12/02 au 14/02/19 – Vallée de l’Araxe

Our first kms and impressions in Iran will be nocturnal: crossing of Bazargan, border city, then Maku, where we will make our first refill of fuel set in hundreds of thousands of rials, with a card system a little complicated, while incidentally 40 times cheaper than in France. A little respite for our fuel budget! Few or no traffic lights, roundabouts and especially the many speed bumps regulate the speed: not the best for the blades of our shock absorbers, 13 tons even on a small bump, it is not quite the same as in a car!

45 days in front of us to discover this territory that is more than twice bigger than Turkey, with unmissable sites in all regions, and the imperatives to manage visas of the following countries: promises of kms upon kms!

First stop near Markanlar on a small rest area, before heading to Jolfa and the Araxe Valley the next day. This is not the most direct route to Tabriz, but we enjoy being in the area to visit one of the last Armenian churches (classified by UNESCO) and along the Araxe which marks the border with the Azerbaijan.

A good half-day drive that will allow us to experience the particular driving here, alongside old trucks, small blue pick-ups and of course the famous white 405 : the turn signal is just there to look pretty, and not even afraid to force their way in front of a 13t. Pedestrians (and female pedestrians, many of which are obviously wrapped in black), they cross wherever they feel like.

After a stop at a small road-shop and the purchase of a SIM card (with the help of the owner), we arrive at our destination. Half-turn at the checkpoint 15 km before the site (hum, sensitive border looks like), we will have to come back the next day to pass.

From the parking lot of the small park where we slept, the view overlooks the ocher mountains and the railway. Azerbaijani side, 100 m away, just on the other side of the river. Identical landscapes, the same water flowing at the bottom of the bed of pebbles, and yet, it is another nation. Strange, this notion of border…that we will follow on the road towards the church Saint-Etienne, dotted with police stations with a watchtower, signs prohibiting stops, taking pictures or fishing (ignored by the locals).

The peaceful monastery is being restored and shines under the sun. We then continue to the dam. Not terrible at all (not to say lousy), we return to Jolfa to start our trip along the Valley of Araxe, advised by the guide.

Superb between mountain peaks, fertile slopes, there is the village of South Siyah that produces raw silk. We could continue this way to Kaleybar, 60 km further east, but it is time to head for Tabriz. To avoid getting back on our tires, we decide to try the mountainous route from Norduz (border post to Armenia), even if a priori all sections are not open, according to locals. Little traffic on this beautiful road, but as long as there are cars, we say it’s good.

We stop at the edge of a river at dusk. Tonight, we celebrate: another candle for me, mixed with Candlemas, Mardi Gras (in advance), and of course the successful passage in Iran!

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