28/08/2010 - 30/08/2010
Let me introduce you to Mahsa (which means moon-like and explains her nickname Moonie) and her friends: Mehran, Arman, Shayan, Ali and oo i forget one guy's name because he wasnt on the camping trip i'm about to tell you about. A bunch of 20 something Pink Floyd obsessives who would be more at home in Camden than Esfahan.
We took her up on her invite to walk around the armenian section. Moonie also has a habit of stopping tourists and asking for some conversation practice and to share cultures. We went with her to a cafe she knows that plays rock music and we hung out with her friends who are in a band together and asked us if we might join them for a bbq the following night so we agreed.
After a day of doing the main sights, bumping into some tourists we met in Shiraz, speaking french with an iranian lady for an hour and chatting with a really lovely carpet seller we rejoined Mahsa and her mates at Mehran's home.
Mahsa is a smart 21 year old girl with mostly male friends, which is very definitely not the norm here. She had many questions about how we women manage our male relationships at home and lots of other personal questions so i felt like a bit of a lonely planet for UK meets just 17 proplem page writer
After a lovely evening chilling out on their balcony with some contraband and chicken we made a plan to all go on a hike to a beautiful lake some hours drive away in the south of the Kurdish region of Iran. Mahsa's parents came to pick her up and we asked if she could come too but they very kindly and bashfully explained that the culture was different here and single girls cannot be allowed to go away with men overnight. So we sadly parted and promised to keep in touch.
The next day we were picked up and taken to the guy's music room which was in a unfinished flat in the same block as Shayan's parents and Dave played drums while the other played bass and keyboards. Some hours later Moonie turns up with a big grin and says that she spent the night maturely debating with her parents about outdated cultural traditions and the end they let her come!!!! This was a really big deal, it's hard to get across to you how big.
So we set off for the lake, singing along to Pink Floyd and rock as we drove along moonlit mountain roads, camped in the carpark (at last we used the tent!) and made a 6am start over the mountains. We hired a donkey to carry our stuff which made a swift getaway but we eventually got it back. i wasnt too happy about hiring the donkey and as feared I saw it being very badly treated by it's owners but the decision was put to a vote and the guys didnt have the right equipment to carry all they'd brought. Anyway we had several debates about the treatment of animals on the way at least. The scenery was awesome and the lake was a brilliant turquoise, a welcome sight after 5 hour walk.
We were just entering the site with all our equipment (Sid the donkey having been let free to go sit in the shade by the river) when we were called back by the police stationed at the lake for some unfathomable reason. Because we werent expecting to see anyone at all we had left the passports locked in the car and the police eventually agreed we could go if we reported to them in local town after we left as we were apparently supposed to have done before we arrived. We have been pulled over and stopped several times to have our visa checked by mostly bored traffic police but this is the first time we had encountered such suspicion.
In the end we spent the next day and a half swimming in the freeeeezing water, hunting firewood, building fires, failing to catch fish, swatting biting flies, dozing in the sun and generally larking about and swapping games and jokes. The gang have a made up word "Heldev" which is roughly equivalent to "hell yeah!" which was bandied about many many times and pretty much sums up the mood.
We finally packed up our things, hiked the 5 hours back, still bantering, talking about our cultures and laughing - our way lit by the full moon (i've never seen a moon shadow before!) reported to the police (plain sailing) and said our goodbyes sadly.
Thanks for a memorable weekend guys....Heldev!
PS. back in Tehran right now - going to northern caspian sea region tomorrow