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The chuckling mosque of Baledeh


Continuing our road journey back to Tehran via the winding North Iranian mountain roads brought us to the pretty little valley town of Baledeh (population 9000). Baledeh is the only village in the area apparently to have accommodation or shops. And it also has a proper river and a castle: bonus.

The accommodation turned out to be a blanket on a carpeted floor, with a cold shower (but very clean) but we had our rollmats and sleeping bags and at an eventual agreed 15 pounds a night we werent complaining too much. To the castle!

A hour's hard scramble to the top rewarded us with some of the prettiest and greenest sights i've seen so far. Lush green plantations spreading out from the nestled town and into the two valleys either side of the ridge on top of which we stood. I sat here for a good half hour imagining how it would be to manage my dream farm and live this simple life when my daydream was broken by the sound of singing from the mosque. Not too unusual this month; until the howling started. This month is one of mourning for one of the decendents of the prophet Muhammad and every day, several times a day, there is a half hour sung story broadcast over the local mosque's tannoy system - at first I thought this was over the top outpouring of grief until it becaume clear that the singer wasn't crying but laughing, and you could also make out the cheers and laughter of people in the background. The singer did his best to recover his composure and finish the song but for the next half hour he would regularly break down into giggles while his friends mocked and laughed along. Sitting on a rock at the top of this lonely beautiful ridge as the sun dipped behind the hills and laughing along has been a highlight of my trip so far :)

We picked our way down the rocky and wandered round the pastures, through herds of sheep and back into the town feeling like we could live in a place like this.

The next morning from our high window we watched a sombre march through the town with men in black beating themselves with little fly whips of "tinsel" while drummers slowly drummed and singers sang from speakers on the back of a truck. A slow motion Notting Hill Carnival if you like on what was not far after Bank Holiday Monday. This day was also the day on which the Koran was given to Muhammad - I think it's a shame that a people choose to put on a public marches in rememberence of the death of one of it's prophets rather than celebrate the birth of it's entire religion. Understand this and I think we might understand something of the psyche.

We wandered along the river through more lush irrigated mountain fringed farmland but eventually had to make a move on. We were desperate to hitch a ride on the back of a pick up truck after our failure to do so in Kordkuy and soon had a team of people bartering on our behalf with local trucks driving along the one road through the town. Unfortunately today was a holiday and most people were staying local and even the taxi's were asking a bit too much. In the end one of our haggling helpers agreed to drive us part of the way where we might be able to pick up a truck on the main road. By this time, and after many very similar conversations, my Farsi was rudimentary enough to hold a pretty decent although noun based conversation all the way there and this was one of the most pleasurable journeys we've had.

Unfortunately we didn't have a chance to find a truck after we were dropped off because we had stood weighing up our options for not 2 minutes when an english speaking mother and family stopped who were headed to our final destination and insisted we joined them. They had been spending the holiday picnicking by the sea with their two young boys and we made a few more picnic stops en route as is the tradition here :)

Late at night we made it to Tehran to meet up with Masoud and plan our three day hiking trip to the Alamut Valley in the Alborz mountains at the very northern edge of Iran where it is rainiest, coolest and supposed to be almost like the UK in spring. I can tell you I was looking forward to leaving the car behind for a while. All this bread eating and sitting around in cars is not giving me the beach body I was hoping to achieve before Lake of Stars

Posted by rachndave 03:16 Archived in Iran Tagged religion mountain driving

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