreshments we started again to cover the other half of our today’s plan. We reached Shiraz in around 2 PM enjoying local Iranian music on the roll.

Reached Shiraz

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We enjoyed some Barbeque over the lunch and headed on to see Parsepolis and Quotan Gate in Shiraz.

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Some tourist spots at Parsepolis and Quotan Gate

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But this was not enough for the day, Team decided to move on further as Jammer said “its just another 500 kms, Let’s do it” and we headed to Esfahan which is yet another historical city of Iran.

we reached Isfahan around 12 midnight to find unavailability of hotels due to an ongoing local programme. We spent almost an hour hunting for hotel and finally found 1 around 1 a.m.

Checking in for the night…

Good Night Guys…

Tomorrow visiting some interesting places here and the heading to Tehran….

 

Day1 – A day at Bandar Abbas, Iran

And here is the rising sun on the coast of Iran much like the rising sun of our Road trip….

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And in a little while it was time to get up half asleep getting down to meet the officers at the customs office. We were expecting all clearance to be done by mid day. After a quick refreshment we found a local agent to guide us through the queues in right order.

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To give you a brief let me quote Jammer saying “There were more than 25 visits to officers, 25 + stamps, 10 times car inspection and 10+ forms were filled and more than 1000 times they asked my name. My mobile health app congratulated me on walking 25000 steps. But finally we got the car at 5 pm after a lot of paper work and procedure.”

Thank you all #DubaiSwissRoadTrip members for asking wellbeing and wishing luck all this while.

Here is Mohammed Riyaz who helped the team in getting the car cleared from the port. We gave him a Souvenir from Dubai.

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So today we are staying back in Bandar Abbas and In Sha Allah tomorrow onwards will start the driving marathon.

We checked in a nearby hotel (one of the better ones) to get a cool shower after a long day. and it was time to order a big dinner and here is what came our way…

We tried google translator and a Persian dictionary that we had taken with us to figure out a basic dinner at least… the messages from our whatsapp group helped with some favourite picks as well.

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Thats for today…Good Night Guys……We’ll be back tomorrow with more news…

Keep Following….

#DubaiSwissRoadTrip

Leaving Emirates – Yalla Bandar Abbas

It was another milestone to leave the port at Sharjah in time and as per the plan with no last minute ‘ohh nos’. We loaded the car this afternoon got the papers sorted and boarded this evening and started sailing around 10 pm local time to Bandar Aas, Iran.
Our shipping company was professional and everything went smooth, not much hassle. Upon boarding we were served dinner in the dining hall, though it was not delicious food, but enough carbs (white rice) to keep us going. More than the calories we had our enthusiasm to keep kicking.
We are sailing alongside a turtle in the sea…:)

To the team joining us in Zurich, keep yourself informed about Stage 2 at grandtour.myswitzerland.com

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Flag Off – #DubaiSwissRoadTrip

imageimageimageRight on the plan, the LD team members gathered at the Yamaha Cafe, jumeirah last evening to welcome sponsors, supporters, team members and family members. Representation from Swiss Tourism, MAG Lube, Radio Spice and other sponsors was there.

imageimageimage50+ Guests excited about the trip wished good luck to the drivers- Jammer, Sham and Haris taking on the epic journey.

imageimageimageimageMedia interviews,😅😅 photo and video sessions kept all participants engaged. The touring car carried logos of sponsors and was decorated with flag stickers of all enroute countries. People had fun clicking pics with the decorated touring car, enjoyed Yamaha cafe’s cool and refreshing menu.

imageimageimageA convoy of cars escorted the touring car from cafe to Burj Khalifa/downtown as the checkered flag was waived off by the Director of Swiss Tourism in GCC. Keep following for more…

Preparation – #DubaiSwissRoadTrip

New Shoes On
New Shoes On
Team - Dial a Tire
Team – Dial a Tire
Team - Ultra Trint
Team – Ultra Trint
Route Map
Route Map

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1. The Gear for the driving team
2. Pre Drive Inspection and service for the car
3. Study on local rules and regulations related to car branding, car tinting, visa registration, hotels availability etc.
4. Visas for enroute countries
5. Carnet De Passage for the vehicle
6. NOC from the bank
7. Agreements with sponsors
8. Flag Off Event arrangements
9. National flags, basics of local language for each enroute country printed
10. Sponsors Logos printed, Car Stickers Printed,
11. Collection of local contacts to be consulted in case of emergency
12. Invites for Flag Off Event sent

and much more going on………..yes we are almost there, ready to press IGNITION on our FJ..