tehran – Mashad – Afghan border
This journey was even worse than the train in Yugoslavia. The bus was packed to bursting with families with half a dozen noisy children each and packets of food, accompanied by goats tied onto the roof, chickens and a duck or two in baskets. In addition there were a small odd assortment of Western travellers including us. A few hours into the journey and the constant loud Middle Eastern music was giving me a headache. It all sounded the same. On top of that was the noise of the people talking (or rather shouting) at one another – even if they were sitting side by side. Were all these folk deaf? The children ran around the bus as if it were a playground, pushing and shoving each other and yelling and fighting and screaming. Then there was the noise and smell of the old diesel engine and the sound of our driver crunching his way through the gears as we wound our way up the mountains and down again. In addition to the noise is the smell. Stale sweaty bodies, curry spices, decaying food and animal shit. I tried hard to concentrate on staring out of the grimy window, hoping to take my mind off my personal discomfort. And forget toilet breaks. It appears that only the men in this country need to go to the toilet as we never stopped at anything like a service station and I never saw a solitary woman crawl into the stunted shrubbery along the way as I was forced into doing. It made me wonder what they had underneath the voluminous black garments. (I paid severely for this journey as it resulted in damaged kidneys that I suffered with for a number of years).
Finally, almost 24 hours later we pulled up at Mashhad where we met up with Graham and Diane – a Scots couple whom we had bumped into at the Afghanistan Embassy. They had travelled to the border in a more luxurious coach and had no idea of our suffering. OK, I shouldn’t really complain given that this journey was “free” but I did. I was realising that Jon was a bit of a tight-arse.
We all caught the 2 p.m. bus to the border crossing, arriving at six thirty only to discover that the border had closed at six. We had to sleep in a huge empty warehouse along with the rest of the bus passengers including an Australian couple carrying a very large Persian carpet between them. I’d love to know if they managed to get it home, but at least they had the most comfortable and luxurious mattress for the night.
The rest of us were on dusty concrete.
Early the following morning we caught a bus to the border .