The stop at the garage seems to have done some good to our good old turtle, and it is nice to advance at a normal pace. On the road, we are overwhelmed by…the orange and beige Westfalia! Here are Sarah and Matthew, who, like us, foresee a passage by Kars before the border.
Our small convoy will stop near the castle, with a bird’s eye view of the city falling asleep in the freezing air and the wood-burning fumes.
Campfire, discussions, visit of the snowy ruins of the castle, very pretty with their night lighting, then we go back in for warmth. -10 ° C announced tonight…which will be good despite partygoers who have come to extend their evening, the speakers of their car at max volume.
At the end of a road surprisingly good despite its airs of end of the world, we arrive in the small village of Ani, leaning against the ghost ruins of the same name. The site is impressive: remains of churches, mosques, bridge in the bottom of the canyon, snowy mountains on the horizon, all spread over thousands of hectares. It’s just beautiful, especially when the sun’s rays show up.
After this beautiful day, and a night in the heart of nature near Tuzluca to prepare the border crossing (logbook, trip, internet connections, money…), here we are at Dogubayazit. The night will be spent near the palace of Ishak Pasha, on the heights of the city. Tomorrow’s weather should be nice and cold, which would be perfect.
Without fail: winter suits and sunglasses are again out to enjoy the panorama and snow under a bright sun. Our last hours are just like the other great moments we lived for more than a month now: çay offered by Adam who holds the souvenir shop, good mood, and photos with visitors braving the cold.
The icing on the cake on the way to the border post of Gürbulak: Mount Ararat, the highest point of the country that sits and taunts us from its height of 5137 m.
First border crossing that looks a little more « exotic »: long line of heavy vehicles that we pass by, no man’s land of a hundred meters crossed by pedestrians. For us, there will be 3 controls on the Turkish side, with a last exchange of lira and a few USD in millions of Iranian rials, before being separated: Loïc goes with the truck to the x-ray queue, while I cross on foot (a little less than 100 m anyway!) with the children. Oops, I forgot my scarf, we will settle with the hood of the coat raised at the time when passing the control of passports on the Iranian coast. No worries, we just have to wait and cross our fingers.
Loïc reappears a good hour and a half later, everything seems to have gone well. Here, the Iranian who was talking with us a little earlier is with him: probably a « facilitator », almost inevitable for the formalities of the passbook.
We have permission to return to the truck, but it is not quite finished: here he is offering us an exchange rate 2 times more interesting than the Turkish side, and therefore surprisingly higher than the official bank rate . Let’s face it, exchange rates at the borders are rarely the most interesting, it smells like the big black market, and we let loose of a few dollars. Ah, not enough: they are looking for THE small detail by resuming their inspection of the truck, and find it easily with the bike that does not have (voluntarily) a logbook. A lesser evil, we get through with some extra USD left to the so-called «responsible» customs officer.
With all that, we almost forget that the signs are now in Farsi, and we who were just beginning to digest some rudiments of Turkish, do not understand much: welcome to IRAN!